Tag Archives: Day of Champions

Roundup: STEM Journal, Rainbow Crosswalk, Pop-up Art …

STEM Journal features an intriguing and diverse array of science-related articles. Topics include the space station, Alzheimer’s, impulsivity, molecular medicine, Conway’s Game of Life, neuromodulation and gene therapy, spina bifida, the philosophical and psychological impacts of music in America, the water crisis and forever chemicals.

Impressive stuff.

Even more impressive: It’s the Staples STEM Journal.

Led by editor-in-chief Will Boberski, layout editor Sam Zwick-Lavinsky and faculty advisor Amy Parent, the publication is completely researched and written by students.

The spring issue is online. Click here to see the remarkable scope and breadth of these teenagers’ work.

But the Staples STEM Journal does not stop there.

They recently hosted a series of presentations by scientific researchers throughout the state. Topics ranged from deer population management to quantum physics and genomic sequencing.

They’re always looking for interesting contacts. So, “06880” readers: If you work in STEM and want to speak with the Journal students this fall, email Will  (wb1003566@students.westportps.org) or Amy at (aparent@westportps.org).


Speaking of Staples: Students Ryan Sunjka, Jack Schwartz, Jackson Tracey and Lucy Barney are members of the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital junior board.

Last week, they organized a fundraising competition at Row House. Teams of 3 vied to row the farthest on erg machines, in 30 minutes. The goal was $10,000.

The teens blew past that mark. They raised $15,000 for Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital.

They thank all who helped. And “06880” thanks Ryan, Jack, Jackson and Lucy, for all they do to help others.

From left: Jackson Tracey, Jack Schwartz, Elijah de Brito (competitor), Ryan Sunjka, Henry Hoeffner (behind Ryan; Weston High School and board member); Blake O’Looney (Pierrepont School and board member); Lucy Barney.


Westport Police report 1 custodial arrest between May 17 and 24. A man was charged with disorderly conduct, violation of a standing criminal protective order, and threatening (2nd degree), following a domestic violence incident.

Police also gave the following citations:

  • Traveling unreasonably fast: 13 citations
  • Failure to comply with state traffic commission regulations: 11
  • Operating a motor vehicle under suspension: 3
  • Failure to drive in the proper lane: 2
  • Operating a motor vehicle without minimum insurance: 2
  • Failure to obey stop sign: 1
  • Improper turn: 1
  • Operating a motor vehicle without tint inspection: 1
  • Operating a motor vehicle without a license: 1
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 1
  • Improper use of markers: 1
  • Failure to obey traffic control signals: 1
  • Failure to register commercial vehicle: 1.

Each window in Connecticut that has tint applied (other than factory- tinted) must have a certification label in the lower left corner. Who knew?


Westport’s downtown is about to get a bit more colorful.

The Board of Selectwomen voted 3-0 yesterday to approve a rainbow crosswalk at Taylor Place and Jesup Road, by Green & Tonic. Avisual celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month, it will be installed adjacent to Jesup Green, where Westport’s Pride celebration takes place June 4 (1 to 3 p.m.).

The design will incorporate the colors of the Pride flag. It’s planned to be in place all month. Public Works director Pete Ratkiewich will review it after the first week, to ensure the materials are holding up.

At the Board of Selectwomen meeting yesterday, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker expressed hope that the rainbow crosswalk could become permanent, as part of the refurbishment of downtown.

Westport joins a host of North American cities and towns with rainbow crosswalks, including Ames, Iowa; Athens, Georgia; Atlanta; Birmingham, Alabama; Bozeman, Montana; Colorado Springs; Covington, Kentuckyl Cupertino, California; Dallas; Great Barrington, Massachusetts; Juneau, Alaska; Key West, Florida; Lethbridge, Alberta; Long Beach, California; Memphis; Miami Beach; Minneapolis; Newport, Rhode Island; Ottawa; Philadelphia; Plymouth, Massachusetts; Portland, Maine; Provincetown, Massachusetts; Salmon Arm, British Columbia; San Diego; San Francisco; Seattle; Vancouver; Swift Current, Saskatchewan; West Hollywood, California; Westfield, New Jersey; Windsor, Ontario and Woburn, Massachusetts.

Rainbow crosswalk in Kennebunkport, Maine.


They’re b-a-a-a-c-k!

Five lifeguard chairs have been moved from winter storage to the Compo Beach sand.

Lifeguard service begins Memorial Day (Monday, May 29), and continues through Labor Day. A guard will be at Burying Hill Beach too.

One more sign that — the still-60s temperatures notwithstanding — summer is almost here.

(Photo/Matt Murray)


The Art Collective of Westport’s pop-up shows are always fun.

At the next one — in addition to food, wine, and great conversation with the 11 artists — you can also win an original painting by Kat Evans (value: $900).

Just leave your name and email at the opening reception (June 6, 6 to 8 p.m., Westport Country Playhouse barn), or from June 7-10 (6 to 10 p.m.). There is also an artists’ talk Sunday, June 10 at 4:30.

Besides Evans, artists participating in the show are Sue Benton, Zvi Goldman, MaryEllen Hendricks, Judy Katz, Niki Ketchman, Michael Ledner, Jane Lubin, Katherine Ross, Greg Ziebell and Florence Zolan.


Update on the l-o-o-o-n-g odyssey of the Bayberry Lane bridge project.

Yesterday, Westport Department of Public Works engineer Keith Wilberg sent this email to “Bayberry Lane Bridge residents”:

“The contractor installing the guide rail has hit ledge when installing a few of the posts. We need approvals from the sttate Department of Transportation to revise the installation procedure of the few posts, as they are paying the bulk of the construction costs.

“I find this infuriating, as I have been promising you that the bridge and road will be opening up as of April. Needless to say, I am not happy with the contractor.

“In the meantime the contractor, having little work to do to complete the project, has not scheduled or sent any workers to the site, as there is little (short of the guiderail) left to do. So you are correct that there has been no activity on site for far too many days.

“The town has proposed a solution to the contractor whereby they will install concrete jersey barriers behind the guiderail in the areas where they are having problems with the posts, thus enabling us to open the road to traffic by Friday afternoon. They have agreed to this.

There will be some small amount of incidental clean up to do, but in short, this should get the road open by Friday and finalize the project.

“I appreciate your patience with all of this, and please know that no one wants this bridge open more than I do.”

Bayberry Lane bridge, last November. (Photo/Sandy Rothenberg)


Four days after the fun-filled Day of Champions, donations for Experience Camps continue to roll in.

The tally raised so far is over $244,000. That will fund summer camp for over 1,200 youngsters, who have lost a parent or sibling.

Congratulations to the QBack Kings. They led all 20 teams in fundraising, with a whopping total of $39,510!

Seen Sunday, at the Day of Champions.


Run — don’t walk — to Weston’s 29th annual Memorial Day Weekend 5K.

Sponsored by the Weston High School PTO, it’s the only USATF-certified road race course in the town.

Runners of every category are joined by joggers, walkers and baby strollers. There are trophies, a Kids’ Fun Run, obstacle course, food truck and more.

Click here to register, and for more information.


Longtime Westport resident Janice Dean died yesterday. She was 88.

She and her husband Evan Dean moved from Alton, Illinois to Rochester, New York, and then Westport while raising 8 children.

At age 46, Janice decided to pursue higher education at Sacred Heart University. She earned a bachelor of science in business administration, graduating magna cum laude in 1983.

She obtained her real estate license, and managed Scott Associates in Darien for many years. She proudly led them in the transition to computerization.

In retirement, Janice and Evan traveled extensively, frequented New York City, and played golf and bridge. Janice achieved Bronze Life Master in the American Contract Bridge League in 2016.

At 85 Janice took up chess. She displayed her competitive spirit by effortlessly defeating her children and grandchildren.

Janice Dean was predeceased by her husband of 63 years, Evan, and her daughter Jennifer Dean Burke. She is survived by her childrenMark (Jaime), Christopher (Carline), Jayne (Gaetano Albani), Eric, Mary Ann (Mark Lindwall), David and Thomas (Andrea), 19 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Friday (May 26, 10 a.m., Assumption Church). Interment will follow in Assumption Cemetery on Greens Farms Road. Click here to leave condolences.

Janice Dean


This bicycle isn’t going anywhere, from its spot on Sylvan Road South.

But it — and its flowers — caught the eye of Anne Bernier. It’s a well-composed, colorful, and very intriguing “Westport … Naturally” shot.

(Photo/Anne Bernier)


And finally … Tina Turner died yesterday, at her home in Switzerland. She was 83, and had suffered from complications of a stroke and kidney disease.

But in her prime, she was amazing. The New York Times — not a source for hyperbole — called her “the earthshaking soul singer whose rasping vocals, sexual magnetism and explosive energy made her an unforgettable live performer and one of the most successful recording artists of all time.” (Click here for a full obituary.)

That was all on display one spring weekend, when I saw her at Brown University. She was still with Ike (she left her abusive, cocaine-addicted husband in 1976 with, the Times says,”36 cents and a Mobil gasoline card in her pocket”). I have never forgotten that night.

(It’s hard to keep up with everything in town. But “06880” tries. If you like what we do, please support us with a contribution. Click here — and thank you!)

Roundup: Day Of Champions, Michael Calise, Weston’s Sister City …

Every elementary school kid in town, it seemed, raced onto PJ Romano Field yesterday morning, for the annual Day of Champions.

Their parents were there too. All were decked out in costumes — just one part of the offbeat, fun and very important competition.

The event raised over $212,000 for Experience Camps, the Westport-based network of activities for children who have lost parents or siblings.

So who was the big winner, when all the games were over?

Experience Camps, for sure.

One eager team …

… and Jordan Schur’s family, part of another. (Photos/Dan Woog)


Happy belated birthday to Michael Calise! One of Westport’s most celebrated citizens turned 83 yesterday.

Andrew Colabella salutes “one of the many outspoken, preserving, and caring fighters of Westport.” He writes:

“Michael has worked hard to preserve the cultural identity of our town by purchasing land and historic homes for preservation of what our town once was, and is holding on to.

“You can find him often at Town Hall, for Planning & Zoning, Flood and Erosion Control, Zoning Board of Appeals and RTM meetings.

“Summer nights Michael walks from the oasis of trees on Compo’s South Beach to the jetty, Fiona’s Disappearing Island, and back.

“Fall and winter nights he can be found at Luciano Park with his friend and their dogs, playing together. Happy birthday, Michael!”

Michael Calise at a recent “06880” party, and in the Staples High School Class of 1958 yearbook.


Ukraine Aid International — the organization founded by Westporters Brian and Marshall Mayer — helps Fairfield County towns partner with similar-sized communities in Ukraine.

Westport was the first. Stamford, Easton and Greenwich followed suit.

Now Weston has done the same.

In this week’s “What’s Next in Weston,” 1st Selectwoman Sam Nestor describes the relationship, and offers details on how Westonites can help their new friends, during this very difficult time.

Click below to listen. The podcast is a production of the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston.


Nature abounds in Westport — even downtown.

Reeds frame Kerri Rosenthal, adjacent to Parker Harding Plaza, in today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo by Sandy Rothenberg.

(Photo/Sandy Rothenberg)


And finally … in honor of yesterday’s fantastic Experience Camps event at PJ Romano Field:

 (Be a champ! Help support “06880.” Please click here — and thank you!)


Day Of Champions Returns. It’s Quite An Experience!

In the past 2 years, over 200,000 children lost a parent or caregiver to COVID.

One in 13 children experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18.

Those statistics are sobering. So is the realization that most surviving youngsters feel different, isolated and alone.

Since 2009, Experience Camps has provided a way for boys and girls to share their grief — and move on from the trauma of losing a loved one.

The project grew from 1 site and 27 kids, to a network of 7 summer camps in 5 states serving more than 1,000 children, plus year-round programs. Because death and grief touch youngsters in all socioeconomic brackets, the entire week is free.

And it’s headquartered right here in Westport.

Sara Deren traded a career in financial services for the challenge of developing Experience Camps. (Her “experience”: Her husband Jon owned Camp Manitou for boys in Maine.)

Today she oversees all the camps, along with weekend retreats, leadership training and online sessions, from an office in Brooks Corner. She is proud that through friendship, teamwork and the common bond of loss, thousands of youngsters have gained confidence, regained hope — and begun to laugh and love life again.

The pandemic hit Experience Camps especially hard, though. In 2020, at the same time more children than ever were losing loved ones, the in-camp experience had to move entirely online.

Last year brought a limited program, with many restrictions. The fear of more illness was hard on kids who were already suffering. But they found joy in being together, with others who knew what they were going through.

A week at Experience Camp is filled with fun.

COVID also shut down Experience Camps’ fun — and important — fundraisers.

In 2018 and ’19, the first Day of Champions was held at Camp Mahackeno. Twenty teams of 12 to 15 people each — kindergarten through adult — competed in sponge races, an obstacle course, toothpick pickup contest with oven mitts, archery and other activities. It was like a huge camp color war.

Each team was asked to raise $1,000. Sara expected to make $20,000.

But the 2019 Day of Champions brought in $150,000.

“I was amazed and awed,” she says. “They blew it out of the water. Everyone was incredibly committed — and very competitive.”

On May 15, the Day of Champions returns. From 9 to 11:30 a.m., at a new site — PJ Romano Field, between Saugatuck and Kings Highway Elementary Schools — kids and adults will run, dance and hula hoop their way toward victory (dressed in vibrant, creative gear representing their team colors).

It’s family-friendly — and fiercely (but fun) competitive.

The Day of Champions is filled with fun …

Michelle Yanover is among the Day of Champions’ strongest champions.

The Westport mom has spent 31 years without her own mother. Laurie Goldfarb died at 33, after battling leukemia. Michelle was 7 years old.

“Over the years, I’ve learned you never get over ‘it.’ ‘It’ becomes part of your story, woven into the fabric of your whole being,” she says.

“But given the right chance, love and support from unimaginable loss there grows strength.”

Four years ago Michelle volunteered at Experience Camp. She experienced the magic that happens when a grieving child gets a week to be “normal” — while also getting support for their loss.

She was inspired by the work of the staff and counselors, and gratified by the smiles on campers’ faces.

Michelle has already signed up a team for the May 15 Day of Champions (and wants hers to become the top fundraising team of all). She’s eager to help the 7 summer camps (and other activities, including a meet-them-where-they-are moderated online space in Minecraft, that replicates camp).

… and games.

“Our fingers are crossed for a pretty normal summer ,” Sara says. “There is a huge need. A lot of grief has been sitting in people’s homes.”

In addition to COVID deaths, more youngsters than ever have lost parents and siblings to suicide and overdoses.

“Those are alarming trends,” Sara notes. “It’s especially important, with stigmatizing types of death, for kids to have a place to go.”

Which is why she urges as many people as possible to form teams for the May 15 Day of Champions.

“Two years off has built an amazing amount of anticipation,” she says. “This will be one of Westport’s first big post-pandemic events.

“It’s spring. It’s outside. It’s a large gathering of the community, returning to joy, fun, silliness, costumes and music. That’s such a great parallel to grief.

“And it’s what we do every day at Experience Camps.”

(For more information on the May 15 Day of Champions — including creating, joining or registering a team — click here. For more information on Experience Camps, click here. For a very cool trailer, click below.)