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The Color of Loss

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, and there are upcoming Out of the Darkness Walks to Prevent Suicide sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Last year I attended one of their events, and this is what I found.

 

Most of the people wore strands of brightly colored beads around their necks. There were white ones and red and gold and orange and silver and green and blue and teal. Each color held specific meaning.

All of these people, nearly 500 of them, had gathered to celebrate the lives of loved ones lost to suicide, and the beads represented the nature of the their loss. White designated the loss of a child, red meant the loss of a spouse, gold a parent , orange a sibling and so on. The beads color-coded their pain.

This  was the  Out of The Darkness Walk to Prevent Suicide, one of 400  held nationwide  by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to support survivors of suicide and work to end it.

The Walk was billed as a celebration of the lives of those who are gone by those who remain. One of the speakers addressed the seeming conflict of joy amid such pain.

“How can we feel such profound gratitude and such profound sadness at the same time?” she asked. Everyone there seemed to know. There were tears, as people stood at the microphone and explained their color “I am wearing orange because I lost my brother- my best friend”.

“I wear silver today because I lost military- a couple of them”.

“I’m wearing white because I lost my twin sons” -both of them.

Bertha, one of the event organizers, wore nearly every color- father, child and other loved ones- all lost . And she wore green to represent her own struggles with suicide.

Yes there were tears but also smiles and hugs and laughter and camaraderie. And that of course was the answer to the question- that amid that profound sadness, they could  feel gratitude because they all had the support of each other- they all understood.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States at the rate of 129 people a day.

There will be an Out of the Darkness Walk to Prevent Suicide on Sept. 29th  on the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie and one on October 5th at The Common in Pittsfield, MA.

Find details at sportingAcause.com.

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Alzheimer’s

We all have causes dear to us. We support charities that touch our hearts for the good works they do – for making the world a better place.

Sometimes we support causes that fight afflictions, like cancer, that have taken our loved ones.

For me, the Alzheimer’s Association is such a cause. Alzheimer’s disease wiped out my father’s side of my family as well as friends and friends of friends.

I hope for a cure so others escape that fate. And, because of forgetful moments, I hope for myself.

Many share my particular brand of pain and hope, and some are moved to action.

One such action is the Walk to End Alzheimer’s this Sunday, September 8th at the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield. It is one of 600 Walks held in the coming weeks around the Nation.

Folks will solicit pledges from friends, family and neighbors and then walk the two –  mile course through the beautiful White Memorial grounds. Over 325 people have signed up so far.

If Alzheimer’s has touched your life, consider walking  this Sunday in Litchfield or on the Walkway Over the Hudson on September 29th.

And if you can’t walk, perhaps make a pledge to someone who is.

One in three seniors will die of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

There are 5.8 million Alzheimer’s sufferers in the U.S., growing by one every 65 seconds.

There are16 million Alzheimer’s caregivers.

Learn more about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Litchfield and Dutchess at sportingAcause.com.

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Alex’s Lemonade Stand

 

 

1996 – 2004

So little space between those dates. Too few years to live a life. But that was all Alexandra Scott had to work with.

See how she used them.

At age nine months Alex, as she was known, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer.

At age one, defying her doctors’ best judgment, Alex learned to walk first with leg braces, and then without.

She improved for a time, but then relapsed. We know cancer can do that.

While hospitalized for stem cell treatment, Alex had a notion. “When I get out, I want to have a lemonade stand” to raise money so doctors could “help other kids the way they helped me.”

At age four, Alex and her brother did have a lemonade stand ,and that summer raised an astonishing $2,000.

Word spread about this determined little girl and her selfless quest. Others built stands and sold lemonade in her name.

When Alex passed away at age eight the movement she started had raised $1 million dollars.

The following year her parents formed the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF).

During  September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, they are hosting Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Million Mile, a virtual event,  to raise money to battle childhood cancer.

Here’s how it works. Folks like us walk, run, bike or saunter, wherever we live, and we keep track of the mileage. Get friends, colleagues and bar buddies to sponsor your efforts. By month’s end hopefully a million miles will have been logged and lots of money raised for ALSF.

Find all of the details about Million Mile at  http://sportingacause.com/event/alexs-lemonade-s…ion-million-mile/

And if , in your travels, you happen upon a lemonade stand in the coming weeks, stop and buy a cup- whether you like lemonade or not.

 

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Bob Frink

I only saw Bob Frink once, and from that moment wished that I had known him longer. I met him at the Canaan Country Club last August where he was hosting the 3rd Annual Ice Bucket Open Golf Tournament to raise money  for the  ALS Association, Connecticut Chapter.

Bob sat in a motorized wheelchair. He could no longer speak, but he could smile, and I think smiling is about the bravest thing you can do when you have ALS.

ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or, more commonly, Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder which means it robs the sufferer of muscular control starting with mobility and manual dexterity and eventually speech and the ability to breath. There is no cure, and it is always fatal. It stole those things from Bob, but it couldn’t rob his spirit, or the spirit of his wife Jeanine and their family. Much is asked of a family when a member has ALS.

Bob had served as greens keeper at CCC for 27 years, so a golf tournament at the Club was a natural for a fundraiser.  Well known and well loved, Bob’s friends organized the Open to raise money to help him out, but Bob decided the proceeds would go to ALS Association CT, the organization that has helped him and his family.

Bob passed away in February, but the Ice Bucket Challenge continues. It will be held this Saturday, August 10th, for the fourth year, at the Canaan Country Club in memory of Bob Frink.

The tournament has raised over $70,000 for ALS research over its three year run. 

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Please Read to the End

You’ve just gotta love the sights and sounds of children at play, and if last year’s Family Fun Night during Canaan Railroad Days was any indication, many will descend on Canaan’s Lawrence Field on Thursday , July 25th to enjoy dozens of kid-centric amusements. There will be hula hooping, slack-lining, hay maze, obstacle course, Frisbee, ring and bean bag tosses, food…

But, also like last year, one activity will be conspicuously quiet – unless we can do something about it.

Fairview Hospital will again host its Bystander CPR training program.  CPR Lite, as I like to call it, is a shortened version of the three hour CPR course that only takes  five minutes to learn- that’s right, just five minutes. In the time it takes to order a hot dog, pay for and eat it, you can learn a skill that could save a life.

Bystander CPR  is a hands-only technique (no mouth-to-mouth nastiness involved). You will learn chest compressions to the beat of the Bee Gees 1977 hit Stayin’ Alive. Fun, right?

The American Heart Association tells us that 350,000 of us will suffer cardiac arrest this year. If only 100 people learn this technique and then go about their lives, chances are that someday, somewhere, one of them is going to have a chance to help save someone’s life.

So this is what we are going to do to help – for every person up to 100 who visits the Bystander CPR tent on the 25th and learns this life-saving skill, sportingAcause.com will donate $5 to the North Canaan Ambulance Corp.

Last year two eager EMT’s and a practice dummy waited for someone , anyone to stop by and learn their life-saving lesson. Few did. Let’s change that this year.

For a two-hour time span on a warm summer night, you can entertain your kids, have a hot dog, trigger a donation to a worthy local cause and learn how to save a life.

Time well spent I’d say.

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Bullet

You know you’ve made your mark on the world when you are recognized by one name- Elvis, Bono, Ali , Bullet.

This bear of a man with an outsized heart had both a handshake that could (and did) break bones and a tenderness that anyone whose child has ever sat on Santa’s lap knows well.

His  unfiltered style and complete disregard for its consequences made Bullet the freest man I’ve ever known.

Much has  been written about Bullet Sherwood since his passing yesterday, with much more to come, no doubt. The stories that will be told, both outrageous and moving, are the stuff of legend.

He was already a legend by his high school years. Imagine  Bullet , as we’ve known him, as an adolescent!  He famously locked horns at HVRHS with the equally-legendary principal Doc Stoddard by arriving to class in a Santa costume for which Doc kicked Bullet out of school.  Doc won that round, and, yes, Santa Claus was Bullet’s alter ego even back then.

The arc of Bullet’s life reads like a series of larger-than-life stories: military service, auto accidents that would have taken the average man, service to community, service to nonprofits,  love of family,  his eulogy to his son Joey. The list is long.

I’m sure Bullet would describe himself as a simple, uncomplicated man with an equally simple philosophy: ” Pop Cheeks”- his  rebuke of propriety, pretension and convention.

Rest well my friend. We love you and we needed you.

Pop Cheeks

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The Travelers Championship No-Brainer

The Travelers Championship is coming this June to Cromwell, Connecticut with just about the most impressive field of golfing talent outside of a major.

Now if you’ve never walked the fairways of TPC River Highlands and watched your favorite pro crush a 300 plus yard drive, then this is a bucket list must do. And if you have attended the Travelers before, then I already know you’re going back. It is amazing, right?

Now here’s the deal. If you are planning to go, please consider buying your tickets in an easy but particular way to both save a bunch of money and help a worthy local cause.

A general admission one-day ticket costs about $45. But if you purchase it online through the Travelers Championship “Chip in for Charity” program, it will only cost you $30. But also, Travelers will give another $15 per ticket to the Housatonic Valley Regional High School golf team, and they could really use it.

Let me state that again: Get a $45 ticket for $30 and trigger an additional $15 donation to a great bunch of high school kids.

If ever the term “no-brainer” applied, it’s here.

To make it easy for you to take advantage of this deal, follow these steps:

Visit travelerschampionship.com/chip-in-for-charity

Click on “Purchase Tickets”

Click blue “Unlock” on the right side of the screen under “Ticket Options”

Enter code:  1STHOLE

Choose the number of tickets you want and click the green “Get Tickets” button to the right

You will then login to your Ticketmaster account or create a new one by clicking the blue “Sign Up”  (it’s easy, even I could do it).

On the next screen choose to add any parking passes to your order. If you have chosen to add parking, then select the green “Next” button.

Review your order by clicking “Order Details” and select the green “Next” button.

Enter your credit/debit card information and click the green “Place Order” button.

It’s that simple. Oh, and youngsters 15 years and under, members of military and veterans are admitted free. Just visit travelerschampionship.com/tickets and scroll down to “Complimentary  Admission Programs”.

Til next time

Willie

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CPR doesn’t have to be perfect to be lifesaving!

It’s time to repeat this life-saving message. If you are organizing an event this year, consider inviting the good folks from Fairview to teach your guests CPR Lite!

 

“CPR doesn’t have to be perfect to be lifesaving!”

That’s the message that the good folks at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, MA. want us all to understand. Studies are showing that bystanders often don’t take any action to help someone who has stopped breathing because they haven’t had CPR training, and they are afraid they will screw up. And that is where Bystander CPR comes in. It is not the full CPR program- call it CPR Lite- but learning it can keep someone alive until the ambulance arrives.

Fairview’s CPR Plus Program will send Bystander CPR Coaches to gatherings to teach the truncated version to large groups of people. And it is free. It only takes three to five minutes to learn. The program brochure reads :

“Begin chest compressions at 100 times per minute over the center of the breastbone. If you compress to the Bee Gee’s 1977 hit song ‘Staying  Alive’ you’ll be doing it right.”

” While Bystander CPR is not as comprehensive as the full -fledged CPR program, it is a way to get people to take some action, which can have an impact on the outcome.” according to Fairview spokesperson Lauren Smith. ” We have also found that doing these mini-programs in a fairly informal way makes more people willing to approach it.  Overall, raising the level of awareness will also lead to more people learning CPR, extending the rural emergency network.”

Fairview is looking for groups of people to pass along this life-saving technique . Got a 5k or golf tournament coming up? Or a cocktail party? If your event is within the Tri-State area call them to arrange a visit from their Bystander CPR Coaches. Call Lauren (413) 854-9611.

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Kenny Krom

A year ago, I wrote the following blog after attending a fundraiser basketball game at Mt. Everett High School. The game, however, was not the real story here. I hope you’ll find it worthwhile.

Kenny Krom and Debbie Connors never met, yet their fates brought them together in the most profound way.

A little over a year ago, 19 year old Kenny Krom, a graduate of Mt. Everett High School in Sheffield, Massachusetts, was killed in a one-car crash. He would have started college last fall to pursue a nursing degree. Kenny was a basketball player, well known and well loved, and the community mourned his loss.

But there was a silver lining in this tragedy –  Kenny Krom was an organ donor.

Debbie Connors, age 50, from Palmer Massachusetts, had spent the last three years on the organ donor waiting list to receive a new kidney. She suffered from polycystic kidney disease which had taken her father, three aunts and two cousins.

For those same three years, Debbie had been surviving on three-day-a-week dialysis, but she was weakening – she desperately needed a new kidney. And then, on Good Friday , 2017, Kenny gave Debbie one of his.

Others benefited as well- 15 people’s lives have been saved or enhanced by Kenny’s gifts so far. Over 67 remaining units of Kenny’s bone marrow  can help many more over the next few years.

But the goodness didn’t stop there. Kenny’s mother Sue Krom started a scholarship  in his memory, and this past Saturday, an alumni basketball game was held at Mt Everett to help raise money for it-  $5 a head at the door.

There were hot dogs and baked goods and T shirts for sale. Proceeds from those went to the school’s booster club to help the sports programs. And the non-profit Donate Life offered information about becoming an organ donor.

What a rich tally of benefit from Kenny’s life- 15 lives saved or enhanced with more to come and three non-profits supported. I trust we’ll be seeing future sports-related fundraisers  bearing Kenny’s name in sportingAcause.

Oh, and sitting in the front row watching the game with Kenny’s mom and grandmother was a healthy, smiling Debbie Connors.

April 2019 Update:

Since this blog, a total of 40 people have now been helped or saved thanks to Kenny Krom.

On Saturday, May 18th, the 2nd Annual Alumni Basketball Game will be held at the Mt Everett High School gym to support the Kenny Krom Scholarship Fund, Mt Everett Booster Club and Donate Life. Details here at sportingAcause.com.

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Looking For Something Fun?

Looking for something fun to do on a May Saturday?  Then consider this exciting  event coming May 11th to a theater near you – the Tri-State Amazing Race.

This is a new event organized by Erin Fowler and inspired by the popular television show  Amazing Race.  The goal is to raise money to fight substance abuse  in our area.

Here’s how it works- two-person teams with a car all gather at the Colonial Theater (that’s the “at a theater near you” part) in Canaan, CT. Each team is given a clue to guide them to the first destination where they are given a task to perform and a clue to the next destination.

After many destinations the winning team will receive $1,000! But sign up quickly because registration closes April 20th.

For more information click here: http://sportingacause.com/event/tri-state-amazing-race/

But the Amazing Race is not the only event coming up. The sports-related fundraising season is really heating up! Over the next 30 days you’ll have the opportunity to watch or take part in a motorcycle rally to Lime Rock Park, a basketball game, Kentucky Derby party, softball tournament, a lumberjack – style olympics and over 24 running or walking events! Plus the golf tournament season has started.

Find them all here at sportingAcause.com.

Happy Spring!

Til next time.

Willie

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