Tag Archives: Al’s Angels

Pic Of The Day #237

The Cribari Bridge at Christmas. (Photo/Joel Treisman)

Santa Comes To Bridgeport — And Westport

Last year, “06880” posted an urgent plea for help. The Cesar Batalla School in Bridgeport was running a toy drive for their elementary school students. But they were falling far short.

Their kids were in desperate situations: the highest poverty brackets, shelters, you name it. 100% are fed breakfast and lunch at school. Their families have no money for basic necessities — let alone holiday gifts.

Westporters came through — big time.

Some of the presents that poured in to the Cesar Batalla Elementary School last year. (Photos/Jimeale Hede)

This year, alert — and generous — “06880” reader Alexis Donnerstag remembered the drive. She asked how she could contribute again. I hadn’t heard anything from the school. But I sent her a link to their website.

Within a couple of hours, Benji Labrador called. He’s the school security officer. He said the woman who handled the drive last year is gone. He’s in charge, but did not know about the “06880” connection.

Now he does. And so do you.

Anyone can order gifts online — at Amazon, for example — and have them shipped to Benji at the school: 606 Howard Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06606. Click here for a direct link to Amazon’s Cesar Batalla page. You can drop gifts off at Vincent Palumbo Salon (616 Post Road East) — or directly at the school too.

For more information, email blabrador@bridgeportedu.net, or homerun5@optimum.net.


Meanwhile, closer to home, there’s a tree lighting — plus hot chocolate, s’mores and sliders — at the Riverside Avenue plaza (between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk) this Sunday (December 3, 4:30 to 7 p.m.) Santa arrives at 5:15 p.m.

The Gault family invites everyone to come. But they hope you’ll bring an unwrapped toy for a child age 10 or under. All gifts will be donated to Al’s Angels.

Who are they? Well — in addition to providing holiday joy for countless kids in the area — they’re the volunteers who light the William Cribari Bridge, just a couple of yards away from the plaza.

A little gift goes a long way.

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Now we know the holiday season is really here.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

The lights are lit on the William Cribari Bridge.

Al’s Angels’ gift to Westport won’t make the traffic flow more smoothly over the Saugatuck River. In fact, this time of year it’s heavier than ever.

But if you’re going to be stuck there, it’s a beautiful place to be.

Nothing Says Christmas In Westport Like…

…the Minute Man Monument, decked out in a Santa cap …

minuteman-monument-lynn-u-miller

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

… and the William Cribari/Bridge Street bridge, decked out in Al’s Angels lights:

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Sweet Pete!

Pete Romano is a legend.

The native Westporter has followed his parents — PJ and Joan — as an avid supporter of everything every local kid does. He’s now one of the prime movers behind Al’s Angels, touching youngsters and their families in extra-special ways.

He’s helped build his company — Landtech — into a well respected civil engineering and environmental consulting firm.

Pete Romano

Pete Romano

Pete was a driving force behind the long-running, very popular Festival Italiano, and now he’s a leader in the redevelopment of Saugatuck.

But — in the same way Paul Newman is known to a new generation as a food purveyor rather than a movie star — many Westporters know Pete only as an owner of Saugatuck Sweets, the riverfront ice cream-and-candy shop that will be remembered fondly years from now by every kid growing up today in town.

So it’s fitting that Saugatuck Sweets is the site this Saturday (August 8) of Westport’s celebration of Pete’s 60th birthday.

The festivities go on all day. At 2 pm, First Selectman Jim Marpe will present an official town proclamation.

At 7 p.m. there’s a concert with Silver Steel at 96 Franklin Street, near Luciano Park. There’ll be ice cream, zeppoles and soft drinks, plus a chance to “touch a fire truck” from the Saugatuck station.

The event would have been held at the plaza Pete helped create next to Saugatuck Sweets. A noise complaint earlier this summer shut that concert series down.

But Pete and his pals are problem solvers. Their creative solutions have helped make Westport a better place for — well, in Pete’s case, 60 years.

Happy birthday, Pete! See you in Saugatuck on Saturday!

Saugatuck Sweets

 

 

 

Al’s Angels’ Special “Ades”

Just over a decade ago — a few days after his 10th birthday — Aaron Gaberman was diagnosed with 2 rare and aggressive brain tumors.

His life suddenly became a blur of doctor visits, spinal taps, blood tranfusions, surgeries and long stays in the ICU.

But he never gave up. Thanks to indefatigable courage, a strong will to succeed, and the loving support of family, friends and community members, Aaron forged on. He played baseball, golf and the violin, while becoming an excellent student, good friend, leader and inspiration.

Aaron was the 3rd patient in the US to participate in a new clinical trial. The results were good — but 3 years later a routine MRI revealed a growth behind his right eye. It was removed in a lengthy procedure, and Aaron persevered with his quiet resolve and unflagging determination.

Cancer survivor Aaron Gaberman leads a very active life.

Cancer survivor Aaron Gaberman leads a very active life.

In December 2013, after his 1st semester at Marist College, another regular MRI detected a spinal nerve tumor. Once again, Aaron endured lengthy surgery. Despite pain and loss of mobility, he made the dean’s list.

But the tumor grew back aggressively. Another operation was successful. Through lengthy physical therapy sessions and conditioning workouts, Aaron grows stronger every day.

To pay forward the many kindnesses he’s received, Aaron and his family joined Al’s Angels. The Westport-based non-profit provides assistance to children and families suffering hardship due to life-threatening illnesses or poverty.

In founder Al DiGuido, they saw a true “angel” whose organization provides hope to many. They were particularly impressed that after an exhausting trip home from the hospital, Al’s Angels surprised them with a Thanksgiving dinner. Now, they help prepare holiday food baskets for others.

Al’s Angels depends on the generosity of local residents. This month, we’ve all got some clever — and fun — ways to help.

On Saturday, June 6 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), over 100 lemonade stands will pop up in front of stores, and in residential neighborhoods, throughout Fairfield County.

The “Angel-ade” stands will include lemonade products donated by Newman’s own, and cookies from ShopRite and Westport-based Nothin’ But.

Al's AngelsIn addition, dozens of national retailers and local merchants — including
Bartaco, Castle Wine, Coffee An’, Downunder, Edge Fitness, Fetzer Tire, Freshii, Garelick & Herbs, JoyRide, Saugatuck Rowing Club, Saugatuck Sweets, SoNo Baking Company, SoulCycle, Splatterbox, Stiles Market, Vespa, Viva Zapata, Westport Hardware, Westport Wash & Wax and the Westport Family YMCA — are donating products or retail space for each stand.

Throughout June too, more than 25 Connecticut bars and restaurants will offer “Angel-ade cocktails.” They’ll donate $2 per cocktail to Al’s Angels. Local sites include Blue Lemon, Bobby Q’s and Spotted Horse.

Kids have done the toughest things: persevering through horrible illnesses. Al’s Angels have done the next hardest:  helping them.

Now all you have to do is buy some lemonade, or a cocktail.

Life is really not that rough.

Rollin’ On The River

Though downtown may have lost a bit of its Christmas mojo, Saugatuck has picked up the slack.

Christmas lights and trees abound. The Bridge Street (Cribari) Bridge is a sight to see (thanks, Al’s Angels!). There’s a lively spirit in the air. 

And — as alert “06880” reader Chris Woods notes — for the past 4 years a mysterious boat has ghosted up and down the river on evenings leading up to Christmas. The boat spreads good cheer, which is returned with heartfelt honks and waves.

Christmas boat

Who owns the boat? And — more importantly — how did they get a 20-foot tree on it, and under the bridge?

That’s just one of the mysteries of Christmas.

Lights! Christmas! Action!

Those beautiful lights that make the Bridge Street Bridge sparkle don’t screw themselves in.

At midnight Friday, Al DiGuido, Vinny Penna and a crew of helpers were out, ensuring another bright holiday season.

(Photo/Pete Romano)

(Photo/Pete Romano)

Al’s Angels — the Westport-based charity helping children and families battle cancer and severe hardships (among many other good works) — ensures that the well-traveled bridge looks its best every holiday season.

You can see the lights for yourself on Wednesday, December 4. That’s when Santa arrives (6 p.m.), and a Christmas tree will be lit in Saugatuck Center, on the plaza between the Whelk and Saugatuck Sweets.

From 5:30 to 8 p.m. there’s refreshments,  fun, and old-fashioned community spirit.

And — in that holiday spirit — the sponsoring Gault family asks everyone to bring an unwrapped toy, for a child under 10.

Al’s Angels will take care of the rest.

As — very quietly, but lovingly, all year long — they always do.

Saugatuck To Be So Sweet

Remember that “Remember When?” teaser sign that “06880” wondered about last Sunday?

Readers speculated it involved a new ice cream parlor, coming to Saugatuck Center.

Now it’s official. Al DiGuido and Pete Romano — an entrepreneur/civic “angel” and landscape architect/Saugatuck native, respectively — will open “Saugatuck Sweets” in January.

The location is the former Saugatuck Craft Butchery on Riverside Avenue. In just one year, it outgrew its building and moved across the street.

Saugatuck Sweets will sell high quality desserts, ice cream, yogurt, bulk candy and the like. It’s one more addition to an area quickly earning props for its restaurants, non-chain stores (including the butcher shop, a gourmet market and kayak rental place), walkability and fun.

The interior of the former Saugatuck Craft Butchery -- shown here -- is easily adapted to Saugatuck Sweets. Chicken, lamb and sausages will be replaced by ice cream, candy and seasonal gift items.

The interior of the former Saugatuck Craft Butchery — shown here — is easily adapted to Saugatuck Sweets. Chicken, lamb and sausages will be replaced by ice cream, candy and seasonal gift items.

Sweets’ location is perfect. Not many people will chill with ice cream on the outdoor plaza this winter. But inside it will be jammed. By spring, Saugatuck Sweets — along with the Whelk next door — will be one more reason that Saugatuck Center is a hot destination.

DiGuido (who founded the Al’s Angels children’s charity) and Romano (whose longtime civic involvement includes the PAL and Festival Italiano) have spent decades doing good things for kids, families, Saugatuck and our entire town.

Their newest venture promises to be especially sweet.

Sandy Meets Santa

As thousands of families fled Hurricane Sandy, the last thing they thought about was toys.

But along with the rest of their possessions, countless children lost toys.

Now, with the holiday season near, the last thing displaced parents can do is think about — or pay for — toys.

It’s a stressful time for so many people in the tri-state area. Christmas and Hanukkah are sure to add one more level of anxiety.

As it does so often, Al’s Angels rides to the rescue.

The Westport organization — which in “good” times provides over 3000 families and 5000 children battling cancer, rare blood diseases and financial hardship with holiday meals and gifts — is expanding its mission.

Founder Al DiGuido and his hard-working, ever-smiling band of volunteers is organizing a toy drive to collect new, unwrapped gifts. They’ll bring a sliver of joy to thousands of kids who would otherwise have no toys this holiday season.

Banners are being made. They’ll be placed in Westport stores, whose owners have agreed to accept donated toys. (A full list will be published soon.) Starting November 24, you can also drop off toys at the rear entrance of 1175 Post Road East (opposite Crate & Barrel).

Cash donations are of course welcome. Click here, then find “Hurricane Sandy” in the clickdown “Donation Option Categories” menu.

Al’s Angels is always looking for man (and woman) (and kid) power too. If you’d like to help, email adiguido@yahoo.com.

There are many ways to be an angel this Christmas (or Hanukkah). Thanks to Al’s Angels for providing this special one.