Tag Archives: Wyatt Davis

For Wyatt Davis, State Budget Cuts Literally Hit Home

Wyatt Davis got the most out of Staples High School.

He hosted a weekly radio show on WWPT-FM. He was an avid member of Best Buddies and the Photography Club, and the football team’s most ardent fan. Nearly every staff member and student knew him — and all loved him.

Not bad for a young man who — because of cerebral palsy — cannot speak, or use his extremities.

Wyatt Davis in 2011, at the WWPT-FM controls.

Wyatt is 21 years old. That’s the age limit for high school special education services. He graduated last June (while also attending community college).

In normal times, he’d move to a program like STAR. Like similar organizations around the state serving those with intellectual/developmental disabilities, its services would help Wyatt transition to the “real world.”

But these are not normal times.

In the absence of a state budget, Wyatt — and over 200 recent high school graduates like him — have been stranded in a hellish limbo.

“Wyatt uses a wheelchair for mobility, and needs 24/7 assistance to meet his basic health care needs,” says STAR executive director Katie Banzhaf.

But, she adds, “I don’t think of Wyatt that way. To me and all of us who know him, we see an amazing young man who loves photography (he takes great photos with adaptive devices), loves his iPad, has a great sense of humor, and will absolutely charm his way into your heart.”

Wyatt Davis and his friend Taylor Harrington, watching a Staples baseball game.

Through STAR — which he became involved with last year — he has attended photography and music classes, and engaged in many activities.

But state legislators have not yet passed a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. Governor Malloy’s interim budget cut funding for places like STAR by up to 18%.

Now Wyatt mostly stays home.

His parents have paid privately for STAR services, 3 days a week. They have other pressing needs — including Wyatt’s other health expenses, and a daughter in law school — and cannot afford that for much longer.

A little snow doesn’t stop Wyatt Davis from enjoying the slopes.

The other option is for his father or mother to quit their job, to stay home with Wyatt. But that won’t help him grow, develop and make friends.

“We’re trying to raise awareness and funds from the community so Wyatt can return to STAR for at least 1 to 2 months,” Banzhaf says. “That will give us time to find additional resources, so he can stay as long as he needs us.”

United  Way of Coastal Fairfield County — and an anonymous donor’s contribution of $1,000 — have ensured that after major hip surgery last month, Wyatt can join STAR again next next week.

The organization hopes other neighbors and friends will help too. To donate — or for more information — call Peter Saverine, STAR director of philanthropy, at 203-846-9581, ext. 302, or email psaverine@starct.org.


Taylor Harrington Speaks Strongly For Those Who Can’t

For some Staples High School students, club rush is a chance to grab candy, as organizations try to lure in new members.

For Taylor Harrington, it was a life-changing event.

As a freshman in 2011, she discovered Best Buddies. The organization — which fosters 1-on-1 friendships between students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their classmates — grew to be a passion.

As a junior, Taylor was paired with Wyatt Davis. Though they shared similar interests — sports, music and food — and had attended Coleytown Elementary and Middle Schools together, they did not know each other well.

Their relationship grew quickly. They attended Staples games together. Wyatt invited Taylor out on his family’s boat. They attended a “Walk the Moon” concert in New York.

Wyatt Davis and Taylor Harrington, watching a Staples baseball game.

Wyatt Davis and Taylor Harrington, watching a Staples baseball game…

Their friendship has lasted beyond high school. Wyatt has gone to Penn State — where Taylor is a sophomore — for a football game. She showed off the school she loves, and hit the Waffle Shop for eggs and pancakes.

For years the 2 friends have sat in Wyatt’s kitchen, watched his dad Brett cook, and chatted. “He makes the best food!” she says.

Wyatt — who has cerebral palsy — communicates using an iPad attached to his wheelchair. He has a great sense of humor, Taylor notes.

“I love being Taylor’s friend,” Wyatt — now a student at Gateway Community College — says by e-mail. “She makes things easy when we hang out. When she comes over, she’s like part of my family. She is incredibly genuine and sincere.”

“We are all way more similar than we are different,” Taylor notes. “Too many people judge Wyatt and other people with disabilities just because of their medical condition.

“That’s not fair. Wyatt doesn’t let his disability define him, which I love. Any time I think I can’t do something, I think of Wyatt’s attitude. I tell myself, ‘I can do this — just maybe not in the easiest way, or the first way I think of.'”

...and on Wyatt's parents' boat.

…and on Wyatt’s parents’ boat.

Last year — her first in college — Taylor realized how much she missed Best Buddies. She noticed that fellow students who had not gone to school with students with disabilities felt disconnected from them. She also wanted to learn more herself.

That led her to minor in disabilities studies. This semester she’s taking a course with a blind professor. She’s learning how blindness affects the woman’s life, and is asking questions she could not get from a textbook.

Last year, a Deaf Culture class helped her understand hearing impairments as a difference, not a disability.

Taylor’s major is advertising. Her other minor is entrepreneurship. All of those subjects converged in September, when Project Vive — a small State College-based start-up that makes communication devices for people with cerebral palsy and ALS — hosted a poetry night at their workspace.

A 70-year-old woman named Arlyn shared her poetry with an audience, for the first time ever. Because her speech is slurred, she used Project Vive’s Voz Box.

Project Vive's Vox Box.

Project Vive’s Vox Box.

The Box is a speech generation device. It’s customizable — Arlyn operated it with her foot; others use a hand — and at $500 it costs far less than the $16,000 average of similar devices.

Taylor was excited to hear Arlyn — and eager to help.

Soon, she was hired as Project Vive’s marketing intern. She runs social media accounts, promotes events, and creates innovative ways to expand the company’s network of supporters.

She also runs an Indiegogo campaign.

That’s necessary, because even though the Voz Box is a lot less expensive than other speech generators, it’s still out of reach for many.

Her goal is $10,000. But she has less than 24 hours to reach it. The campaign ends tonight (Thursday, December 8) at midnight.

Taylor Harrington, Wyatt Davis, Arlyn the poet and Project Vive have one voice. Through it, they speak loudly and clearly: “Please help!”

Click here to contribute.

Best Buddies Spread The Word — In The Very Best Way

Wednesday is a special day for special education students — and their many friends.

It’s “Spread the Word to End the Word” Day. The “word” is “retard” (or “retarded”). The aim is to draw attention to the casual use of that offensive, derogatory term — and end it.

Every year, the Staples chapter of Best Buddies makes a PSA for the day. This year, the group did something — well, special.

Wyatt Davis and Taylor Harrington.

Wyatt Davis and Taylor Harrington.

Best Buddies fosters 1-on-1 friendships between intellectually and developmentally disabled students, and their classmates. Taylor Harrington — a 4-year member — put her iMovie skills to great use.

She asked “buddy pairs” — who have been matched together based on mutual interests all year long — to help out. “I wanted viewers to see our buddies as people just like them, with their own talents and interests — not ‘that kid in a wheelchair’ or ‘in special ed classes,'” she explains. “Best Buddies focuses on our buddies’ abilities — not their disabilities.”

Everyone was excited to take part. Three students cannot speak. So their iPads were programmed so they could say their lines.

Megan Nuzzo and Alexander Baumann.

Megan Nuzzo and Alexander Baumann.

Filming was fun — filled with laughs. Alexander Baumann, a very popular senior, was “so in his element,” Taylor says.

“He was hanging out with his friends, having such a good time.” (He’s the one at the end of the video, flexing his muscles and tickling his buddy Megan Nuzzo.)

Taylor’s buddy is Wyatt Davis. She is thrilled that the video helps other people know “he’s a crazy music lover. He goes to so many concerts with his family. That’s something you wouldn’t know from looking at him.”

The finished product is great. It’s already gotten over 1000 views on Facebook. It’s been shared a lot — even by students not involved with the club.

It will be shown at Best Buddies’ fashion show, silent auction and dinner this Saturday (March 7, 6 p.m., at Staples — all are welcome!)

In the meantime — today, Wednesday, every day — “spread the word to end the word.”

Spread the video, too!

If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.

The Amazing Wy-Master: The Sequel

Last fall, “06880” reported on Wyatt Davis. “The Wy-master” — as he calls himself — has cerebral palsy. He speaks only through a computer — but that doesn’t stop him from hosting a weekly show on Staples radio station WWPT- FM.

Each show has a special theme. Wyatt picks it, and the music — and introduces every song.

Today WSHU — the NPR station based at Sacred Heart University — took note of Wyatt’s accomplishments. Listening to it (click here) might be the best 4 minutes you’ll spend today.

And then — from 12:30-1:30 this afternoon (Tuesday, May 1) — click here to tune in to 90.3 FM, and hear the Wy-master live.

Wyatt Davis, at the WWPT-FM controls.

The Amazing Wy-Master

Staples sophomore Wyatt Davis gets around.

He’s at every Wrecker football game.  He’s been to dozens of concerts, from Springsteen and Jimmy Buffett to Sugarland and Kenny Chesney.

He takes a full course load, but really enjoys TV production.  He’s an active member of the Photography Club and Best Buddies.

He loves the Yankees and — to his Giant-fan father Brett’s dismay — the Patriots.

He hosts a popular Tuesday afternoon show on WWPT-FM.  Calling himself “The Wy-Master,” Wyatt develops a theme each show; finds an eclectic assortment of music fitting that theme, then writes out a script tying it all together.

Not bad for someone who — because of cerebral palsy — cannot use his extremities.  And is unable to speak.

Wyatt Davis, at the WWPT-FM controls.

Wyatt has been a well-known and popular Westporter for years.  He and his twin sister Kate were born 14 weeks prematurely.  Nearly a decade ago — as a 1st grader at Coleytown Elementary School — Wyatt’s spirit impressed Pete Caliguire, a member of the Staples football staff.

Pete invited Wyatt to be on the sidelines of the big Thanksgiving Day game against Greenwich.  Since then, he’s a regular presence at games, practices, even film sessions.

Wyatt was active in the Coleytown variety show, and in middle school became adept at using an adaptive camera.

All the while, he was in a “power chair.”  A technological marvel, it’s got a laptop and speaking device.  With very limited motor skills, Wyatt controls his world by moving his head.

At the end of 8th grade, Wyatt went with his class to a Staples orientation session.  Media production teacher Mike Zito found him, and got him involved.  The rest — as WWPT listeners know — is history.

In addition to concerts, Wyatt attends as many big sports events as he can.

Each of Wyatt’s shows has a theme — colors, the seasons, whatever.  Using iTunes he, his father and sister choose 14 to 16 songs.  Then, Wyatt and his aide Sharon Magera — an amazing woman who has been with him since 1st grade — make the final selection, and burn a CD.

He imports what he wants to say into his computer.  When the show begins, the device speaks Wyatt’s words.

“The Wy-Master” is one of WWPT’s most eclectic shows.  Wyatt’s tastes range from U2 to Duke Ellington.  “The genre doesn’t matter,” his father explains.  “In our house, if the music’s good we listen to it.”

Wyatt has always loved music, his father says.  He sits in on his sister’s guitar lessons.  And every day, he listens to his fellow broadcasters’ shows on ‘PT.

Brett says that Wyatt’s opportunities and experiences at Staples are “beyond incredible.”

His mother, Vicky, adds:  “Hopefully after graduation, a job at a radio or TV station can be part of his life.  Meanwhile, almost every day, something different or wonderful happens.”

The next wonderful thing might come this Saturday.  Members of the WWPT  staff travel to Naperville, Illinois, for the Drury Awards — an annual recognition of excellence in high school broadcasting.  The Staples radio station is national finalists in 12 categories — more than any other high school station in the country.

One of the nominations is for “Best News Feature Story.”  The subject is “The Wy-Master” show.

It aired as a newscast on WWPT earlier this year.  It was produced by Hannah Foley, Eric Gallanty — and Wyatt Davis, “The Wy-Master,” himself.

A little snow doesn't stop Wyatt Davis from enjoying the slopes.

(Wyatt Davis’s show airs every other Tuesday, 12:30-1:30 p.m., on WWPT-FM, 90.3)