The father of two young children, Newtown resident Dr Michael Baroody saw the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, as “an assault on our soul, with no verbal way to communicate what had happened. I felt like I had lost my own kids, but I realized that my world is not just my living room. These Newtown children are our kids and it is our responsibility to protect our kids.”
As he sought a way to understand and move through the horror, he began to realize that language is sometimes a barrier to healing. “I asked myself, what does our community need? What is one nonverbal way to express ourselves?” he said.
Neither an actor nor a member of the performing arts community, Dr Baroody nonetheless thought about the power of music and theater, and how a world-class performing arts center could become a means of moving people forward in a positive, ongoing manner.
It is Monday morning, February 17, and 3-year-old Genesis Fuentes is visiting the office of The Newtown Bee. Unlike most toddlers who would be racing to and fro, jabbering, or excitedly grabbing at the numerous knick-knacks within reach, Genesis sits quietly in the lap of her 22-year-old cousin, Melanie Lopez, brown eyes set in a thin face, curiously gazing about the room and smiling shyly. It has been 18 days since Genesis, from Belize City, Belize, received the Gift of Life — open heart surgery funded by a special program of Rotary Club International, and sponsored locally by the Newtown Rotary Club.
The Klondike Derby is a winter scouting skills and leadership competition that has been sponsored annually by Boy Scout units since 1949. Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Venture Crews gather for the daylong event, working in teams and vying for points earned at several skills stations set up along a course. Named for the late 19th Century Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska, when thousands of hardy, young men headed north to find their fortunes, dragging with them sleds of tools and possessions, the Scouting Klondike Derby also features sleds laden with useful tools, food, and other supplies. Participating Scouts must drag their handcrafted sleds from station to station — regardless of whether the yearly Connecticut winter brings rain, snow, mud, or sun. Last month, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Scatacook District and Troops 9, 33, and 52 hosted more than 400 Connecticut Scouts in 30 team at the Hoyt Scout Reservation in Redding. At the end of the chilly, snowy day, the Newtown-based Venture Crew 70 team had earned the highest number of points, slip-sliding away with the first place honors for the Scatacook District 2014 Klondike Derby.
Members of the Ben’s Bells Newtown (BBN) team visited Pequenakonck Elementary School in North Salem, N.Y., recently. A family session on January 31 had 140 students, teachers, and parents all working together to make beads and/or paint Kindness Coins. The program allowed BBN volunteers to continue their mission of inspiring, educating, and motivating each other “to realize the impact of intentional kindness and to empower individuals to act according to that awareness, thereby changing our world.” It was the first event for the two groups. Meanwhile, Ben’s Bells is celebrating its first anniversary in Newtown. Jeanette Maté, the founder of Ben's Bells Project, based in Tuscon, Ariz., visited Newtown along with a few volunteers in early January 2013. They were joined by a few Newtown residents to hang the first Ben's Bells in public places, creating more than 1,000 opportunities for residents to discover the random acts of kindness.
Recently, a friend offered me some tortilla chips from a local restaurant. I declined, explaining that lately corn chips were making me congested. (What the heck?!) That got me lamenting to him about how much I missed snacking on corn chips, and how Fritos had figured predominantly in my childhood. Just saying the name “Fritos” conjures up a memory of corn chips so salty they made your fingers and lips hurt. The chips are thick and crisp, requiring a solid chomp to chew them, more so than with the oh-so-breakable tortilla chips that crumble at the sight of salsa. Fritos are just the right amount of curl and size to fit snugly on the tip of the tongue, I discovered years ago, where the flavor can be savored a little longer, so long as there is no one around to see.
Nearly a century separates the lives of the man recognized as Newtown’s first historian, Ezra Levan Johnson, and Newtown’s first official historian, Daniel Cruson, but uncanny similarities between the two men make them brethren. Both teachers, Mr Johnson spent the majority of his teaching career at South Center and Sandy Hook School districts, and served on the Board of School Visitors for 58 years, until his death in 1914. Mr Cruson retired in 2005 from Joel Barlow High School in Redding, after teaching in the history department there for 37 years. Despite their commonalities, there is also a decidedly different approach to parsing Newtown’s history to the townspeople between them. Today’s reader might find Mr Johnson’s publications unwieldy, Mr Cruson said. “He was what we call an antiquarian historian,” he said, meaning that Newtown’s first historian tended to publish antique documents in whole. A modern historian, such as Mr Cruson, is more scientific in their research, and apt to condense information from a large document into a more user-friendly form.
Survivors and supporters gathered at Newtown High School Monday night with one goal in mind: fighting cancer. Kicking off this year’s Relay For Life, which will take place from the evening of May 31 into the morning of June 1, the tenth such event in town, chair Chris Farrington, a 13-year survivor, said the year’s theme is “party,” not a birthday party, but other types of celebration. Also joining the kick-off was honorary chair and cancer survivor Mary Ann Jacob, who spent time Monday night speaking with guests; and American Cancer Society representative Dave Andros. Newtown's Relay for Life will return to Newtown High School this year, after a five-year break from that location.