Another year, another birthday—the 15th anniversary of my 29th year, in fact—and suddenly, it’s time again to bestow awards to those deserving of recognition.
Hopefully you remember that last year I created the MOMMYs, an award I want to give annually to recognize commitment, dedication and demonstration of care for Wilton’s families and children. I tied the timing of the awards to coincide with my birthday, as a present to myself of the gift of giving to others. It also seemed appropriate to present the MOMMYs in February, since we’re in the middle of award season—the Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys and what seem like countless others are given this same time each year.
It’s just like last year: I’m the sole judge. There’s no panel, no one could submit themselves for consideration, and there's no lobbying. I may not be impartial, but at least it’s all in the spirit of recognizing the good that others have done. (Doing it this way also saves everyone a lot of money and stress—no one has to buy a gown, rent a tux, stroll the red carpet, or thank god and their agent. This really is a do-good award all around!)
So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, the 2nd Annual MOMMYs go to…
Cathy Pierce and the staff of Wilton Social Services: In times of trouble, town resources for underserved and at-risk residents get stretched beyond thin, as the need grows almost exponentially. Cathy and her staff make do with less, and inspire those who have to give more, whether it’s food for the food pantry, gifts at holiday time or simply a helping hand. Serving a mix of constituents—Wilton youth, seniors, those with financial need, clients needing psychological counseling and others with special needs—the Wilton Social Services team represents the vast heart of the community.
Most recently, Cathy’s efforts have turned the heat up on helping those with a need for heat—specifically, to help Wilton neighbors who aren’t able to keep their own homes warm, a need now more dire with recent cuts to federal and state energy assistance funding. With the Wilton Warm-Up Fund, she’s organizing the community—businesses, philanthropic organizations, the Wilton Interfaith Council and individuals (including Cider Mill students)—to make a difference for Wiltonians facing hardship this winter. The $68,000 fundraising goal still hasn’t been reached, and anyone who can help the community hit that mark with a tax-deductible donation is being asked to give. (Donations can be sent to the Wilton Interfaith Council, 180 School Road, Wilton.)
ABC—A Better Chance: ABC of Wilton is part of a national program that brings academically talented inner-city students, usually from some of the most economically-challenged neighborhoods, to study in outstanding boarding and public school programs. Since 1994, ABC has been placing students in Wilton’s high school in order to provide them the opportunity of fulfilling their promise of academic excellence, improving their chances for better college acceptances, and paving the way for a brighter future.
Not only do the scholars who participate in the program benefit, but our wider community is enriched as well. The ABC students are leaders in student government, sports, extracurricular programs, the arts and volunteer organizations around town. They’ve shown other children who face far fewer challenges that an education is something to be prized and worth working hard and sacrificing for. And they’ve made our community a richer, more diverse place.
Kyle and Sean Dedrick, TOPSoccer founders: Kyle Dedrick may be a standout on the Wilton High School soccer team, but he, along with his soccer-playing, younger brother, Sean, made a significant impact of a different sort. The Dedrick brothers created TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer), a soccer series through the Wilton Soccer Association for children ages 5-18 with special needs who oftentimes don’t have an easy time playing organized sports.
The program pairs each registrant with one or two peer buddies to help them learn fundamentals of the sport during weekly Saturday instruction, practice and scrimmage play. The Dedricks wanted kids who usually don’t get the chance to ‘get’ a competitive team sport to experience the game they love—and to have the chance to fall in love with it too, in their own way, at their own pace. By making it an inclusion program, Kyle and Sean also had the opportunity to teach typical kids about the joy of helping learners of every kind, and that athletes come in all varieties. Thanks to the Dedricks, Wilton’s playing fields seem a little bit more even.
Kevin Meehan: Science teacher, Ambler Farm program coordinator, Pied Piper—no matter what title he sports, Kevin Meehan rules the roost as a favorite of Wilton kids and families. He’s an innovative, engaging educator, and students at Cider Mill often say that science is their favorite subject, largely because of how tangible and exciting he makes it. Perhaps he’s created some sort of energy formula in his lab, because Mr. Meehan excels at his second full-time job, running the educational programs at Ambler Farm as well. He teaches everyone about making syrup, organic farming, animal care and all things agricultural, as well as runs one of the most popular summer programs in town and an incredible apprentice program. It’s no wonder kids of all ages agree—they love Mr. Meehan!
Junior Warrior Basketball Program: Under the leadership of Coach Jim Lewicki and the Parks & Rec staff, Wilton third and fourth grade boys and girls can take part in a basketball program that teaches them much more than just the basics of b-ball. Sure, it’s a great basketball skills program, but more importantly, it’s a program that ascribes to fair play, encouragement, inclusion and role modeling.
In one of the more inventive ways to run a program, players are coached mostly by student coaches from the high school basketball teams. Teenagers dressed like NBA coaches—in ties, sweater vests and slacks—encourage the players with some of the most positive sideline support I’ve seen on any playing field in town. And trust me, the kid players notice. It’s an eye-opening experience for the players, parents and teen coaches themselves, teaching them all much more than how to move the ball around the court. It’s a slam dunk of a much more important kind.
Nancy Capelle: After coming close to dying from a heart attack—at the unexpected age of 40— Nancy Capelle had a new mission in life: not only would she change her own life for the better, but she would do everything she could to save the lives of everyone else in Wilton. She became a champion of the town’s emergency responders, campaigning for more financial support for them in the town budgets. She’s increased awareness of heart health for everyone, most especially women her age who may not know just how susceptible they are to heart disease and illness. And she’s worked hard to get the town certified as a HEARTSafe Community, making sure that municipal employees are trained in CPR and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) methods, and that there are sufficient AEDs in public places. Nancy has done so much for the heart beat of Wilton families.