Tag Archives: GoFundMe

Unsung Hero Needs Help

In June, “0688o” featured Mario Viola as an Unsung Hero.

The Coleytown and Saugatuck Elementary School bus driver truly went “the extra mile.”

He loves “his” children. He decorates his bus for holidays, shows up for their concerts, and keeps everyone excited for school.

When a youngster was sick, Mario gave him his hat to make him feel better.

On the last day of school, the driver took everyone to Carvel — and treated!

Mario Viola, and a young friend.

Recently, as he and his wife rode a motorcycle, they were hit by a drunk driver.

Mario is recovering at home. Meanwhile, his medical bills mount. Parents have created a GoFundMe page to help.

Mario Viola has been there for our children. Now we can be there for him. (Click here to help.)

Mario Viola and his happy kids, at Carvel.

Take Time To Help Turk

Westport’s firefighters are always there for us.

Now it’s time for us to help one of them.

Turk Aksoy

Turk Aksoy has been a Westport firefighter since 2006, when he was the top-ranked candidate for appointment. Before fulfilling his long-time dream job, Turk had been a paramedic.

He raises funds for veterans’ organizations by racing in triathlons, and competing in Tough Mudder events.

In 2014 — just 41 years old — Turk was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer. Doctors told him there is a 5-year survival rate of 14%. He was given 3 years to live.

Five years later, Turk is still fighting. He continued to work — scheduling treatment around his department shifts. His fellow firefighters were awed by his strong, resilient and brave attitude.

In December — when the cancer spread to his liver and lungs — Turk’s condition and his aggressive medical treatments made it impossible to continue to work.

But that’s not all he’s facing.On January 30 — his 46th birthday — Turk’s beautiful wife and source of constant support, Denise, died unexpectedly.

The emotional toll on Turk and his children, Tess and Tyson, has been devastating.

Turk Aksoy and his family.

The kids are as remarkable as their parents. Tess, 14, just finished her freshman year at Nonnewaug High School. She is president of Pony Pals 4H Club, and a member of Future Farmers of America. She hopes for a career in equine science.

Tyson, 12, is energetic and athletic. He loves lacrosse, outdoor exploration and photography.

His brothers and sisters in the Westport Fire Department are rallying around Turk, Tess and Tyson.

But they can’t do it alone. They’ve set up a GoFundMe page, to help Turk “as he fights his illness with dignity and confidence.”

Donations will help Tess and Tyson achieve their educational goals and dreams.

Click here — and give as generously as Turk, and his colleagues, have always given to us.

(Hat tips: Dave Wilson and Trissie Rost)

[UPDATE] Black Duck Employees’ GoFundMe Page Shuts Down

NOTE: The GoFundMe page referenced below has been shut down. A note says “No longer accepting donations.”

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Yesterday’s announcement was stunning: The Black Duck will close on Sunday.

No reason was given. Just like that — poof! — Westport’s iconic burger-and-bar joint will be gone.

Earlier today though, a GoFundMe page appeared.

Posted by “The Black Duck team” — described as “the remaining few long-time employees” — it offers a glimmer of hope. The goal is to raise $100,000, to keep the beloved barge restaurant open.

The crowdfunding plea reads:

The Black Duck Cafe, the last of “Old Westport,” the place of many first dates and first beers, home of famous burgers, wings and strong drinks, the place to “ruin your liver down by the river”…is drowning. We have been so fortunate to have served so many wonderful customers and friends for 40 years with the Saugatuck River as our backdrop, and are hoping to continue being able to serve you.

Our beloved old barge withstood Hurricane Sandy, the departure of near-celebrity status bartenders, rising food, liquor and utilities costs, and the takeover of Westport by brand name chains. Despite these changes, it is our long-time customers, camaraderie and meeting new customers that have kept us, the remaining few long-time employees, going.

Part of the Black Duck’s peril: increasingly frequent floods.

Consistency and “turning back of time” has been the Duck’s long-time appeal. Indeed, best-selling novelist Jane Green stated in 2017 that the Black Duck is “one of the few places where old Westport and new Westport meet.”

Yet this turning back of time, has also led to the accrual of increasing debts. Though we have had to increase our prices over the years, these increases have been disproportionately lower than the increasing food costs. In other words, our commitment to being one of the last affordable, laid-back restaurants in lower Fairfield County has caught up to us. In the last 6 months, we’ve been experiencing slower business and now have fallen on significant financial hardship, and are facing the biggest challenge of the Black Duck’s 40 years of business.

It is devastating to think that we won’t be part of Westport and a part of your lives anymore. If our small barge on Riverside Ave becomes empty, so many of you, our guests, will no longer have your go-to place to go to, so we the employees, are doing everything we can to keep it going.

We need to raise cash immediately. Our hope is that with the money raised, that the Duck will be able to stay open for this month and next month.  This money will get us through the slower time.  We would love your help and we are so thankful for your business over the years and for taking a look at our campaign!

Love humbly from the entire Black Duck team.

So far, $300 has been raised.

Duck-lovers: Now’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is. (Right around those wings, steamers and onion rings.)

Click here for the Black Duck’s GoFundMe page.

(Hat tip: Jennifer Rankine)

 

 

Help Will Hotch Jump Again

Early last month Will Hotch captained the Staples High School volleyball team to an undefeated season, and the state Class L championship.

A couple of weeks later, Will graduated from Staples. He headed off for a summer as a counselor at an overnight camp. He looked forward to college in the fall.

Will Hotch (left) in action for the Staples volleyball team. (Photo/Justin Weekes for Meriden Record-Journal)

Suddenly last week, he became gravely ill.

His body and immune system were adversely affected by Epstein-Barr virus. Antibodies attacked his immune system, leading to post-infectious myelitis.

Will’s spinal cord was damaged, causing severe numbness below his neck. He cannot feel or move his legs at all.

He will undergo a second procedure as soon as possible, to stabilize him and start him on his road to recovery.

Will hopes to attend college, and return to his active lifestyle.

He and his family have endured a lengthy ICU stay. It will continue for the foreseeable future, with several expensive procedures. When he starts to improve, he will require in-patient rehabilitation.

A GoFundMe page has been created to help defray those costs. It will also be used to help with missed wages for his parents as they support him during this difficult time. Many Westporters know Will’s mother Denise — she’s a group fitness instructor at the Westport Weston YMCA.

Click here to help Will, and his family.

Seymon And Lynne Need Our Help

Seymon and Lynne Ostilly are longtime Westporters. Their 2 kids — now in their 20s — are Staples High School graduates.

And they’re dealing with quite a lot.

For the past 8 years, Lynn has been the primary caregiver as her husband struggled with dementia. Over the past 6 months, as his condition grew much worse, it became increasingly more difficult for her to help him.

In May, Lynne suffered a hemorrhage stroke. The brain bleed was so deep, it was too unsafe to operate. Emma flew home from California.

Lynne is fighting to recover. She must relearn how to walk, use her right arm, and remember words she once knew.

When she is finally discharged from rehab, she will need extensive physical and occupational therapy.

Emma Ostilly and her mother Lynne.

A month after Lynne’s stroke — when she was stable and on the path to recovery — Emma returned to California, and her work. (She’s also planning her wedding, for next year.)

On her way to the airport, she learned that her father had suffered multiple mini-strokes. Two days later, he had a very large and severe basal ganglia stroke.

Seymon has now joined Lynne at a rehab facility. Both are trying to recover. But his dementia has greatly slowed his progress. And his Medicare coverage is ending.

Meanwhile, Seymon’s strokes resulted in a series of blood clots, which have moved to his lungs. Some were dissolved with blood thinners, but he has deep vein thrombosis. His leg is extremely swollen, making it even more difficult to walk. Doctors say he will probably never live at home again.

Dane has put his career on hold to care for his parents.

Lynne and Seymon Ostilly.

Fortunately, the Ostillys have some long-term health care. However, their care is extremely expensive. Coverage will eventually run out.

More costs — a caregiver for Lynne, and a nursing home for Seymon — loom.

Emma and Dane have set up a GoFundMe page. It’s a chance for all of us to help our neighbors — whether we know them or not. Click here to contribute, or for more information.

“Anything you can give would be an absolute blessing,” Seymon and Lynne’s children say.

“Love you all. Life is precious.”

Time To Help A Town Hall Gem

Everyone in Westport knows Patty Strauss.

In over 20 years as town clerk, she’s helped all of us at one point with her many duties: managing all public records (land, meetings, births, marriages, deaths), licenses (marriage, dog, fish and game), and elections.

She’s passionate about her job, patient to the point of sainthood, and brings life and light to all of Town Hall.

Now she needs our help.

Her son Greg — a longtime Westporter, and former Staples High School football and lacrosse player — suffered a cliff jumping accident last month. He’s 22, and after graduating from Virginia Tech in January had started his dream job: crewing on a Caribbean yacht.

Greg Strauss

His back was fractured in the jump. Fortunately, he was stabilized enough to be quickly airlifted back from Grenada to the US.

In Florida, Greg’s back was repaired. He then endured several surgeries to repair the compound fractures and soft tissue damage to his right foot and ankle.

However, to give Greg the best hope to enjoy a pain-free and active life, his right foot was amputated below the knee.

Insurance will cover many of his medical bills, but not all. The cost of prosthetics will be significant, and an ongoing financial burden.

The Strausses have always given back to their neighbors, strangers and the entire town. They did not ask for this help. But friends have set up a GoFundMe link that will show how much we appreciate all Patti and her family have done for all of us: https://www.gofundme.com/greg-needs-a-new-right-foot

Victoria Gouletas Update: She’s Strong, But Recovery Is Long

In March, “06880” told the heart-pounding tale of Victoria Gouletas.

The real estate attorney and Zoning Board of Appeals member was crushed by a large tree branch, during a howling nor’easter. It hit her head and back, fracturing several bones in her neck, scapula and sternum.

The tree limb also broke her back, paralyzing her from the chest down. She was told she will never walk again.

Help poured in for Victoria, her husband Troy Burk and their 3 young children. Westporters brought food, drove the kids, helped around the house and yard — and donated over $190,000 through a GoFundMe account.

Doctors assured Victoria that with intense physical therapy she can regain her daily independence, care for herself and her family, drive her children to school and return to work full time.

This week, she returned home for a brief visit. But another surgery — and more rehab — await. The road ahead remains long and difficult.

Victoria Gouletas (bottom row, 2nd from right) with friends (clockwise from left) Coleytown Elementary School PTA co-president Youn So Chao, Westport Human Services Department director Elaine Daignault, 3rd Selectman Melissa Kane, community organizer Marcy Sansolo and Victoria’s sister-in-law Suzanne Karpick.

Her spirit is strong. She and her family have been moved by the many friends — and strangers — who have contributed time and money to help.

Her husband will take another month off work to care for her and the kids. Meanwhile, the bills continue to mount.

Her friends hope Westporters will not forget Victoria.

We won’t. In fact, we’ll continue to be inspired by her.

(Click here to contribute through Victoria’s GoFundMe page.)

Help Pours In For Westporter Paralyzed In Nor’easter

Somehow, in the swirl of news following last week’s nor’easter, this awful news was overlooked everywhere.

A week ago, as winds howled, Victoria Gouletas — a real estate attorney, and member of Westport’s Zoning Board of Appeals — was crushed when a large tree branch snapped. It hit her head and back, fracturing several bones in her neck, scapula and sternum.

Victoria Gouletas

The tree also broke her back, paralyzing her from the chest down. She has been told she will never walk again.

Victoria retains complete mental capacity, and can use her head, neck and arms. Doctors assure her family that, with intense physical therapy, she can regain her daily independence, care for herself and her family, drive her children to school and return to work full time.

Still, her life will be very different.

Victoria and her husband, Troy Burk, and their children Ana (10), Tafe (9) and Zoe (2½), love Westport. They have been touched by the outpouring of love and well wishes they have received from the community. Many people have offered to help.

Victoria is committed to her family, her town and her career. She is fiercely determined to live a full life, regaining as much mobility as her body will allow. She has vowed to work as hard as possible to beat the odds.

Victoria Gouletas, her husband Troy Burk and their kids.

However, her recovery will be a marathon, not a sprint. Out-of-pocket costs of retrofitting her life — while continuing to care for her family — will be immense and ongoing.

Upcoming expenses include a house renovation or relocation, vehicles to accommodate her limitations, ongoing nursing care, plus child care and housekeeping services.

A GoFundMe page was set up yesterday. The goal is $75,000. In less than 24 hours, it’s collected over $11,000.

Click here to contribute. The Gouletas and Burk families thank all for their support.

“Post Road Hero” Sequel: Daily News Coverage; GoFundMe Campaign

“06880” and WestportNow readers have responded strongly — and generously — to the story of Aaron Tucker.

The 32-year-old halfway house resident sacrificed his dress shirt — and a chance at a job interview — to help save the victim of Wednesday’s horrific Post Road automobile accident.

Now, millions more people will know about Tucker. The New York Daily News just published a big story about his heroics.

It includes this great quotes from Tucker:

Aaron Tucker (Photo courtesy of WestportNow.com)

“It didn’t go through my head, because a job can come and go, but a life is only one time. The only thing running through my head is that person in the car could pass away and I could help him.”

And this, about the outpouring of support from Westporters: “I just want everybody to know it’s not about what people could do for me. It’s just about me saving his life,” he said.

His story — including his desire to move on from a weapons conviction, and to support his 21-month-old son — clearly resonates.

The Daily News reports that a GoFundMe “thank you” page has set up to help Tucker.

In just 13 hours — as of 7 a.m. today — it already raised over $5,000.

(Click here for the GoFundMe page. Hat tip: Adam Goldberg)

Charlie Capalbo’s Biggest Battle

Charlie Capalbo is not a Westporter. He’s a senior at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.

But his ties to this town are long and deep. Everyone here knows his grandmother: writer/poet/storyteller Ina Chadwick. Her husband, Richard Epstein — Charlie’s grandfather — is a Westport native; his parents moved here in 1958.

Charlie’s mother, Jennifer Wilde Capalbo — Ina’s youngest daughter — is a Staples graduate. For many years, she worked at a Westport asset management company.

Charlie’s aunts are Nina Wilde and Becky Wilde Goldberg Jarit. Years ago — to support her former Staples boyfriend, who suffered from lymphoma — Becky began running in charity events. She completed her first New York Marathon this year, at 50.

Ina Chadwick’s daughters: Nina, Becky and Jennifer.

Charlie has led a pretty good life. This winter as a goalie, he helped the Fairfield co-op ice hockey team make history. For the first time ever, the Mustangs qualified for the FCIAC and state Division I tournaments.

But other parts of his life are not good at all.

A few years ago, his house burned down. And just a couple of weeks ago — after making 27 saves in Fairfield’s 5-2 state tournament loss to West Haven — Charlie was diagnosed with cancer.

Charlie Capalbo (Photo/Dave Gunn)

His tumor is located near his heart and lungs, and has spread to his lymph nodes. Doctors say right now, an operation is not possible.

Charlie has already had a 5-hour biopsy at Yale-New Haven. Many more procedures lie ahead. Chemo starts tomorrow.

The Fairfield community — led by his coach and teammates — have rallied around Charlie.

Charlie Capalbo’s teammates lend support, as he heads to the OR.

A GoFundMe page was created Sunday night. In just 3 days, it’s already brought in over $129,000.

And that’s without most of Westport knowing his story.

Now we do.

(Click here for Charlie Capalbo’s GoFundMe page.)