Tag Archives: Westport PAL

Craig Bergamo: Westport Kids’ Best PAL

Craig Bergamo has quite a back story.

He grew up “everywhere,” he says — in and out of shelters. He and his brother were shuttled from place to place.

When Bergamo was 17, his parents died. He wanted to join the military, but for his brother to keep Section 8 housing, Bergamo had to live there as his dependent.

During tough times, police officers had always been nice to Bergamo. He looked up to them. To give back, he studied criminology in college.

Craig Bergamo

In 2006 — just 22 years old — he was hired by the Westport Police Department. His duties include overseeing the car seat program, motorcycle instructor and field training.

Bergamo won the Medal of Valor, for his actions in the Westport force’s first shooting in 30 years.

He also earned a Community Service Award for his fundraising with LivFree, a pediatric cancer support group.

Giving back is a key part of who Bergamo is. He coached in Norwalk’s Pop Warner football program for 6 years.

Early in his Westport police career, PAL athletic director Carmen Roda suggested he get involved with the local program. He became head football coach for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, then volunteered as secretary and vice president.

Now he’s in charge of the entire Westport PAL.

Earlier this month, Bergamo succeeded Ned Batlin as president.

It’s a big job. PAL serves thousands of youngsters through football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, rugby, track and cheerleading programs.

PAL also runs a robust scholarship program, the ice skating rink at Longshore — and Westport’s annual Independence Day fireworks.

Plenty of (pre-COVID) action at the PAL Rink at Longshore.

“This is an amazing organization,” Bergamo says. “The motto is ‘All about the kids and community.’ It’s safe and friendly. There are not many Police Athletic Leagues still out there. But ours is going strong.”

Bergamo is already planning new fundraising efforts — like a car show, digital events, perhaps a gala “when things are normal.”

Wrestling is one of Westport PAL’s many programs.

For someone who grew up in shelters, and lost his parents as a teenager, offering hope and activities to youngsters is crucial. In addition to his PAL efforts, he coaches his daughters in softball.

“When I see 3rd graders I coached move up to high school, and then graduate. I get chills,” Bergamo says. “I’ve had great interactions with them, and their parents. That’s what PAL is all about.”

(To learn more about Westport PAL — and participate in the See’s Candy Shop fundraiser — click here.)

Roundup: Super Bowl Sounds, PAL, Minute Man, More

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I’m not a fan of the fake crowd noise that’s pumped into sports broadcasts, ever since the pandemic slashed — or eliminated — crowds.

But I’ve always wondered how they did it.

Yesterday, on his regular “CBS Sunday Morning” gig, David Pogue explained.

He took a trip from his Westport home — where some of the segment was filmed — and headed to Met Life Stadium for a chat with (among others) Harry Carson. I guess the actual Giants team was unavailable, although there is some doubt as to whether they have an actual team.

At any rate, it’s an intriguing piece. Click below to watch:

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Westport PAL president Ned Batlin is stepping down.

The Westport police officer — a former 3-sport athlete at Staples High School (football, wrestling, lacrosse) — has led the organization for 5 years. PAL serves thousands of youngsters through football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, rugby, track and cheerleading programs.

PAL also runs a robust scholarship program — and Westport’s annual Independence Day fireworks.

Batlin — who will remain on the Westport Police Department force — will be succeeded by PAL vice president and veteran police officer Craig Bergamo.

Officer Ned Batlin, at Westport PAL’s 2015 July 4th celebration.

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Love is in the air. And the Westport Downtown Merchants Association want you to feel it, by using an eGift Card.

Or giving a gift card, as a gift.

The card can be used at many locations downtown, including retailers, restaurants and service providers. Click here to purchase. Click here for a list of participating businesses.

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They’re not called Friends of Sherwood Island for nothing.

On Friday, the group’s garden team kept Connecticut’s first state park looking good — and healthy. They pruned suckers from the base of several 200-year-old trees on the west beach. Many are from Westport.

It’s all part of their year-round effort to maintain and enhance wildlife habitat.

From left: From left to right: Barrie Holmes, Michele Sorensen, Chris Swan, Jackson and Johannes Cregan, Lavinia Larsson and Pamela Nobomuto.

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A certain segment of Westporters loves decorating our Minute Man. They decorate him with Santa Claus hats, Easter bunny ears, and (last spring) a COVID mask. It’s all part of humanizing our town’s most recognizable symbol.

Another segment thinks that’s disrespectful. He’s a patriot, they say; don’t make light of what he symbolizes.

Whichever side of the memorial’s wrought-iron gate you’re on, you must agree: Yesterday’s decoration was certainly different.

(Photo/Pam Kesselman)

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The Fire Department responded to a potentially dangerous blaze yesterday, on Bayberry Lane.

First arriving units found a 2-story, 2-family home with fire on both floors, and the attic.

Second floor residents were alerted to the fire by a carbon monoxide detector. They notified residents of the first floor to evacuate. There were no injuries, but 3 residents were displaced by the fire.

Wilton and Fairfield Fire Departments assisted on scene, and with station coverage during the fire.

The Westport Fire Department reminds residents to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all floors of their homes.

Aftermath of the Bayberry Lane fire. (Photo courtesy of Westport Fire Department)

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Anne Lowrie’s snowman looks suspiciously like her father, Tom — right down to the Sunrise Rotary cap.

(Photo/Anne Lowrie)

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And finally … James Dean was born on this day, in 1931. He died in a car crash in 1955, age 24. Had he lived, the star of “Rebel Without a Cause” would be celebrating his 90th birthday.

 

Roundup: Downtown Parking, PAL, Back To School, More


The month-long closure of the south end of Main Street is over. Planters have been removed; cars can once again park on both sides of the road.


Cancellation of the July 4th fireworks disappointed thousands of Westporters. But the decision was especially tough on Westport PAL. They sponsor the annual show. The money they make pays for a host of activities: sports programs for thousands of kids, the Longshore Ice Rink, an annual Halloween parade, a party for children with Santa, health and wellness efforts, and much more.

Which is why their upcoming golf tournament (September 14, Longshore golf course) is more important than ever.

The 58th annual event — named for former Police Chief Samuel Luciano, a staunch PAL supporter — begins at 7 a.m. with a continental breakfast and putting contest.

There’s a shotgun start, scramble format; lunch; more golf, then dinner, raffles and prizes (hole-in-one, hula hoop, longest drive, closest to pin).

The cost is $175 per golfer, $700 per foursome. Sponsorships are available too, from $150 to $5,000 (largest sign at first tee, banner on dinner tent, complimentary foursome). Click here to register, sponsor — or just donate to PAL.


Westport’s “Back to School” and “After-School” programs — both of which serve families in need — are always well utilized, and generously supported. In our new coronavirus world, they are more important than ever.

Elaine Daignault — director of the Department of Human Services, which oversees both projects — notes, “This is not a typical fall. COVID-19 has disrupted the usual back-to-school enthusiasm with a sense of anxiety, and fear of the unknown.

“Still, you can help to reinforce a child’s sense of hope and stability by ensuring they have tools they need to excel in school, and an opportunity to participate in after-school activities.”

Human Services relies on the generosity of neighbors to provide financial assistance for income-eligible families. Last year, 192 children benefited from Westport’s Back to School Program, and many families accessed affordable after-school childcare.

Tax-deductible donations (cash or gift cards to Staples, Target, Walmart, etc.) can be made online; click here, then select “Family to Family Programs – Seasonal Program – Back to School”), or send a check payable to “Town of Westport/DHS Back to School Program” to Human Services, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT  06880.

Families who may qualify for this program should contact DHS youth and family social worker Michelle Bottone by phone (203-341-1068) or email (mbottone@westportct.gov).

The Department of Human Services’ Back to School program helps youngsters get backpacks — and fill them with needed supplies.


Residents of Glenwood Lane have had it with Optimum.

After Tropical Storm Isaias, it took 12 days for cable and onternet to be restored to the street, off Maple Avenue South. Pieces of old cables still hang there.

Two days ago — August 31 — a crew finally arrived to clean up. But they turned the service off again, leaving residents who depend on the internet during the pandemic unable to work.

Optimum responded that the earliest they could come back to fix their mistake would be September 5. They then said they would come yesterday (September 1). However, they did not show up. Optimum now promises to come today.

Instead of sitting waiting for another no-show, some residents publicized their plight. This is one of 2 signs at the head of their road.

(Photo/Aurea de Souza)


Westport knows him as Willie Salmond. He was born in Scotland, lives here,  and has spent much of his professional career (and retirement) in Africa, working first in international development and then in AIDS relief. He is also an author and screenwriter.

As William Salmond, he’s just published “Deep Secrets.” Here’s a brief description, on Amazon:

As the Coronavirus ravaged the world economy with the yawning chasm of inequality between rich and poor getting deeper and wider, no one seemed to notice the movement south into Africa of swaths of Al Qaeda-hardened committed fighters. It was a unique opportunity to regroup and prepare for the final knock-out blow to the Great Satan and her allies whose economies were already on the ropes.

Is life a game of chance? Or is there a guiding hand? Racked by guilt and shame can we truly be forgiven and find healing and even love?

Money man Winslow Kirk looks for answers to these questions as he steps out of his comfort zone into the heart of Africa in search of his granddaughter Eleanor whom he allowed to be given up for adoption following a tragic boating accident. A threat note from the world’s number one terrorist who is coordinating the threat to Western countries sharpens his resolve. Can he find Eleanor and will she forgive him? After his wife’s death and his own cardiac illness he begins to muse about what really matters.

For more information and to order, click here.


And finally … today would be the 81st birthday of Robert Lee Dickey. When he began singing with his cousin James Lee Purify, the duo became “James and Bobby Purify.” Dickey died in 2011. You may not remember their names, but this beautiful song may ring a bell:

Roundup: Compo Playground; Comet; Art; PAL; More


The latest reopening is a big one: the Compo Beach playground.

Everyone — except those under 2 — must wear a mask. Social distancing must be observed.

Other than that: Have fun!


The Neowise comet got plenty of publicity when it first arrived.

It’s still visible — all the way through August 15. In fact, says Elyse Heise — who took the great photo below, at Saugatuck Elementary School — it just hit peak brightness yesterday.

The view tonight should be as bright as the day this past week, when she took this shot.

(Photo/Elyse Heise Photography)


Three downtown galleries — Amy Simon, Pop’TArt and Sorelle — are sponsoring an art walk this Thursday (July 30, 5 to 8 p.m.). There’s live music and refreshments (masks required, of course).

If this one goes well, more are planned for future Thursdays.

Amy Simon Fine Art


For decades — and very quietly — Westport PAL has impacted thousands of lives.

In addition to organizing 10 sports for 2,000 kids each year, supporting Staples High School sports, helping with field enhancements, organizing the 4th of July fireworks and Main Street Halloween parade, PAL awards college scholarships. Since 2003, they’ve handed out $400,000 in aid.

Their fundraisers are low-key. Unfortunately, their biggest — the fireworks — was canceled this year.

But the 58th annual Chief Samuel Luciano Golf Tournament is still on. Set for September 14 at Longshore, it’s more important — and fun — than ever. Click here to register, and for more details.


In these tough COVID times, EnergizeCT has expanded their rebates and incentives. The popular — and free — Home Energy Solutions program helps state residents save on bills by reducing waste.

Virtual visits (“pre-assessments”) offer a look into a home’s energy efficiency situation, so experts can make suggestions and explain how the rebates work.

There is no co-pay, regardless of how the home is heated. And the insulation rebate rate is now $2.20 per square foot — more than twice the previous $1 rate.

For more information, click here or call 877-947-3873.


This week’s #FridayFlowers — courtesy, as always, of the Westport Garden Club — adorn the entrance to Longshore.

(Photo/Topsy Siderowf)


And finally … play ball! Baseball is back!  There’s new grass on the field …

 

And The Most Patriotic Homes In Westport Are …

You won’t see flags — or anything else red, white and blue — at this year’s fireworks. Westport’s show — along with 80% of similar celebrations around the nation — was canceled, due to COVID.

But Westport PAL — organizer of the annual event — teamed up with Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department, their longtime partner, to sponsor our 1st-ever “4th of July House Decorating Contest.”

Residents were encouraged to decorate the side of their house most visible from the street, showing off the themes of “patriotism” and “America.”

29 families took up the challenge. After intense judging, the winners were announced this afternoon.

1st place goes to Allen Levy and Autumn Waggoner of 19 Fillow Street. Of special note: All decorations were made in America, using recycled items. Their prize: 2 tickets to next year’s fireworks.

1st place: 19 Fillow Street.

The silver medal goes to Michael, Victoria and Giuliana Mirabelli of 1 Quintard Place, off South Maple. They receive 2 free rounds of golf at Longshore.

2nd place: 1 Quintard Place.

Placing 3rd were Nikki, Zoe, Nickolas and Christina Glekas of 20 Bridge Street.  They were rewarded with a $50 gift card to Saugatuck Sweets.

3rd place: 20 Bridge Street.

First honorable mention went to the Benson family of 17 Buena Vista Drive. One of their flags was from a World War II general.

1st honorable mention: 17 Buena Vista Drive.

Second honorable mention went to the Sylvester family of 7 Jonathan Lane, off Treadwell.

2nd honorable mention: 7 Jonathan Lane.

Congratulations to all. And special thanks to Max Robbins of Parks & Rec, who made it all happen.

(Hat tip: Andrew Colabella)

Halloween Parade Moves To Town Hall

Bad weather has moved the Children’s Halloween Parade scheduled for today  indoors.

Boo!

Instead, all festivities will take place at Town Hall, starting at 3:30 p.m.

Kids and parents can parade through offices. Entertainment and refreshments will take place in the auditorium, at 4 p.m.

Yay!

The event is sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department, Downtown Merchants Association and Westport PAL.

“Saving” A Spot For Tomorrow’s Fireworks? Read This!

It’s inevitable.

Moments after the sun rises tomorrow, someone will send me a photo like this:

Or this:

Or this:

I’m not sure who these people are, who think that reserving massive swaths of sand — or long picnic tables, with “You Cannot Reserve Tables” plastered prominently on them — is cool.

Well, actually I do. They’re all named Dick.

Don’t be like Dick. If you want a prime spot, pick a little bit of it. And have someone stay there all day. You can even hire some kid — yours, or someone else’s — to do it.

If the situation gets even more out of hand than it recently has — and it’s gotten grosser and greedier every year for the past few — we might want to consider the Shore & Country Club solution.

It’s private — but a prime viewing site for Norwalk’s fireworks (also July 3). Alert “06880” reader David Loffredo forwarded an email, from the club to members.

In late June, members who wanted a picnic table for fireworks day could click a link, to enter a drawing. They could request marina or beachhouse side, or covered or uncovered — but nothing was guaranteed.

Winners were selected randomly, and assigned a random table. Each table will be labeled with the member’s name.

One more, for good measure. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

What a great idea! We could auction off not only South Beach tables but prime spots of sand, from the cannons to the Soundview jetty.

It could even be a fundraiser for PAL (or Parks & Rec, for beach improvements): $5 to enter. If you don’t pay, you can’t play…

Better yet: a raffle! Tables and plots of sand could be clearly marked online; click on one, and bid. Just think how much that would raise 🙂

But here’s the best idea of all — and we can do it tomorrow.

Confiscate any unattended stuff, and charge Dick and his friends to get it back.

If it’s not claimed by, say, 6 p.m.: Sell it to whoever wants it.

Some of those tents, beach chairs, tables, coolers, portable grills — and the food in them — are pretty pricey. They could fund an entirely new bathroom!

PAL Fireworks And Parking Passes: The Back Story Many People Miss

Since 2003, Westport PAL has awarded over $400,000 in college scholarships.

In the past few years they’ve donated $153,000 to the Field of Dreams turf field project, $49,000 to Westport Baseball and Softball, $23,000 to Special Olympics, $15,000 to the Compo Beach playground, and hundreds of thousands of dollars more to many worthy, kid-related causes.

Each year, they help sponsor the 4th of July* fireworks. They are allowed to sell a maximum of 2,000 Compo Beach parking passes. The cost — $35 per vehicle — has not risen in years.

Last year, they sold fewer than 1,900. Yet an estimated 15,000 party-goers thronged the beach, for the best community event of the year.

You do the math.

A small portion of the very large crowd.

Westport PAL was organized in 1948. A few years later, they started the fireworks tradition.

It takes a ton of work. The volunteer organization partners with the Westport Police, Fire and Parks and Recreation Departments; EMS; Fireworks by Grucci — and many others — to make the event a smash.

About 20 years ago, PAL offered to hand it over to the town. First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said thanks, but no thanks.

Everyone — including out-of-towners — pitches in to make the fireworks a success.

The fireworks is PAL’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds help run programs in football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, rugby and track. They impact thousands of boys and girls each year.

In addition to the recipients of PAL money listed earlier, recent donations include $24,000 for health and wellness programs, $20,000 for lights at Staples High School, $5,000 for wrestling mats, $2,000 for a WWPT-FM Wrecker Radio tent, thousands to Staples’ Gridiron Club — the list goes on and on.

The fireworks is a true community effort. Melissa & Doug — the internationally highly regarded, locally owned children’s toy company — generously covers the cost of the actual pyrotechnics each year. (Grucci offers 3 levels. Westport’s is the top-tier.)

Happy birthday, America! (Photo/Suzanne Sherman Propp)

But PAL picks up other costs: the barge ($15,000 a day). The Cobra marching band, with Sapphire dancers. The Nassau County bomb squad. Food and drinks for police, fire and Parks and Rec workers (beyond what Jersey Mike’s provides). This year, PAL is even springing for a new barge mooring.

PAL president Ned Batlin, and past president/current vice president Sam Arciola, are both Staples grads. They grew up going to the fireworks — and playing PAL sports.

They want Westporters to know: Those $35 parking passes are not a ripoff.

They’re a bargain.

Parks and Rec operations supervisor Dan DeVito helps collect tickets. The process is quick and easy.

Last year’s non-sellout — despite the packed beach — was part of a trend. Some fireworks-goers arrive by Uber. Others park — as far away as the Children’s Community Development Center on Hillspoint Road — and walk in.

Of course, there are people like the homeowner on Soundview Drive. Like many neighbors, he throws a huge fireworks bash every year.

But he also buys 30 parking passes, and gives them to guests. He wants to support PAL; he doesn’t want friends to freeload.

Party on Soundview!

“One of our longtime executive directors, PJ Romano, used to say, ‘It’s all about the kids,'” Batlin says.

“PAL — and the fireworks — is all about local police and citizens who really care about the town, and everyone in it. We want to keep doing what we’re doing. But if we don’t sell out, it really handcuffs our ability to help.”

That’s the back story too few people know. So pony up, Westporters. PAL needs you to buy those fireworks parking passes.

They’re available at the Parks & Rec office in Longshore (opposite the golf pro shop) during business hours, and 24/7 at police headquarters (50 Jesup Road). You can pay by cash or check (“Westport PAL”).

If — er, when — they sell out, you can buy a pass to park at Longshore. Dattco donates buses, which shuttle back and forth to the beach from 5:45 to 11 p.m.

With a police escort.

*Okay, the 3rd of July. You know what I mean.

Westport’s fireworks are timeless. This shot is from 2016. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

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.)