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Where Are They Now? Catching Up With People From 2017

Published: February 4, 2018

There are countless people featured in The Newtown Bee every week, but many times the story in the paper is just a snippet of a person’s ever-continuing journey.

In those cases, as time goes on, many begin to wonder, what ever happened to that person they read about?

In the first installment of this two-part story, The Newtown Bee reached out to some of those highlighted in articles from 2017 to find out what they have been up to since the article was published.

Toys Industry Pioneers

Sisters Laureen and Maureen Trotto, of Newtown and Monroe respectively, were honored at the Women In Toys’ 13th Annual Wonder Women Awards Gala in New York City with the Emeritus Award last February 19.

The duo are owners of the design firm Thin Air LLC in town, and spoke to The Newtown Bee last March about being recognized as major pioneers for women in the toy industry.

Part of receiving the Emeritus Award included having their work put on display at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y., which the Trotto sisters hope to visit this spring.

The pair say Thin Air continues to create products, including several options they hope to have out for 2019, and currently have three NHS students — Teresa Forlenzo, E.J.Santayana, and Jacob Rooney — interning with them this year.

Laureen and Maureen say, “It is always such a joy to mentor these young talents.”

As for the upcoming Women In Toys’ Annual Wonder Women Awards Gala, scheduled to take place on February 18 at Chelsea Piers in New York City, Maureen Trotto hopes to attend.

One Day 2 Missions

Last year, The Newtown Bee spoke to local teen Hannah Groonell about the neighborhood program she launched in March called One Day 2 Missions, which she created to help provide consistent support for FAITH Food Pantry.

She distributed 200 reusable orange bags, with the One Day 2 Missions logo she designed, to her neighbors in the Bennett’s Farm area and encouraged residents to fill the bag with pantry donations and leave outside each recycling day for her to pick up.

Hannah explained, “The name is One Day 2 Missions, because Friday is recycling day and the idea was that you could bring down the bag with your recycling and it would be helping two causes: the earth and you could help someone in the community.”

The program is still active and recently expanded when Hannah’s friend, Kelsey Mitchell, started it on her street in September.

Kelsey said she was looking for a volunteer opportunity to help the community and was inspired to help with One Day 2 Missions after reading the article about it in The Bee.

She currently oversees the donations for Taunton Lane and collects the items each Wednesday.

“My experience helping One Day 2 Missions has been great. The houses that are participating have been very generous and there are a few houses that regularly donate, which is awesome,” Kelsey said.

Just as she was inspired to help, she found out that by starting the program on her street has begun inspire others, like an 8-year-old neighbor, to get involved in volunteer work.

“I would definitely encourage others to participate,” Kelsey said. “Helping One Day 2 Missions is a very easy way to make a big difference… It’s a simple way to help the food pantry, but I know they really appreciate the donations.”

Hannah’s mom, Beth Groonell, says FAITH Food Pantry is always thrilled to receive items like coffee, tea, juices, and small bottles laundry detergent.

Other items in high demand, but are currently in limited supply, include: brownie mixes, cake mixes, wet and dry cat food, wet and dry dog food, cereals (especially kid-friendly ones), cookies, crackers, jelly or jam, ketchup, liquid dish detergent, mayo, mustard, pasta sauce, peanut butter, salad dressing, taco kits, school-size snacks for lunches, shampoo and conditioner, soap, body wash, toilet paper, and toothpaste.

To learn how to get involved with the One Day 2 Missions program, follow the group on Facebook and Instagram or e-mail hannahgroonell@gmail.com.

Visual Caption Head

Back in June, The Newtown Bee spoke to local resident Ricky Grasso shortly after he accepted the position of visual caption head for the Newtown High School (NHS) band program.

That announcement came on the cusp of some of the busiest months of his life.

Mr Grasso embarked on a summerlong tour with the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps, a highly sought-after professional marching band based out of Denver, Colo., as the group’s tour director.

The Blue Knights even did a special stop in Newtown on August 4 to rehearse at the NHS Blue & Gold Stadium for people to see free of charge.

“My summer tour went great,” Mr Grasso said. “I think being in Newtown we had a huge impact on our community here. All my kids here and on the road appreciated it… Overall the organization that I work for placed eighth in the world in what we do, which was fantastic.”

Once the tour wrapped up, Mr Grasso returned to Newtown just in time to start the NHS band camp and begin work toward his master’s degree at the University of Bridgeport.

Then, after an undefeated season under the guidance of Mr Grasso as visual caption head, the NHS band won the National Championship trophy for its division at the USBands Open Class National Championships at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on November 11.

It was the first time in its history the NHS band had earned that title, and on top of that the band was the largest competing group in its class.

“I’m still in shock about it,” Mr Grasso said. “It was a dream come true. You do this for so long, especially working for your own community, and you want your kids to grow at the end of the day; but to see them win a title after working so hard was so rewarding.”

After celebrating the accomplishment, Mr Grasso and the NHS band did not lose any momentum and started back up the week after championships.

“We’re developing our shows right now and putting those on the floor. We’re getting them ready for competition, starting first week in February, so it never really stops — it just keeps going,” he explained.

In addition to working as visual caption head for the NHS band, Mr Grasso is also a director for the NHS winter percussion and the JV Color Guard, for students from fifth to eighth grade at Reed Intermediate School and Newtown Middle School.

“I love working for the Newtown schools and the band program,” Mr Grasso said.

Those looking forward to seeing the NHS band perform locally can mark their calendars for a home show on Saturday, February 24.

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