Category Archives: Sports

Will Henry Wynne?

Henry Wynne is at it again.

The 2013 Staples High graduate — the greatest male runner in school history, who set a state scholastic record in the mile (4:05.04), then starred at the University of Virginia, and has since roared to a personal best 3:55.23 — aims for a world record tomorrow.

Wynne is now based in Seattle. He runs professionally for Brooks Beasts. He and 3 teammates will compete in the Dr. Norbert Sander Invitational at the New York Armory. Their goal: beating the 16:12.81 time for the 4 x 1 mile relay.

Henry Wynne (Photo/Paul Merca)

That record was set 2 years ago by the Hoka One One NJ/NY Track Club. They’ll run at the Armory too.

All 4 of the Beasts have sub-4 minute mile times.

Tomorrow’s race begins at 1:46 p.m. It will be televised on NBC Gold.

(Hat tip: Peter Gambaccini)

Special Resources, For Special Kids

For many Westport parents, kids’ activities — sports, arts, organizations, lessons, you name it — are easy to access. And there are gazillions of them.

For parents with special needs children, it’s not as easy. There are many excellent programs, but they can be hard to find.

And even though the PTAs’ SpED (Special Education) committee spreads the word through an info-filled weekly email — including options outside of school, and resources for parents too — plenty of Westporters don’t even know they can join that list.

Some of the programs — here and in nearby towns — are inclusive. Others are adapted, making them attainable to those who did not think they could participate.

So how can parents learn what’s out there?

Westporter Johanna Kiev has compiled a massive database of material. She’s shared it with “06880” — which is honored to offer it to our readers.

(Johanna has also developed a Facebook resource page — click here to see it).

Thanks, Johanna. And everyone: Feel free to forward this far and wide!

About the Westport SpED Committee

Westport SpED PTA committee representatives work closely with each school’s administration, and the district’s assistant superintendent of pupil services. They meet monthly. Co-chairs are Julie McMahon and Kate Grijns.

Members are parents of children who receive special education services. The committee hosts social events and shares information, such as:

  • Sip ’N Chat – informal parent coffees held monthly at Panera Bread
  • Community Fun Day each November
  • Teen Nights at the Westport Weston Family Y
  • Parent education seminars on topics like “Navigating Your IEP” and “Assistive Technology”
  • Weekly emails with information about local events and activities, plus summer opportunities and post-high school transition options

The committee also works with local agencies like the Parks & Recreation Department and Westport Library, for advocacy and programming.

To be added to the PTA SpED mailing list — or if you would like to add information about a program not listed below, or are a business that can help — email westportspedpta@gmail.com.

Programming Options for Children with Special Needs:

The Westport Weston Family Y sponsors:

Swim Team: The program includes participation in Connecticut Special Olympics summer games. Fee: $100 (September-June)

Basketball: Junior Team (8 -12 years): Saturdays 8:45 to 9:30 p.m.
Senior Team (13+ years): Saturdays 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
This program includes participation in the CT Unified Sports tournament. Fee: $65 (September-February)

Track & Field: This program includes participation in the Connecticut Special Olympics summer games. Fee: $45 (March-June)

Floor Hockey: This began for the first time last month. Fee: $45 (December-March)

Smiles all around on the Y’s Special Olympics swim team.

Special Needs Swim Lessons: The Y offers private and semi-private swim lessons at a greatly reduced rate for children with special needs. Lessons can be booked at any time, but because the pool can get noisy and distracting, instructors are also available during quieter hours (evenings, Fridays, early Saturday and Sunday morning). Rates: Private 30-minute lesson, $25; 2-person 30-minute lesson, $15 each.

Long Distance Running: This program is for children who are interested in completing a 5k (combination of walking and running). Practice times: Tuesdays, 4-4:45 p.m.; Saturdays, 10:45 to 11:30 a.m.

SPED Teen Fun Nights: Offered on various dates.

For more information or to register for any Westport Weston YMCA special needs activity, click here or call 203-226-8981

Earthplace

Earthplace provides necessary resources to allow children to access and enjoy all programming. For more information or to register, click here or call 203-557-4400.

MusicWorks! Individual Music Therapy Sessions for Children with Special Needs

MusicWorks! (Westport School of Music, 18 Woods Grove Road) sessions employ structured and improvised musical activities including singing, instrument playing, rhythm and movement, songwriting, listening, imaging and relaxation to meet individual needs. Activities are specifically designed for cognitive, emotional, psychological, physical and social concerns. They are facilitated by board-certified music therapist Patricia Ashford, who encourages children and adults to express themselves without judgment and to grow in creativity and self-confidence.

For more information or to register, call director Sarah Miller: 203-227-4931.

Music Works! is specially designed for children with special needs.

“Break an Egg – The Social Kitchen”: 

Break an Egg – The Social Kitchen” builds the communication skills of people with special needs through the motivating element of food. Each participant in the cooking class prepares a new recipe each week. The fall/winter program includes pumpkin muffins, apple berry salsa with cinnamon chips, garlic and lemon butternut squash noodles, and apple stir fry with whipped cream. Dietary needs can be accommodated.

Classes are taught by licensed speech and language pathologist Shari Goldstein, and Penney Parkes, a food technologist and mom of a special needs young adult.

Classes are held in Fairfield on Tuesdays and Saturdays. They can be held at home kitchens if parents form a group of youngsters to cook together. There are classes for elementary, middle and high school students. A preschool class could be organized too.

For more information or to sign up, email Shari@breakaneggsocialkitchen.com or Penney@breakaneggsocialkitchen.com

The Drew Friedman Foundation: New Arts Program for Kids

The Foundation introduces a pilot youth arts program for children with special needs this month in Westport. The hands-on program, conducted by local artists, includes 10 to 15 children around ages 8 to 16 to work on a mosaic-type project.

For more information, email michellevitulich@gmail.com or call 203-349-0455.

Inclusive Ice Skating : Ages 5 – 13

Saturdays, 11am to 11:45am (through February 9) at the Westport PAL Rink at Longshore.

Individual and group instruction in basic skills is offered at the Westport PAL Rink at Longshore. Parents are encouraged to skate with their children. The program runs Saturdays through February 9 (11 to 11:45 a.m.). To register, click here.

Little League Baseball – Challenger Program

This program pairs young volunteers with children with special needs. Details on the spring season will be available soon; click here.

Hillary Lipper shares a laugh with Coach Scott, during the 2013 Challenger season.

Circle of Friends

Norwalk-based Circle of Friends includes many Westporters. The organization matches special needs children with teenage volunteers for play dates. The group also organizes monthly gatherings for youngsters with special needs. For more information, click here.

The Jewish Community Center of Stamford

The JCC  offers winter programs designed to improve children’s social skills and build positive peer interactions:

  • Music, Movement & Yoga – fun and interactive for all ability levels.
  • Music Mania – provides opportunities for children to explore their creativity, using music to improve skills.
  • Zumba Kids Jr – kid-friendly routines based on original Zumba choreography.
  • Ready, Set, Move – enables children to engage their muscles by moving through an obstacle course and yoga positions.

(Have we missed any programs? Click “Comments” below!)

Pic Of The Day #643

Longshore skating rink changing area (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Unsung Heroes #83

The Westport PAL Rink at Longshore doesn’t get a lot of press.

But every winter for over 20 years — quietly, efficiently, and very, very joyfully — the outdoor skating center just a few feet from Long Island Sound has provided thousands of kids and adults of all abilities (and none) with hours of good fun, and a lifetime of memories.

It’s not easy keeping an ice rink going — especially one without a roof. There’s ice to groom (and remove snow from). There’s the weather — sometimes too cold, sometimes too warm.

There are schedules to make (and adhere to), lessons to give, parties to help out with, reckless teenagers and worried parents to tend to.

The Westport Rink at Longshore. (Photo/Michael Winser)

I can’t imagine how the PAL Rink staff does it. But they do — and they do it in a way that makes it all seem easy. They smile often, extend helping hands when needed, and create a warm environment on even the coldest nights.

So to longtime manager Tony Lantier and his loyal, hard-working and often-overlooked crew: Thank you! You are our deeply appreciated yet Unsung Heroes of the week.

Manager Tony Lantier, at his rink.

New England Patriots Make Sara Deren A Winner

Whether you love the New England Patriots or loathe them, you gotta like this story.

Last Sunday, during halftime of the regular season finale versus the New York Jets, the team honored volunteers who make a difference in the world.

During every home game this year, they recognized a “Patriots Difference Maker of the Week.” On Sunday, each received a $5,000 grant to support the nonprofits for which they volunteer.

And guess who got a special $20,000 grant — sort of a Super Bowl championship for all Difference Makers?

Sara Deren of Westport.

Jon and Sara Deren, and their children, at the Gillette Stadium halftime ceremony last Sunday.

She and her husband Jon founded Experience Camps. Headquartered right here in town, the organization runs summer camps for children grieving the death of a parent or sibling.

In just 10 years Experience Camps has grown from one site and 27 youngsters, to a network of 5 camps nationwide. Last summer, 200 volunteers served 600 boys and girls ages 8 to 18.

Doing all the typical camp activities — and, guided by clinicians, remembering the loved one who died while developing the tools they need to work through grief — Experience Camp campers enjoy life-affirming, life-changing opportunities.

The New England Patriots Foundation receives hundreds of nominations for Difference Makers each year.

When the Foundation — along with Pats chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett — honored Sara on Sunday, it was a moment when, for once, Patriots and Jets fans could stand and cheer together.

Sara Deren is definitely a winner.

PS: So were the Patriots. They beat the Jets 38-3.

Cyclocross: Unique Sport Attracts Tough Competitors

Cyclocross is one of those under-the-radar sports.

Combining the endurance of cross country running and the explosive speed and intensity of sprinting, with the finesse and bike-handling skills of mountain biking and road cycling — and done in heat, snow, rain and mud on grass, sand, rocks, pavement and dirt — it is not for everyone.

Okay, it’s probably not for most people.

But it’s a sport that has enthralled Eneas Freyre, Caden Freyre and Alex St. Andre.

Alex St. Andre (left) and Caden Freyre, at the dry start of a cyclocross race.

The trio — owner of TTEndurance on the Post Road, his son and a Bedford Middle School 7th grader respectively — recently returned from Louisville, Kentucky.

They competed in the US Cyclocross National Championship. It was rough, tough — and hugely fulfilling.

There — as in other events — crossers rode, pushed and carried their bikes up and down steep hills, over barriers and other obstacles, in grueling 30- to 60-minute races.

In Louisville, over 2,000 athletes, ages 9 (!) to 85 (!!) vied in age-class and elite/pro level races. Eneas Freyre competed in the Masters 40-44 group; his son Caden in 11-12, and Alex St. Andre in the 13-14-year-old class.

It rained — hard. In fact, it was the muddiest and most difficult course Alex ever raced on. Still, he says, “I had a blast! It was a fantastic experience, a fun race and a great trip.”

The muddy course made it tough for Alex St. Andre (blue) to ride …

As difficult as it was — and as great as these athletes are — the national championships did not get much attention.

In Europe, pro cyclocross races draw tens of thousands of fans, and massive TV coverage.

The cyclocross community is “incredibly supportive,” says Alex’s father, Jim St. Andre. The young Westporter has found a home there.

Alex has participated in many sports. But, Jim says, he has never been pushed harder — physically and mentally. And he’s never felt more fulfillment than through cyclocross.

Freyre helped immensely. His TTEndurance offers specialized training for cycling, running, triathlons and strength. He is a great role model: In addition to cyclocross, Freyre holds the record (with Westporter Park Pattinson) for the 2-man bicycle Race Across America, and has won several Mount Washington Bicycle Hillclimbs.

Freyre introduced the St. Andres to cyclocross 3 years ago. They’ve been all in ever since.

… and even tougher to haul his bike up a hill. (Photos/Jim St. Andre)

TTEndurance supports youth and adult teams. They practice indoors at the studio above the old Great Cakes, and outdoors at Sherwood Island and other spots.

Freyre provides bikes and helmets for first-timers. “All it took was one practice for Alex to get hooked,” Jim St. Andre says.

Cyclocross is definitely not for everyone. But you’ll never know until you try.

Remembering Jon Boone

Longtime Westporter Jon Boone died Christmas morning, of brain hemorrhages. His daughter Taylor — a 2011 Staples High School graduate — writes this loving remembrance:

I started calling my dad “Coach” in middle school, when I realized it was more effective in getting his attention than calling him “Dad.”

My dad coached a variety of sports at a variety of levels, from LSU to Westport Little League softball, and his personality reflected that.

His intensity level was high. One moment he would scream at you about a mental mistake, and the next he’d pull you in for a hug.

Jon Boone

He was an emotional and passionate guy who loved and supported me and so many others. Beyond his unquestionable love for my mom, sister and family, Coach Boone was a major pillar of support to more friends, students and players than anyone could count. His unexpected passing has left me and my family shocked and groping to find a way to fill the missing void he has left, as I am sure it leaves those in the many communities he was part of.

As a teacher at Stamford High School he was dedicated to each student individually, taking time to learn each of their stories, strengths and weaknesses. He stashed power bars in his desk for the hungry, made students laugh with his surprising jokes and innate humor, and his classroom provided a safe haven for many who needed it.

He was the definition of a family man. He was the handyman, the hugger, and the one who always “had a guy.” He had a solution for everything, even if it was duct tape. He worked hard to make his family’s life better. Conversations usually ended with a squeeze and an “I love you.”

Born in North Miami, Florida, he was a beloved husband to Lisa Kappus Boone, father to Jamie and Taylor (Cory), and son to Jim and Geri Boone. He was also a devoted son-in-law to Betty Kappus, brother to Jim and Debi, brother-in-law to Karl and Kurt Kappus, and a great neighbor on Vani Court.

A celebration of life will be held at the Penfield Pavilion in Fairfield this Saturday (January 5, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Jon Boone Memorial Fund (click here).

Jon Boone and his family.

Pic Of The Day #605

Longshore’s Westport PAL rink is open — and skaters are flooding in (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Sami Triumphs With Her Team

Sami is 22 years old. Nonverbal and developmentally delayed, she lives with her family in Westport.

Her mom, Lori Leskin, heard about myTeamTriumph. That’s the program for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who otherwise could not participate in endurance events like triathlons and road races. Volunteers “ride along,” helping them compete in — and enjoy — those endeavors.

Last May, “06880” featured MTT in a story on STAR’s 5K Walk, Run & Stroll at Sherwood Island.

Lori wasn’t sure if Sami would like being in a race. But she gave it a try.

From the first moment, Sami loved it. She now gets very excited when she arrives at an event, and sees MTT’s red tents and racing chairs.

Sami Leskin, racing with myTeamTriumph in the Westport Triathlon …

“She loves hearing her name yelled out when she’s on the course, and then coming across the finish line,” notes Curtis Lueker, a Westporter and myTeamTriumph’s Connecticut chapter founder.

“She loves feeling included in the community. That’s what MTT is all about.”

Recently, Sami competed in the Westport Tri — her first triathlon. MyTeamTriumph pulled her in an inflatable boat, then pulled and pushed her through the bike/run.

… and finishing the water portion.

“It was an amazing day,” Curtis says. The highlight came when the team pushed her chair through the Compo Beach sand, crossing the finish line together.

Sami has become a celebrity around town. People know — and admire — her accomplishments, thanks in part to Facebook.

It’s a win-win-win: for Sami, her MTT team, and everyone cheering any race.

(To learn more about myTeamTriumph — including how to volunteer — click here.)

JJ Skutnik: A “Rising” Star

You may have seen the short film. People dance together behind a screen; their X-ray silhouettes are projected on it. When they emerge from behind, the audience sees who they really are.

The skeletons turn into human beings. Each group is unique. There are 2 women; 2 men with a baby; 2 little girls, one with Down syndrome; a Muslim and a Jew.

The video — first posted in 2015 — went viral. It’s been seen nearly 170 million times.

You may know that the film is part of a broader “Love Has No Labels” campaign. Another project includes “We Are America.” Professional wrestler/rapper/actor John Cena offers fascinating statistics about our country. Describing our numbers — by gender, race, religion, physical ability, age and sexual orientation — he notes, “Labels don’t devalue us. They help define us.”

That video has been viewed nearly 100 million times.

You may have seen last year’s video. Filmed at football’s Pro Bowl in Orlando, it turns the usual stadium Kiss Cam — focusing mostly on young, straight, white couples — on its head.

This Kiss Cam zeroes in on older couples of all ages. On same-sex couples. On a young kid with a developmental disability kissing his friend.

You may even know that all these videos are sponsored — pro bono — by the Ad Council. The goal is to fight “implicit bias” — the attitudes and stereotypes that affect our thoughts, actions and decisions, often subconsciously.

But what you probably don’t know is that a Staples graduate has been working with the Ad Council on these projects.

And that he played a huge role in the newest launch: a very impressive long-form video that asks, why does it take disaster to bring us all together?

JJ Skutnik

The Westport native is JJ Skutnik. A state champion volleyball player, he graduated in 2005. At James Madison University he majored in corporate communications (and played volleyball). He focused on the design aspect of marketing and film, and turned an internship at Story Worldwide in South Norwalk into a full-time job.

He moved on to R/GA, the international ad agency that produces the Ad Council’s “Love Has No Labels” campaign.

Skutnik is particularly excited about “Rising.” Far longer than the other videos — nearly 10 minutes — and directed by David Nutter (“Game of Thrones”), it dramatically and emotionally shows that in times of great stress, labels don’t matter.

Skutnik’s role was lead producer. He worked with the high-end crew — all of whom donated their time — on the Warner Brothers’ Burbank, California set. He also helped with post-production, music scoring (with the Los Angeles Philharmonic), the website and launch.

The video launched earlier this month. Showtime features it on demand, and throughout the day. Clear Channel is promoting it with billboards; Google and Facebook have donated ad space. It too has gone viral.

“Rising” shows how people pull together during a flood. But, Skutnik notes, the same thing happens during other crises — like the current wildfires.

“We don’t need to drop our biases only during disasters,” he says. “We should do it all the time.”

Thanks to JJ Skutnik, R/GA and the Ad Council’s efforts, maybe we will.