Tag Archives: Catch a Lift Fund

Roundup: Laddie Lawrence, Christian Siriano, Stephanie Szostak, More


Starting Monday (September 21), the Board of Education will resume in-person meetings.

Board members, administrators and invited speakers will all be present. Members of the public can participate via real-time broadcasts, and comment via Google Docs.

“Unfortunately, we cannot predict or control the turnout at our meetings, and a large gathering at a public meeting of the board could pose a public health risk,” the Board says.

“In evaluating the viability of a limited number of socially distant seats for the public in person, the logistical challenges of ensuring social distancing and mask-wearing, determining who is allowed into the meeting and who is turned away, etc., are substantial and might interfere with the work of the board in real time.

“We are heartened by the substantial increase in public participation through our use of Google Docs. This method will continue to afford anyone who feels uncomfortable about coming out to a public meeting during a pandemic a voice in our decision-making process.”


As Architectural Digest notes, fashion designer Christian Siriano moved to a modern house near Compo Beach a few months ago.

And as alert “06880” reader Mary Hoffman notes (via the Wall Street Journal), the backyard of that home was the site yesterday for a fashion show. Among the guests: Billy Porter.

Siriano famously dressed Porter in a tuxedo ballgown for the Oscars.

Billy Porter in Westport. (Photo/Charlie Sykes for AP)


After 55 years as a summer staple, the Westport Parks & Recreation Roadrunner races went virtual this year.

The weekly events — starting first with a couple of miles, increasing each Saturday to a 10-mile run just before Labor Day — are the baby (and now near senior citizen) of Staples High School’s longtime track coach and guru Laddie Lawrence.

The most recent Road Race Management newsletter — aimed at race directors and industry professionals — highlights Lawrence’s long involvement with the series. There’s an extensive interview looking back on 55 years, and vintage photos. Click here to see.

Laddie Lawrence, at a Roadrunner race finish line.


The Westport Library edges one step closer to normalcy. On Monday (September 21), the Library Store begins offering personal shopping appointments.

The 15-minute sessions can be in person or virtual (via FaceTime or WhatsApp). Slots are available weekdays, from 2 to 6 p.m. Click here to schedule.

The Store accepts credit cards, checks, Apple Pay and Google Pay — no cash. Purchases made virtually will be scheduled for pick up weekdays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information, click here.


Last night’s Remarkable Theater screening of “Top Gun” — a fundraiser for the Catch a Lift Fund — drew a great crowd to the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Fall is almost here. But Westport’s love of the pop-up drive-in theater — and support for excellent causes — has not wavered one bit.


Dave Briggs’ intriguing Instagram Live interactive interviews continue today (Friday, September 18, 6:30 p.m.). The former CNN, NBC Sports and Fox News anchor’s guest is Westport’s own noted actor Stéphanie Szostak (“A Million Little Things,” “The Devil Wears Prada”).

You can listen — and participate — on Instagram:@WestportMagazine.


The other day, “06880” mentioned Positive Directions’ new Teacher Support group. It meets weekly via Zoom. The cost was $40.

Now, however — thanks to the generosity of Positive Directions’ board of directors –this group will be underwritten. It’s now free to all teachers and school personnel. Email amiceli@positivedirections.org, or call 203-227-7644 to reserve a spot.


Groove is known for its trendy clothes, for women, children and babies.

But on Saturday, October 24 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), the Post Road West boutique welcomes Dana Ciafone to a book signing. The author of Celebrating Bentley — the kids’ book about a boy and his dog — will be there. All profits go to Little Black Dog Rescue.


And finally … in these days of wildfires, hurricanes and much more, it’s nice to hear James Taylor’s soothing voice. No matter how dark the lyrics. (Hat tip: Jerry Kuyper)

Catch A Lift With “Top Gun”

It’s hard to believe, but 2020 marks the 19th anniversary of 9/11.

Several Westporters were killed on that tragic day. Nearly everyone here knew someone who died. All of us were affected — and remain so today.

The Catch a Lift Fund is a living memorial to that day. CAL helps thousands of post-9/11 combat-wounded veterans regain their mental and physical health through gym memberships, home gym equipment, personalized fitness and nutrition programs, and a peer support network.

Neighbors like Adam Vengrow have woven Catch a Lift into the fabric of Westport life. They sponsor events that are life-changing for veterans, and the men and women who attend.

Another tragedy — the coronavirus pandemic — has not slowed them down. On Thursday, September 10 (7 p.m., Imperial Avenue parking lot), they offer a Catch a Lift night of remembrance — and a classic film.

Working with the Remarkable Theater, they’ll show Top Gun (and, before it, a special 9/11 and CAL trailer). It’s a great addition to their summer drive-in movie lineup.

It should be an inspiring — and fun — night. Tailgating is encouraged (in each car’s designated space). Each car receives a homemade pizza from Colony Grill, and a goodie bag with snacks and surprises from local businesses and CAL. Athletic Brewing Company will be there too, offering free (non-alcoholic) craft beer.

Click here for tickets (only 75 parking spots available). Click here for a donation to Catch a Lift. And click here to learn more about this great organization.

Be Inspired: Catch A Lift!

It’s easy to ignore Veterans Day.

Sure, banks and the post office are closed. But many offices — and the stock market — are open. School is on.

Westport is not exactly a military town. The veterans who live here served mostly in long-ago wars. We’re almost entirely untouched by the endless battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. That conflict — and the men and women who fight there — is out of sight, out of mind.

But it certainly isn’t for those who were wounded there.

The Catch a Lift Fund is a lifeline for those “other people.” Created by a woman whose brother volunteered after 9/11 and was killed in Afghanistan, it provides gym memberships and home gym equipment to help wounded post-9/11 service members heal physically and mentally, through physical fitness.

Working hard, thanks to Catch a Lift.

Thanks to one Westporter, however — and his dedicated crew of friends and supporters — Catch a Lift has become a prized, and very special, “local” organization.

In just 4 years, Catch a Lift’s Veterans Day event has become one of the year’s most important fundraisers.

I went to my first one last year. It was among the most moving nights of my life.

Adam Vengrow is the inspiration behind this inspiring evening. The next one is Friday, November 9 (7 p.m.), at Birchwood Country Club.

There’s great food and beverages. There’s a DJ, and a video.

But all that pales in comparison to the guests of honor. Up to 20 veterans will be there, mixing and mingling. Two will speak. The room will fall silent. It’s a life-changing experience.

Marine veteran Sarah Rudder lost her foot in an accident. Her story of fortitude inspired last year’s packed crowd at Birchwood Country Club.

The men — and women — include double and triple amputees. Some are in wheelchairs; others use canes. But this is no pity party. The spirit, energy, life and joy in the group is astonishing.

These veterans are not your typical Westporters. They enlisted just after — or during — high school. They’ve seen things you and I can’t imagine (and, because the war is so distant, never read about).

They have suffered unfathomably — for their country, and us. Thanks to Catch a Lift, they’ve rebuilt their lives. Next month, they’ll tell us their stories.

Melissa Leuck was at Birchwood last year. She did not speak. This year she will.

In addition to massive injuries, she suffered sexual trauma.

Recently, Leuck competed in the Strong Woman competition. She is indeed stronger than ever.

Melissa Leuck

This year, Vengrow and his fellow organizers will spotlight Catch a Lift’s Women’s Fitness Initiative. The support system gives combat women their identity and “tribe” after they return home.

The Birchwood fundraiser is part of 4 days of Westport activities. Catch a Lift vets will do a series of workouts, sponsored by local gyms and clubs.

They’ll meet as many of us as they can. Those who have been here before will renew friendships.

Vengrow is central to the Veterans Day weekend. But he has plenty of help. He gratefully acknowledges the many Westporters who have joined the cause.

“It’s our job to protect the people who make duty, honor, courage, commitment, integrity, country and service their lives,” he says.

“We live in the best country in the world, and one of the best parts of this country as well. We all have many wonderful things to be thankful for.”

Catch a Lift is thankful for its rock-solid Westport connection. If you’ve been to the Veterans Day event, you’ll know how important that connection is.

If you haven’t, here’s the link for tickets. But there’s an October 31 deadline. No tickets will be sold at the door!

Jeremiah Montell Catches A Westport Lift

Three years ago, Jeremiah Montell weighed 320 pounds. He took 15 different medications. He made 3 suicide attempts.

Montell had recently retired as a Navy petty officer 2nd class, due to injuries sustained in combat. He’d deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq — after serving in both places earlier, as a Marine.

Fortunately, he learned about Catch a Lift. The 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.

Montell joined a gym in Austin, Texas. He recovered so well that he got himself certified as a personal trainer — so he could help others.

When Catch a Lift officials asked him to share his story, he became a public speaker. Now he too is a board member.

Jeremiah Montell working out in one activity …

That’s just the bare outline of Montell’s amazing story. On Saturday, November 11 (7 to 11 p.m., Birchwood Country Club) he’ll share it with Westport.

The 3rd annual event promises to be the best one yet. It’s a chance to meet inspiring veterans, eat, drink and dance.

This will be Montell’s 3rd visit here. Westport has a special place in his heart. It was one of the first places he spoke. And his reception here has been uplifting.

“I’ve gotten so much from so many people there — professionals in the fitness industry, and private citizens,” he says.

“They turn out. They want to hear our stories. And they want to  help.”

Montell calls Westport “a beautiful town. But it’s a town of real people. I know they’re busy. But they take time to come, and ask thoughtful questions. They really understand we’re going through physical and mental things. They want to be a part of my life. I’m really fortunate to have that little town on my side.”

… and another.

2016 was a milestone year for Catch a Lift. The organization raised $1 million — of which 91% goes to help veterans.

“These great men and women need our support,” says Westporter Adam Vengrow, a national board member who is instrumental in every local event.

“We’re fighting suicide, PTSD, alcohol and drug abuse, severe weight gain, physical injuries including multiple limb losses and severe burns, plus much more. Together, we make a difference right here.”

Local businesses, gyms, the Westport Police Department, first responders, VFW and many others continue to help. But over 500 veterans are on Catch a Lift’s wait list.

In addition to ticket sales for the Veterans Day event, Vengrow seeks auction donations and program ads. Click here for more information.

“Twice a year, we bring veterans from all over the country to Westport,” he notes.

“We open our doors, we thank them for their service, we offer a hug. They leave with a lasting thought that Westport is unlike any other place in the country.

In the middle of town, he adds, “our bridge is filled with American flags. There are peaceful protesters from left and right at various times there. But everyone comes together in patriotism, and support for the men and women who protect us, in the hope of an even brighter future for our country and the generations behind us. I love Westport!”

In fact, Adam Vengrow loves Westport almost as much as Jeremiah Montell.

“Catch A Lift” Catches Westport’s Spirit

“06880” is a little late to this story.

But it’s never too late to celebrate our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Or the people who help them.

Catch a Lift is a national non-profit dedicated to the physical and mental recovery of post-9/11 combat-wounded military personnel. The organization provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support.

Last weekend — thanks to the tireless efforts of Mental Grit Fitness owner/trainer Andy Berman; Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas and his entire department; Westporter and CAL board member Adam Vengrow, and the support of Joyride, Crossfit Revel and Achieve Fitness — 16 veterans came to town.

And then they went to town, with workouts, training and plenty of camaraderie.

A special shoutout goes to Daniel Slow. The Weston High School basketball player raised over $5,000 for Catch a Lift, thanks to pledges for every point he scored.

Photographer Matthew Paskert captured much of the action from last weekend’s “Westport for Warriors” weekend. If his images inspire you to learn more about Catch a Lift, click here.

(Photos/Matthew Paskert)

Westporters Ring The Bell For Wounded Vets

Ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange is a great tradition. Many times, the honor goes to business executives, politicians, sports idols or movie stars.

Today the bell was rung by real heroes.

Catch a Lift Fund — the organization that provides wounded veterans with gym equipment and memberships — did the honors. And when they were done, the entire floor gave the vets a rousing ovation.

Catch a Lift has a strong Westport presence. So it was quite appropriate that — flanking 2 veterans this morning — were Westporters Adam Vengrow and Andrew Berman. Both have done yeoman’s work here — and nationally — for the cause.

After the event, 6 Westport volunteers posed for a group hug.

At the New York Stock Exchange this morning (from left): Lance Lonegran, Adam Vengrow, Johanna Rossi, Andrew Berman, David Frost and Tom Dippel

At the New York Stock Exchange this morning (from left): Lance Lonegran, Johanna Rossi, Andrew Berman, Adam Vengrow, Tom Dippel and David Frost.

And How Did You Spend YOUR Memorial Day Weekend?

The unofficial kickoff to summer was sunny, hot, beautiful — in other words, summery. (Today — not so much.)

You and I and nearly everyone else in Westport went to the beach, opened the pool, grilled burgers and/or drank beer/wine/margaritas.

Dozens of other much more motivated and noble folks raised money for a great cause.

A great Memorial Day-related cause, in fact.

CrossFit Westport hosted a “Hero” Workshop. Honoring Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy — immortalized in the movie “Lone Survivor,” about a Navy SEALs mission to take out a Taliban leader — it involves a 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and another 1-mile run.

There were 4 heats yesterday morning — and all were packed. Veterans, community members and local fitness businesses participated.

All funds raised go to the Catch a Lift Fund. The organization provides gym memberships and home gym equipment to help wounded post-9/11 service members heal mentally and physically, through physical fitness.

Westport photographer Irene Penny captured all the action.

If her photos make you feel like a slacker — don’t worry. You can join the “Hero” Workshop next year.

Or make a contribution to the Catch a Lift Fund here.

Local trainer Andrew Berman of Mental Grit Fitness gives it his all.

Local trainer Andrew Berman of Mental Grit Fitness gives it his all. (Photo/Irene Penny)

This team rocked the "Hero" Workout.

This team rocked the “Hero” Workshop. Top (from left): Jeff Queiroga, Timmy Palko, Kali Stamos. Wearing the bandanna: Chris Bronski. (Photo/Irene Penny)

Rhodie Lorenz -- owner of JoyRide Cycling -- was one of my local fitness business owners at CrossFit yesterday.

Rhodie Lorenz — owner of JoyRide Cycling — was one of many local fitness business owners at CrossFit yesterday.

 

 

Catch A Lift Throws A Lifeline

Catch a Lift fund

Right before Veterans Day, I posted a story about Catch A Lift. The non-profit provides gym memberships and home gym equipment to help wounded post-9/11 service members heal mentally and physically, through physical fitness.

Westporter Adam Vengrow was organizing a fundraiser for Birchwood Country Club. 

Folks in town responded in force. Now they’ve received word that their generosity paid off.

Juan Dominguez writes:

I joined the Marine Corps in 2007. My great-grandpa, grandpa and uncles were all in the service. So was my dad, who is my personal hero. He served in the Army, fought in Vietnam, and received a Bronze Star with a combat “V.”

I was with 3rd Battalion 5th Marines, known as the DarkHorse. On October 23, 201o in Sangin, Afghanistan, we were en route to link up with another squad from my platoon. We were going to check out a compound of interest.

After linking up with the boys we stepped off. I stepped on a pressure-plated plastic jug IED that our metal detectors could not pick up.

I was sent several feet in the air. I lost both legs above the knees. Six hours later in surgery I lost my right arm above the elbow. I have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and severe PTSD.

My awards include a Purple Heart, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NATO ISAF Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with star.

Juan Dominguez, on his wedding day.

Juan Dominguez, on his wedding day.

I am married to a truly wonderful woman, Alexis, and have a daughter Victoria.

I am a full-time musician and photographer. My greatest musical achievements so far are playing drums with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and G.E. Smith of Hall and Oates at Madison Square Garden, and Tom Morello and Billy Corgan at DAR Constitution Hall.

Fitness to me means having the ability to keep up in daily activities, and help me age appropriately. I want to live using my second chance to the fullest with my family.

(Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)