Tag Archives: Westport PAL

Pic Of The Day #745

(Photo/Steve Perkins)

Rugby is a favorite South African sport. Westporter Steve Perkins was born there, and wanted to find a club here for his son.

Deputy Police Chief Sam Arciola and Westport police officer Ned Batlin helped Steve organize a rugby program, through the Westport PAL. Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department also helped.

Staples High School head rugby coach David Lyme has helped the program grow into 3 teams: Under 10 (non-contact), and U-12 and U-14 (full contact). Very quickly, the young Westporters have become formidable ruggers.

They’ll feed into the Staples program, which currently fields 4 teams for nearly 100 players.

In the photo above, Steve’s son Ari Perkins (blue) battles Aspetuck, in U-14 action at Wakeman Field.

Tommy Greenwald: Football’s “Game Changer”

Like many Americans, Tommy Greenwald has a complicated relationship with football.

He was thrilled when his son Jack played.

“If I saw him limping or shaking his head, I’d say ‘Get back out there!'” Tommy says. “I was as happy to see my kid hitting and getting hit as anyone else.”

In 8th grade, Jack hurt his ankle. “My first concern was not going to the doctor,” Greenwald admits. “It was, could he finish the game?”

Jack had a great football career, with Westport PAL and Staples High School. His father appreciates what he learned from intense practices, tough games and his relationship with his coaches.

But, Greenwald says, “the football culture — with its pressure to be tough and strong, to play hurt, to not be perceived as soft” — has its downsides.

That’s the heart of “Game Changer.” Published this month, it’s the local author’s 10th book — and a departure from his previous “Charlie Joe Jackson” (named for his 3 sons) and “Crimebiters” young readers’ series.

Jack Greenwald (center), with his brothers Charlie and Joe.

There’s not a laugh to be had in this one. There are no wise guys, no dog with special powers.

“Game Changer” is deadly serious — almost literally.

13-year-old Teddy lies in a coma after a football injury during preseason camp. His family and teammates flock to his bedside to support his recovery — and at the same time trade rumors and theories on social media.

Was this a tragic but fairly common result of a violent sport? Or did something more sinister — bullying and hazing perhaps — happen on the field that day?

“Game Changer” is different type of book. It mixes together dialogue, text messages, newspaper stories — and Teddy’s own inner thoughts.

It’s different too in that it’s a no-holds-barred look at the terrifying risks of a major American sport — and the entire culture supporting it.

Greenwald is emphatic that this is a work of fiction. He added an author’s note to that effect at the end. He says he never saw or heard anything like what happened in “Game Changer” during Jack’s Westport career.

But, Greenwald says, it is “based on a culture I saw through Jack. It’s not far-fetched that this could happen. We’ve all heard about terrible cases in college, high school, even middle school.”

“Game Changer” is not, he insists, a condemnation of football. “My respect for coaches, the life lessons they taught, the lifelong friendships Jack made, is amazing,” Greenwald says.

He calls Westport PAL and Staples “great programs.” And Greenwald has done enough research to know that football in Fairfield County — while intense — is “a dust speck compared to programs around the country. When football is the dominant event in a community, the pressure ratchets up unbelievably. Westport seems to have a good balance. We don’t pin our hopes and dreams on young kids.”

But his book is “a wake-up call for everyone — including me,” he adds. “People — including me — have to pay more attention to the culture and the injuries” of football.

Tommy Greenwald

Greenwald never had to confront the even more dangerous effects of football at the higher level. Though Jack was “semi-recruited” for college, he ended up at Elon and did not play. He graduated from there last June, and now works at a Boston cyber-security firm.

“Jack’s era was a tipping point,” Greenwald says. “The media started focusing on concussions, and parents started looking at football differently. If Jack wanted to play in college, that would have been a much larger discussion.”

Greenwald — who won a state championship as a Staples High School soccer captain in 1978, and whose son Joe was a Wrecker soccer captain in 2012 — remains a “huge” NFL fan.

“I read, like everyone else, about the dangers,” he says. “And like everyone else I camp out every Sunday looking for the best games.

“It’s a weird feeling to like a game you probably shouldn’t.”

(Tommy Greenwald will host a discussion on the pros and cons of youth sports at Barnes & Noble this Sunday [October 7, 12 p.m.] Panelists include his own son Jack; former Staples High School, Temple University football captain and Staples assistant coach Mac DeVito, and Dan Woog — in my role as Staples boys soccer head coach.)

Unsung Hero #55

Today is July 4.

Westport jumps the gun a bit on our fireworks celebration. We held ours Monday night. It’s the town’s biggest and best party of the year.

The cost is just $35 — and that’s only if you want to park at Compo. (Plus, you can pack as many people as you want into your vehicle.)

Otherwise you can park at Longshore, the office complex on Greens Farms Road or a friend’s house, and walk to the beach.

Still, people complain.

The $35 — a price that has remained the same for years — helps fund Westport PAL. They’ve sponsored the event for years. Recently, Melissa & Doug have helped out, ensuring that more of the money goes back to PAL programs.

Under the direction of Westport Police officer Ned Batlin — and a small group of volunteers — PAL does plenty. For example, they provide:

  • Youth sports teams and clinics. Each year, over 2,000 youngsters participate in 20 or so programs, including football, wrestling, cheerleading and much more.
  • The ice rink at Longshore (one of Westport’s favorite winter activities, for people of all ages and abilities).

The PAL Longshore Ice Rink.

  • Equipment and other needs for a variety of Staples High School teams.
  • College scholarships (more than 300 graduates so far, and counting).
  • Support for Toys for Tots, DARE and other programs.

That’s just the tangible stuff. By partnering with so many efforts, Westport PAL shows kids that the police really are their pals.

Westport PAL is our July 4th Unsung Heroes.

And every other day too.

Officer Ned Batlin, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and Deputy Chief Sam Arciola all help Westport PAL go.

Enjoy The Fireworks! But Read This First.

Every year, folks are surprised by Westport’s July 4th fireworks rules.

For one thing, they’re surprised they’re not on July 4th. (This year they’re set for Monday, July 2.)

For another, they’re surprised that:

  • They need a ticket to get into Compo Beach
  • They’re not permitted in until 5 p.m. — unless they’re already there before 4 p.m.
  • There’s a lot of traffic.

The fireworks are Westport’s best party of the year. The $35 ticket — which allows you to cram as many people into your vehicle as you want — helps the PAL run programs that benefit thousands of youngsters.

So be ready! Whether you have a ticket or not, if you plan to be at the beach, read the rules. And have a great 4th 2nd!

Daily Passes will not be sold after 12 p.m. on Monday.

Compo Beach will close at 4 p.m. All vehicles without a PAL Fireworks ticket must vacate Compo Beach and the Soundview lot at 4.

FOR TICKET HOLDERS:

  • Access to the PAL Fireworks display is through Compo Road South only. Hillspoint Road south of Greens Farms Road will be open only to residents with homes south of that intersection.
  • Firework attendees should display the fireworks ticket prominently on the dashboard.

FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE TICKETS:

  • Vehicles without a ticket can go no further toward Compo Beach than the Minute Man monument. Shuttle buses will run from the Longshore marina to Compo Beach.
  • Those utilizing Uber, Lyft, or taxi services will be directed straight past the Minute Man monument on Compo Road South. From there, they can walk from the area of Compo Road South and Soundview Drive to the beach. NOTE: If you choose to use this method of transportation, return service will not be available until after 11 p.m., due to 1-way traffic exiting the beach area.

Fireworks Tickets On Sale Now!

No one snoozes during Westport’s Independence Day fireworks.

But if you snooze too long now, you’ll have a tough time seeing them at Compo Beach.

Parking at Compo for the 62nd annual fireworks — which, in true Westport tradition, are blasted off a barge not on July 4th but, this year, on Monday July 2 — is by ticket only.

Sales — which began today — are limited, and on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once they sell out, shuttle passes from Longshore are available for purchase.

Tickets are available at Westport Police Department headquarters (50 Jesup Road), and the Parks and Recreation office (in Longshore, near the first tee).

The price is $35 per car (pack ’em in!). Before you bitch and moan: Proceeds go to Westport PAL, to support many programs — and thousands of kids.

And before you complain that the fireworks are sponsored by Melissa & Doug — the international (and locally owned) toy company — remember that because of them, PAL does not have to shell out money for all those firework shells.

Absolutely worth $35!

Pics Of The Day #218

Don’t mess with these girls.

Police and teenagers threw balls at each other’s heads — and cheered for each other — at tonight’s annual Dodge-a-Cop tournament in the Staples High School fieldhouse.

Sponsored by the Westport Youth Commission, Staples’ Teen Awareness Group, the Westport Police Youth Collaborative and PAL, it’s a chance for a couple of hundred kids and a couple of dozen cops to play dodgeball, eat pizza, win trophies, raise money, and hang out.

Teams came in costume. Police took off their holsters and cuffs. It was a great night for all.

Whether it’s Staples Wrecker blue, or the men (and women) in blue, the message was clear: Blue lives matter.

A typical team — with actual cops on the far left and far right.

Pic Of The Day #168

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month — and to raise awareness, the entire Westport PAL 8th grade football team is wearing pink socks, (Photo/Miki Scarfo)

July 3!

Last year, some hard-to-please Westporters bitched and moaned because the 4th of July fireworks were held on June 30th.

Folks have complained about July 1 and 2 dates too.

There are several reasons why we can’t do fireworks on July 4. But this year we’ve got the next best thing.

The 2017 show — produced by Westport PAL, sponsored by Melissa & Doug, with fireworks from the great Gruccis — are scheduled for Monday, July 3.

Tickets for the 61st annual event go on sale tomorrow (Thursday, June 1). They’re available — first-come, first-serve — at the Police Department (50 Jesup Road) and the Parks and Rec  office (Longshore, across from the 1st tee).

Westporters also sometimes bitch and moan that the cost is $35 per car. Well, proceeds fund a ton of PAL programs. And the entire evening is unrivaled for fun, and a community feeling.

Oh, yeah: The rain date is Wednesday, July 5.

We’ve got the 4th surrounded.

Westport’s fireworks, as seen from Hillspoint Road.

 

Graduation Ceremony, Summer Camp Help For Kids In Need

Westport is a town with plenty.

And a town that never hesitates to help those who don’t have as much.

Right now, our wonderful Department of Human Services is running two programs that touch lives we may not always see.

One is “Ceremonies and Celebrations.” For the 14th year, the fund helps students purchase special event clothing for graduations from middle and high school.

It doesn’t sound like much. But to a teenager, looking like everyone else on a big day means the world.

Last year, 34 youngsters smiled with pride, alongside all their friends.

Everyone wants to look as good as these girls did, after Staples’ 2013 graduation. The Department of Human Services helps those who need it.

Human Services director Elaine Daignault suggests that (tax-deductible) donations can be made in honor of a special teacher or person in a student’s life. A letter of acknowledgment will be sent to the honored individual.

Checks payable to “DHS Family Programs” (memo line: “Ceremonies”) can be sent to Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880.

Gift cards of any amount (American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Trumbull Mall/Westfield Shopping Center) to purchase clothes are also welcome.

For further information on this program, contact Patty Haberstroh (hsyouth@westportct.gov; 203-341-1069).

The 2nd program is a fund to send children to summer camp. Like new clothes for a special occasion, this project is not frivolous. It’s a godsend for working parents — and a life-changer for kids.

Summer Camp has been part of growing up for decades. In 1953, Westport artist Stevan Dohanos used Camp Mahackeno for this Saturday Evening Post cover.

Every year, thanks pour in. One woman noted the importance of swim lessons for her autistic daughter. Another said that her child “came home with a new story, friend or art project every day — and a huge smile.”

In addition to covering costs for ever-popular Camp Compo, the fund has helped a boy play American Legion baseball, and a girl participate in Staples Players’ summer program.

The other day, Westport PAL donated $1,200 to the Campership Fund. If you’d like to join them, checks payable to “DHS Family Programs” (memo line: “Campership”) can be sent to Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880.

To apply for campership help, click here.

Fireworks Over Fireworks

Westport PAL is taking heat for something it’s done well for decades: organizing one of our town’s hottest shows of the year, the 4th of July fireworks.

Of course, they’ve never been on July 4th. We celebrate Independence Day on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 5th, with Westport’s biggest party of the year. Besides fireworks, we enjoy picnics, barbecues, bands, and tons of fun.

This year — for a variety of reasons — the big day is June 30. When they heard that, a few Westporters exploded.

Westport's 2014 fireworks, as seen from Hillspoint Road.

Westport’s 2014 fireworks, as seen from Hillspoint Road.

The main complaints are that the event is scheduled on a workday — June 30 is a Thursday — and that folks have to work the next day (Friday, July 1). A secondary issue is that June 30 is several days before the 4th, lessening the holiday’s importance.

The date was picked almost a year ago, says Westport PAL president Ned Batlin. With a limited number of barges, barge crews, and fireworks companies available, not every town can schedule its fireworks on the same date.

For as long as they can remember, Batlin and Police Chief Foti Koskinas say, the fireworks have been held on a weekday (including Friday). At 4 p.m. the beach is cleared; then, people who have purchased tickets ($35 per car — a price that has remained constant for years) are allowed in.

It would be very difficult to clear the beach on a holiday weekend — both because of sheer numbers, and because some of those visitors would have paid for an expensive weekend day pass.

Scoring a prime spot in front of the barge -- and relaxing with an iPad.

Scoring a prime spot in front of the barge — and relaxing with an iPad.

In addition, Batlin explains, for financial reasons it’s best for the rain date to be the day after the originally scheduled fireworks. A few years ago rain pushed the fireworks to July 5. Many people complained that it came after the holiday.

For the past few years, Batlin notes, July 4 came close to a weekend, so many people did not have to work the day after the fireworks. This year, July 4 is a Monday.

“We know not everyone can take this Friday off, but some people can,” says Koskinas. “Knowing that some people will have a 4-day weekend, we opted for Thursday so we could have Friday as a rain date.”

Everyone has a favorite spot to watch the fireworks. This was the scene last year at the Schlaet's Point jetty, where Soundview intersects with Hillspoint Road.

Everyone has a favorite spot to watch the fireworks. This was the scene at Schlaet’s Point jetty, where Soundview intersects with Hillspoint Road.

The fireworks are PAL’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds help fund programs that serve thousands of youngsters, and 30 college scholarships.

The fireworks draw 12,000 people to Compo Beach. “We’re well aware we can’t please everyone,” Koskinas says. “Whether it’s the date, the weather, the traffic going to the beach or leaving, someone will be unhappy.

“We strive to please everyone. But we realize that’s not possible.”

Koskinas concludes, “Every year we hope the weather cooperates, that everyone has a good time, and is patient. And every year we hope the fireworks are better than the year before.”

Soundview Drive is one place to be for the fireworks. The woman on the balcony is conducting a fife and drum corps, which entertained along the closed-to-traffic road.

Soundview Drive is one place to be for the fireworks. The woman on the balcony is conducting a fife and drum corps, which entertained along the closed-to-traffic road.