We don’t often think of Westport as a vocal, support-our-troops town.
Westporters are as patriotic as any Americans. We’ve got our share of veterans. But very few served after 9/11. The difficult, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are far from most of our minds.
Yet with tremendous energy, incredible organizing skills, plenty of passion — and the leadership qualities of the best generals in history — Adam Vengrow has put Westport on the military map.
He’s the driving force behind our great relationship with Catch a Lift. The national organization provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support to post-9/11 combat-wounded military personnel, aiding in their physical and mental recovery.
It’s an amazing group, accomplishing tremendous things. But Westport holds a special place in Catch a Lift’s heart.
Once a year, veterans come to town for a “fitness and knowledge boot camp”: strength and conditioning, yoga, spinning and more. Businesses like Joyride, Crossfit and Achieve that usually compete for customers join hands to help.
Also once a year — on Veterans Day — Adam organizes a fundraiser for Catch a Lift.
Last Saturday’s event was phenomenal. Birchwood Country Club was packed. A great cross-section of Westporters — veterans and those who never served; old and young; Republicans, Democrats and everyone else — joined together to help Catch a Lift.
Adam Vengrow (right) and Jeremiah Montell — a Marine and Navy veteran of Iran and Afghanistan — at Saturday’s Catch a Lift fundraiser.
The food and conversation were great. The silent auction was high-end. The video brought tears to all.
But the highlight of the evening was the veterans themselves. These young men and women talked about losing limbs, coming home to homelessness, battling obstacles from PTSD to losing custody of their child.
Yet they spoke too of triumphs: losing 100 pounds; entering and graduating from college; healing themselves, helping others — and regaining custody of that child.
Marine veteran Sarah Rudder lost her foot in an accident. Her story of fortitude inspired the packed crowd at Birchwood Country Club.
The fundraiser is just a part of their weekend in Westport. Earlier in the day, the Police Department hosted them for an intense workout. The day before, they’d talked to Staples athletes.
When they spoke so eloquently and passionately at Birchwood, the veterans made clear how much Westport meant to them. It was equally clear how much they meant to those of us in the audience.
Adam does not do this alone. He’s got a high-powered day job, and gets plenty of help from Andy Berman and batallions of other volunteers. (One woman called herself “part of Adam’s Army.”) He thanked them all on Saturday.
But the Westport/Catch a Lift connection would not be possible without Adam Vengrow. He shares something special with the brave men and women he brought to Birchwood on Saturday: He too is an Unsung Hero.
(If you know an Unsung Hero who should be recognized, email firstname.lastname@example.org)