Nearly 250 years ago Westport patriots battled British soldiers, on their way to and from burning an arsenal in Danbury.
On Friday, more than a dozen military veterans — wounded in wars since 9/11 — came to Westport. They were honored at a Birchwood Country Club fundraiser for Catch a Lift, the foundation that helps them rebuild their lives through physical fitness.
Yesterday they returned the favor. Many of the vets headed to Compo Beach. They served as “angels” — helping children, teens and adults with disabilities in a fun run/walk, through another great organization called myTeamTriumph.
It was a win-win-win weekend: for the veterans, the myTeamTriumph runners and walkers, and the rest of Westport. We are inspired by them all.
When yesterday’s event was over, the Catch a Lift gathered for a “team” photo.
Yet the attendees — wounded post-9/11 service members, who heal physically and mentally thanks to the gym memberships and home fitness equipment the organization provides — give at least as much to Westport, in terms of inspiration and motivation, as they get.
Now they’re going to give even more.
Tonight (Friday, November 8, 7 p.m., Birchwood Country Club) is the CAL gala. There’s great food, beverages, a DJ, video, and more than a dozen Catch a Lift guests of honor.
Catch a Lift veterans, at a Birchwood Country Club event.
Tomorrow (Saturday, November 9, 8:30 a.m.), those same men and women head to Compo Beach.
The combat veterans — all suffering from serious PTSD, some who are double amputees — along with their friends and family members, will push disabled athletes in myTeamTriumph. The event is a fun run, of about 2 miles.
MTT is a program for children, teens and adults 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.
Over the years, Catch a Lift and myTeamTriumph have formed a special bond.
Adam Vengrow — a Westporter, and vice president of the CAL board of directors — has worked closely with mTT board member Andy Berman. Combining their efforts, Vengrow says, demonstrates the power of volunteerism and collaboration.
Andy Berman (left) and Austin enjoy a myTeamTriumph event.
Curt Lueker — another Westporter, who is founder and president of myTeamTriumph — calls the partnership “a unique match.”
Tomorrow’s event is open to anyone who wants to or walk. Click here to sign up.
We welcome our Catch a Lift guests to Westport. And we are awed by what they give us when they’re here.
PS: Last weekend, Berman finished the New York City marathon. For him, this run will be a walk in the park.
James Hazelip does not live in Westport. But the US Army combat veteran — who deployed twice to Iraq — considers this his adopted home town.
He’s seen the kindness, care and generosity of Westporters personally, on visits with 2 non-profits: Sticks for Soldiers and Catch a Lift.
“Sticks” uses lacrosse to raise funds to support wounded vets and their families. Catch a Lift provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support to post-9/11 combat-wounded military personnel.
Staples lacrosse players wear special pinneys for the “Sticks for Soldiers” game. (Photo/Shelley Burger Sports)
In the past year, Hazelip has been to Westport twice. Both times, he says, “I met amazing people. They really care about and take action for the welfare of our service members and veterans.”
This Saturday (April 21), Hazelip returns the love. He’s the keynote speaker at Staples High School’s 7th annual Sticks for Soldiers event. After the girls’ 4 p.m. game, and before the boys’ 6 p.m. contest, Hazelip will deliver inspiring remarks to the football stadium crowd.
He’s got quite a story. PTSD nearly cost Hazelip his life. He struggled with substance abuse, gained 100 pounds, and spent more than a month in a coma. Speaking to Westporters is part of his journey to rebuild his life.
That’s not all he’ll do. The Army vet will also address the Wrecker boys team in the locker room before and after their game.
A Navy lieutenant who served on 4 destroyers during her 15-year military career will speak to the Staples girls team too.
Staples lacrosse coaches, and their PAL counterparts, have planned an important afternoon. The ceremony between the boys and girls games includes presentation of the colors, and remarks by Sticks for Soldiers president Jeff Casucci.
The 2016 Sticks for Soldiers lacrosse game at Staples included a speaker and color guard — and this intriguing double image. (Photo/ Shelley Burger Sports)
During halftime of both games, PAL youth teams will play scrimmages.
A suggested minimum donation of $5 raises funds for Sticks for Soldiers. Proceeds from food and drink sales will also benefit the organization.
Whether you’re an avid lax fan or have never seen a game, te sure to “stick” Saturday on your calendar. You’ll welcome James Hazelip back to Westport — and help many other soldiers too.
(To donate to Sticks for Soldiers, click here. For more information on Saturday’s event, email email@example.com)
Last fall, “06880” gave a shout-out to Catch a Lift. The organization — which provides gym memberships and home gym equipment to help wounded post-9/11 service members heal mentally and physically, through physical fitness — was planning a Veterans Day fundraiser.
Westporters responded generously. Just before Christmas, I posted some feel-good thanks from a Marine who benefited big-time.
Catch a Lift continues to do great things.
Andy Berman is a personal trainer. He’s worked in area gyms (and owned one). He’s been to private homes (including Catch a Lift supporter Adam Vengrow’s). He’s trained Westport police.
Berman donated his services for the Veterans Day fundraiser. That’s where he learned about Sergeant Ricky Davis, a highly decorated Marine who deployed 5 times to Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s been through tough times, but has found fitness to be a life-saver.
Sgt. Ricky Davis (ret.).
Catch a Lift is flying Davis up from Florida. Could Andy help?
He sure could.
Berman wanted to put Davis through a “fitness and knowledge boot camp.” He’d show him strength and conditioning, yoga, spinning — everything.
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