From Dark to Light

This time of year—with all its inherent good cheer—can be a challenging season for anyone struggling with depression. “While people’s paths to depression tend to be unique, there are some things about the holidays that tend to be triggers for anyone suffering with it,” says Dr. Joseph Flynn, medical director for Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Greenwich Hospital.

“It can also be a terribly hard time if you are depressed and dealing with illness, don’t have family or have recently lost someone you cared about,” says Maud Purcell, a Fairfield-based marriage and family therapist and founder of Life Solutions Centers in Darien.

Shopping, planning and holiday festivities can also feel pressure-filled to someone who is depressed, says Dr. Flynn. Mix in alcohol (a known depressant), and you have a cocktail for a worsening condition for anyone with a clinical diagnosis, he adds.

The good news is there are ways that sufferers can cope using medication and lifestyle modification. We asked the experts—who recommend combining both approaches—to clue us in on the latest, and in some cases, controversial treatments.


Antidepressants

For many people with a medical diagnosis of depression, medication is necessary. Here’s what you need to know when you fill your prescription:

PATIENCE IS KEY
Taking medication as it’s prescribed can be frustrating for some sufferers, says Purcell; many patients complain about side effects or slow results. “Even if you are on the right medication, it can take weeks for it to work,” says Dr. Flynn, who encourages a “stick-with-it approach” to patients.

A PERSONAL TOUCH
Purcell is an advocate of a relatively new but increasingly popular approach to prescribing antidepressants that involves testing a patient’s DNA through cheek-swab analysis and using the results to match that person with the best possible prescription. “There can no longer be a one-pill-fits-all approach,” says Purcell, who refers patients to psychiatrists for this testing. “There are different pathways in our brain and different ways we all metabolize medication, and this testing helps determine how you do that.”

Dr. Flynn says DNA testing for antidepressant medication matching is still not a standard practice and not supported by a strong body of clinical data. “Right now, it’s kind of a trial and error approach that tends to be popular in boutique practices, but I see it having potential to becoming mainstream in the next ten years.”

KETAMINE THERAPY
Although ketamine has a risky reputation for its hallucinogenic effects, Dr. Flynn says that there are some small studies that suggest clinically supervised infusions of the drug can be helpful to people suffering from depression when other treatments have failed. While there are clinics popping up that offer walk-in ketamine therapy, Dr. Flynn stresses it should be approached with a “high degree of caution” because of potential side effects and the need for more research. “What needs to be stressed is it is probably something that should only be considered when other things have failed,” he says. “It should never be someone’s first course of action.”


Lifestyle Adjustments

On top of medication, behavior modifications can elevate depressed moods. These include:

EXERCISE
“There is real, clinical proof it makes a difference in the lives of people with depression,” says Dr. Flynn. He believes so passionately in its benefits, he frequently writes “prescriptions” for exercise and hands them to patients to emphasize its importance.

SAY NO
“I often counsel people to feel less obligated during the holidays,” says Purcell. “It is perfectly okay to opt out of stressful family obligations or situations that push your buttons.”

VOLUNTEER
“People get a tremendous high out of getting out of themselves and being of service to others,” says Purcell. “It’s the best way I can think of for someone struggling with depression to get a lift at the holidays.”

EAT AND REST WELL
“People tend to eat horribly around the holidays and not get enough sleep,” says Dr. Flynn. Eating nutritious food, avoiding alcohol and maintaining a sleep routine can help manage moods.

 

 

In an Instagram World…

Photographer: Richard Flaskegaard/Jack Dog Studios

As the parents of two adolescents, Greenwich-based digital entrepreneurs Josh and Marcy Sinel have a personal and professional perspective on the way today’s tweens and teens engage in social media.

“We kept seeing this curated perfection out there, and what we thought was missing was a space where kids felt comfortable being real and honest with each other,” says Marcy. Last year the couple sought to fill that void when they launched Storybooth, an award-winning digital platform that takes real-life anecdotes anonymously recorded by teens and pairs them with original, professional animation. The shorts of about three minutes appear on storybooth.com, where kids can watch, comment and share the videos across social media. And what if the responses are negative? “Storybooth monitors the comments daily and deletes hateful and abusive comments. We don’t delete all negative comments, as many times kids will jump in and respond, which empowers our community to have a voice,” says Josh.

The Sinels, who partnered with Greenwich-based investor Chuck Royce on the project, conceived of the platform as a safe place for kids to stop hiding behind all those stylized, flawless Instagram posts. “The animation provides some anonymity and allows them to speak more openly and authentically about what’s really going on,” says Josh.

Storybooth’s animated shorts range from tales of first kisses to embarrassing field trip adventures (think missing underwear) to the lingering scars inflicted by bullies. Since its launch last year, the site has received 47,000 submissions (they post about four new shorts per month) and recently hit 100 million views on YouTube.

The Story of Storybooth

Kid Tested and (Mostly) Approved

Parents to Chloe, fifteen, and Jack, twelve, the Sinels have relied on their kids as creative sounding boards. An “embarrassing field trip story” told by Chloe, a prolific YouTuber, was Storybooth’s first animated feature. “They have wonderful ideas but are also our harshest critics,” Marcy says.

There Are Some Ground Rules

Parents must give teens younger than eighteen permission to record their stories.

What’s Bugging Teens These Days

“The top story we get from kids is about bullying,” says Marcy. “The other interesting thing we’re hearing right now is a lot about what’s going on in the world in relation to race and intolerance. Kids aren’t necessarily talking about the politics in an adult way, but they are mirroring what they are seeing. We’ve heard stories from kids about experiences with racism and also overcoming it.”

They’ve Heard Troubling Revelations

“Whether it’s a suicidal threat or an eating disorder, we see red flags. When we do, we refer them to a crisis text line because we know kids who are in trouble are not prone to jump on the phone,” says Marcy. “And one of the amazing things we’ve seen as we’ve watched this community grow is that kids are trying to heal each other,” Josh says. “The majority of the comments we get are of the kids being supportive of one another.”

Things Are Not Always So Heavy, Though

“We don’t want to just post the sad, heartbreaking, make-you-cry stories,” says Josh. “We want kids to laugh with one another. So there are a lot of pet stories and first kisses and embarrassing moments that are just funny, too.”

Calling Teen Influencers

“We’ve spent zero dollars on marketing, but kids are finding us,” says Josh. “Our main way of connecting has been in finding the YouTubers out there with followings and getting them to tell us their stories. Then we share the content. It ends up being a win-win because they put it on their sites, too.”

The Platform
Is a Winner

Storybooth employs a team of Boston-based animators and directors to bring teens’ stories to life. The storybooth team has been recognized for its creative and innovative approach with coveted Webby and Shorty awards.

Coming Soon

“We have some scripted content we’re exploring and some opportunities for spin-offs,” says Josh. “Also, we feel like storybooth should be international and that’s something we’re exploring,” Marcy says.

storybooth.com

Meeting a Basic Need

Photograph by Julie Bidwell
Above: Lucy Langley and Laura Delafor

At the Greenwich nonprofit Neighbor to Neighbor, Lucy Langley pitched in as a volunteer sorting and hanging donated clothes for clients in need of some gently used apparel. One day, as she organized the racks and bins, she realized a basic necessity was missing. “I thought, No one ever donates underwear.”

Yet fresh underpinnings are the kind of everyday essential—and source of dignity—Lucy knew must be hard to come by for someone struggling. “The average price of a pair of underpants is ten dollars. And think about what a good bra costs. At forty or fifty dollars it hit me: How can people who are low income afford such an expense? And why should anyone struggle with the decision of buying fresh underwear versus putting food on the table?”

Walking their dogs around Cos Cob, Lucy and her friend Laura Delafor conceived of a solution. In 2016 they launched The Undies Project, a nonprofit dedicated to collecting and purchasing new undergarments for men, women and children and distributing them to a growing list of local nonprofits.

“The idea we promote is that clean underwear is not a luxury but a necessity,” says Laura of the operation based out of their Cos Cob homes. “This is a project that gives people dignity, good hygiene and the self-respect they deserve. We are trying to educate people that there is a big, big need.”

The philanthropic duo, who first met as fellow swim-team moms, have taken an enterprising approach to gathering inventory. They make direct purchases from area wholesalers who sell to them at discounted rates. They’ve also launched a series of creatively themed donation drives including a Mardi Bra event last February and Undies Sunday is held in partnership with local churches and synagogues.

Big on the ladies’ list of items in short supply are bras for women of all shapes and sizes and children’s underwear. “It’s blown our minds how great the need is for all the things we collect,” says Laura. “We only see this growing.”

WHO BENEFITS
Since they founded The Undies Project, Lucy Langley and Laura Delafor have expanded their philanthropy to nonprofits in Greenwich and beyond. The list of beneficiaries to date includes:

• CLOTHES TO KIDS FAIRFIELD COUNTY CHAPTER
• NEIGHBOR TO NEIGHBOR GREENWICH
• PROJECT RETURN WESTPORT
• KIDS IN CRISIS COS COB
• KIDS’ KLOSET WESTCHESTER COUNTY
• INSPIRICA STAMFORD
• OPEN DOOR SHELTER NORWALK
• PACIFIC HOUSE STAMFORD
• PERSON-TO-PERSON DARIEN
• HOMES WITH HOPE WESTPORT

For more information and to donate visit theundiesproject.org

 

 

Comic Relief

Photograph by Bob Capazzo
Above: Jane with United Way Executive Director David Rabin and 2016 Brew Ha-Ha cochairs Anne Franscioni and Clarena McBeth

When comedian Jane Condon began her stand-up career, she often referred to her adopted hometown of Greenwich as “that foreign country.” For the native of blue-collar Brockton, Massachusetts, mining her suburban mom-out-of-water experiences for laughs was the kind of comedic gold that helped her win “Audience Favorite” on NBC’s Last Comic Standing in 2007.

But now that Jane has had a few decades to acclimate, Greenwich isn’t the punchline it used to be. “My Greenwich material is sort of Greenwich-lite now. I’ve made wonderful friends here. It’s much more diverse than people think it is, and I have a real affection for the place.”

Jane will expand on her role as community cheerleader when she serves as emcee at the Brew Ha-Ha, a comedy night fundraiser for the Greenwich United Way being held at the Arch Street Teen Center on Friday, October 13. “I love the United Way because they do the work for you. They can research where the greatest needs are so
I don’t have to take the time, but I still know the money is going to the right places.” The evening will feature a lineup of local funnymen and-women and a variety of food trucks.

In anticipation of the event, Jane indulged us with some banter.

Jane hitting the stage at 2016 Brew Ha-Ha

CURRENT PERSONAL AMBITIONS
“I’m trying to marry off my boys [ages thirty-one and thirty-four] because I just want a girl in the family. I gave the 2011 commencement speech at my alma mater, Wellesley. I had 550 women there. It was a captive audience. So, I had my son stand up and give the universal “call me” sign. I thought we could find him someone there, but I’m still looking. Do you know anyone?”

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
“Besides giving the commencement speech at Wellesley? Last Comic Standing and flying 3,000 miles to say exactly one line on 24. I was obsessed with that show, so that was pretty cool.”

SOMETHING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
”I was a journalist for Fortune and Life magazines. Most comedians are either actors or writers. I got into it late [she was thirty-four] and came from the writing side. To endure in this business you have to write, write, write. It is how you stay fresh.”

THREE THINGS TO LOVE ABOUT GREENWICH
“Splash car wash and the fact that during a power outage, the library becomes like the town homeless shelter and everyone goes there. And my friends.”

MATERIAL SHE AVOIDS
“Trump jokes. I really can’t go there. I have a ton of them, but I hate the idea of losing even one person in the audience. If you do, the whole dynamic can change. He’s so polarizing, it’s not worth the risk. I’m sad about it because they’re really good jokes.”

THE SECRET TO HER SUCCESS
Perseverance. I tried out for Last Comic Standing four times before I got on. Also, I’m good at reading the room. I kind of instinctively know what’s going to work and what to avoid.”

BEHIND EVERY COMEDIAN THERE IS…
“Some pain. There’s got to be a reason we all need to make people laugh. My dad died when I was fifteen and I think behind my humor was just a desire to make my mother smile.”

ON HANDLING HECKLERS
“One time I was just dying on stage and this guy at the bar, slurring his words says, ‘You look like my second- grade math teacher.’ When he pushed back his jacket, I could see a gun tucked in his waistband. So I just said, ‘Well, then, do you have any questions for me?’”

HER EPITHET
“I just want my tombstone to say, She Gave Joy.”

For tickets to the United Way’s Brew Ha-Ha, visit greenwichunitedway.org

 

 

In the Cards

Photograph by JoopaShoots Photography

Like a lot of caring parents, Theresa Claire Robbins has slipped the occasional note in her three sons’ lunchboxes to give them an extra helping of love and encouragement during their school day. Her efforts at getting a response from her three boys, who range in age from eight to sixteen, have had mixed success. “It can be hard to get kids to open up about their feelings,” she says. “You ask, ‘How was your day?’ and you get back, ‘Fine.’”

The former Greenwich resident and founder of literary imprint Mirror Books is trying to help kids expand on those monosyllabic answers and increase their emotional vocabulary with LoveSnax, packs of feelings-focused cards perfect for slipping in lunches or backpacks. Her colorful cards, developed with input from Ridgefield-based psychologist Melanie Pearl, feature childlike cartoon characters and an emotional word—determined, playful, cheerful—along with a tip on how to experience that feeling. There is also space to personalize the card and room for your child to write back to you. Besides helping the early elementary set to articulate emotions, Theresa says LoveSnax “also let kids know that Mom and Dad are here and loving you even if they’re not with you.”

While the business is in its early phases, the Darien High School graduate (who now calls Stamford home) has been encouraged by early feedback. A sample printing of cards sold out when she set up a table at a local street fair. She also road tested LoveSnax packs, which retail in sets of fifty for $20, with local families. Several of the test families are affiliated with St. Luke’s Church in Darien, where Theresa worships. “Parents were getting back notes saying things like, “There’s a boy that keeps bothering me,” and more lighthearted things such as, “My day was fine, but I really hated this sandwich.” The cards seem to be getting kids to open up more. And it’s helping parents get in tune with things they may not be aware are happening during the day.”

The response also inspired Theresa to create a LoveSnax-themed family game, which involves matching mood-related cards Uno-style. The game is available at Smart Kids Toys in town, as well as Darien Toy Box and The Toy Chest in New Canaan. “It teaches the idea that during the course of a day, we can have many moods and that it’s normal and natural to have all those feelings,” she says. “And playing as a family gives you a chance to talk about those things.”
lovesnax.com

 

 

Train like a Pro

Research supports the idea that sports diversification is healthier for young athletes’ still maturing bodies, but for some fitness specialists it’s hard to put a damper on genuine passion for an all-consuming athletic endeavor. “There are plenty of kids out there who are so focused that it’s hard to redirect them if they’re doing what they truly love,” says Dr. EJ Zebro, a chiropractor and strength and conditioning specialist who founded the Westport-based Train Away Pain, which offers a sports training and injury recovery program.

While a multisport approach may be the optimal way to prevent serious injury, the experts we spoke with say an emphasis on proper, personalized training and conditioning is the young athletes’ physical equivalent of an apple a day. Done right, it can keep them healthy and in the game. Here are the experts’ strategies.


EVALUATE AND PROTECT THE ACL

At Chelsea Piers in Stamford, the more than 900 kids involved in its competitive team sports are routinely evaluated for ACL injuries as part of its pre-season strength and conditioning programs, says Monica Conch, a master trainer there. “We were seeing in nine- to twelve-year-olds some real vulnerabilities,” says Conch. “We tend to think of them as immune to injury because they have such a broad range of motion. Yet they all have things they need to address through training to protect themselves and stay healthy.”

Evaluating and training to protect the ACL is good practice since current research shows that ACL injuries can be prevented with proper training. “A good program can involve things like warming up properly, lunges, plyometric moves, focusing on landing and pivots,” says Dr. Demetris Delos, and orthopedic surgeon at ONS in Greenwich. “Done consistently is the key; the data suggests participating in these programs has a real benefit.”

KEEP IT AGE APPROPRIATE
While children and preteens shouldn’t be doing deadlifts or hoisting barbells, there are sports-specific strength training moves that will help young athletes prevent injury by optimizing strength and agility. “They can do push-ups, agility drills like ladder runs, stretching and so many other things involving their own body weight,” says Todd Vitale, owner of the Division One Prep training facility in Greenwich.

RESIST THE PRESSURE TO FOCUS
“Kids are being told at an early age things like, “Stop playing that other sport because your focus is going to be basketball,” says Conch. “It’s okay to push back and play both. There’s a time you may have to get serious about one sport, but it’s definitely not when you are in elementary school or even middle school.”

MOVE DIFFERENTLY
One way to protect a young athlete is to focus training on movement that is not intuitive to a favorite sport, say Vitale. “The idea is to do things your body isn’t doing to make you stronger overall.”

For example, Dr. Moira McCarthy, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in Stamford, says baseball and softball players, and swimmers, who put a lot of stress on arms and shoulders, can benefit from training their lower body and core. “If your hips and legs and core are stronger, the joints in your upper body don’t have to work as hard,” she says.

Dr. Zebro cites lateral movement for soccer players, as does Conch for sprinters and long-distance runners. “There are sports that are so quadriceps dominant,” she says. “Getting that athlete to move another way can be so protective and beneficial.”

CONSIDER SPINAL ALIGNMENT
“You hear core, core, core all the time, but no one really talks about spinal alignment,” says Dr. Zebro. “If you can teach an athlete the proper way to keep the spine aligned from their sacrum to their pelvis, then you are going to prevent a lot of injury because everything else then moves properly around it.”

DEVELOP GOOD SLEEP HABITS
“It’s not discussed enough when it comes to preventing sports injuries, but sleep is when the body recovers, regenerates and heals,” says Dr. Zebro. “We need to pay more attention—just as we would with fueling the body—to how much sleep young athletes are getting. Way too often, it’s not enough.”

MAKE FUN A PRIORITY
“I often see kids’ bodies start to degrade when they are not having fun anymore,” says Vitale. “If a kid starts to seem that way, it may be time to take [a season] off. It doesn’t mean they have to stop their sport completely, but they may really need a mental—and physical—break.”

FOCUS ON BREATHING
“Learning how to breathe can help kids cope with anxiety on the field and even tune out all that noise from parents and coaches,” says Dr. Zebro. “Learning to breathe properly also refuels the body.”

 

 

Nothing but Net

Above: On set with the girl-power cast of Hyperlinked – Courtesy of youtube

When it comes to empowering girls, Juliette Brindak Blake has always had a thing or two to say.  – Photograph by Yvonne Albinowski

GREENWICH magazine first met Juliette Brindak Blake back when she was a sixteen-year-old Greenwich High School student embarking on a web project called Miss O and Friends. It was a clubhouse-style website created for girls who were past the Barbie stage but still discovering their teenage selves. Juliette conceived it as a safe space for her younger sister, Olivia, to socialize as she broached her middle-school years.

Turns out, Juliette had the winning formula. The site became such a hit, it lured big-time supporters, including early investor Proctor & Gamble, which shortly after its inception placed a $15 million valuation on the site. Juliette remains intimately involved in the privately held Miss O and Friends, which this year will launch a related Girl2Girl Wall app, which will safely allow tween girls to chat, ask advice and give feedback to their peers.

We caught up with Juliette, now twenty-eight, as she ventures into new media horizons with Hyperlinked, a sitcom that’s based on her story of creating a safe and affirming web haven for adolescent girls. It airs on YouTube Red Originals, a subscription-based channel, and is the first of its kind for the channel. The upbeat series revolves around the lives of five spirited and diverse thirteen-year-old gal pals who code. To honor the real life inspiration, one is named Juliette.

“I wanted to inspire people, and especially girls, to go out and create,” says Juliette, who is an executive producer and cocreator on Hyperlinked. “Whether it’s learning to code, building a website or launching a jewelry or babysitting business, I was interested in sending a lot of positive messages about the power of entrepreneurship.”

To that end, Hyperlinked’s creative team, from its writers and director to its set designers and stylists, is composed largely of women. And Juliette was “very hands-on” throughout the development and production process, making sure the series was thoughtfully scripted to offer lots of positive empowerment messaging to its youthful demographic.

“I feel like too much of the content out there for teen girls focuses on their relationships with boys and it’s not always positive,” she says. “We wanted to show how awesome it is that the girls are in charge and creating things. The focus is on the positive aspects of the girls’ friendships. The boys are around, but they’re just helping out.”

Juliette, who is now married and Philadelphia-based, developed the series with her mom, Old Greenwich resident Hermine Brindak, and veteran television writer/producer Larry Reitzer. “Miss O and Friends was something I started with the help of my parents when I was a teen and it has kind of come full circle,” says Juliette. “All along the way, it’s really been a labor of love.”

At press time, Juliette was still waiting to hear if Hyperlinked’s first season would lead to a second. Meanwhile, viewers can check out the first episode for free on YouTube.


CULTIVATING GIRL POWER

Since she’s passionate about encouraging girls to cultivate their own voices and passion projects, we asked Juliette Brindak Blake for her tips on empowering adolescent girls.

TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY
“Miss O and Friends started with an idea I had when I was ten. People tend to dismiss kids because they are young, but my parents (Hermine and Paul Brindak) believed in my idea and even invested some of my college savings in the project. At the time, it might have seemed crazy, but look at what happened.”

CHALLENGE THEM
“If they come to you with an idea—even one that sounds a little crazy—ask them, ‘How are you going to make it happen?’ Not all ideas become companies, but the idea is to inspire their creativity.”

TEACH YOUR DAUGHTERS TO CODE
“It doesn’t mean she’s going to end up in Silicon Valley, but to me it’s the modern day equivalent of getting your high school degree,” says Juliette. “It’s a skill you can use in so many endeavors and something you can fall back on no matter what other dream you are trying to pursue.”

NURTURE HER INQUISITIVE SIDE
“I think it’s important to encourage your daughters to ask questions and seek advice. Sometimes just expressing an interest in what someone else is doing can lead to creative conversations.”

 

 

Changing the Game

From fractures and sprains to ACL tears, Fairfield County orthopedists say they are treating more sports injuries in hard-charging young athletes and more serious injuries in them that were once commonly associated with professional players. What’s behind this troubling trend? The doctors we spoke with suggest the alarming phenomenon often results from excessive repetitive motion for still growing bodies focusing on one sport to the exclusion of others.

“It’s like an arms race, where everyone is striving to be the best at a single sport at a younger age,” says Dr. Demetris Delos, an orthopedic surgeon at ONS in Greenwich. While he says the pros and cons of sport specialization can be the subject of debate, “it is better to be that kid who plays soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring; all the research suggests the multisport athlete is going to be the better one.”

We asked Dr. Delos and Dr. Moira McCarthy, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in Stamford, to elaborate on common youth sports injuries that concern them.

ACL Tears
The injury of the anterior cruciate ligament, which stabilizes the knee joint, is a devastating one for a young athlete because it can take them out of the game for up to a year of post-surgical recovery, says Dr. McCarthy.

While hormones, differences in body alignment and landing mechanics make girls more vulnerable, Dr. McCarthy says she also treats plenty of boys who’ve suffered ACL tears. The injury tends to be most common in athletes engaged in sports that involve frequent starting and stopping (think basketball, tennis and soccer).

Sure, some ACL injuries are the inevitable consequence of freak accidents or a sports collision but many are preventable through proper training and conditioning, says Dr. Delos. “The bad thing is that someone who has had an ACL injury, even if they are completely recovered, is more vulnerable to it happening again.”

Little League Elbow and Shoulder
Dr. Delos says young baseball and softball pitchers, under increasing pressure to hit the strike zone with high-velocity throws, are developing chronic problems with their elbows and shoulders at disturbingly young ages. Research indicates that, since the year 2000, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of overuse injuries reported in baseball and softball players. That statistic, Dr. Delos says, has a direct correlation to the surge in Tommy John surgery, or ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction of the medial elbow, that’s being done on young athletes.

While Little League Baseball has strict pitch-count rules to protect young arms, Dr. McCarthy points out many serious players now compete on multiple teams for seasons that can span from April to November. “The bottom line is you can’t just be a pitcher from the age of eight or nine years old,” she says. “It starts to distort the growth plate.”

Overuse Syndromes
Stress fractures, serious and recurring sprains, Sever’s disease (a chronic inflammation of the growth plate in the heel) and Osgood-Schlatter disease (an inflammation of the area below the knee where the tendon attaches to the shin bone) have become increasingly common. Many of these syndromes, Dr. Delos says, are exacerbated by the fact that children’s bones and joints are still growing while under pressure from the repetitive stress of their chosen sports. In many cases, a prescribed and sustained period of rest is what fixes these overuse injuries.

“One thing that is so important to stress, is you will see a lot of kids who try to play through these things,” says Dr. Delos. “It’s understandable if they love their sport, but in the long run it can start to affect their daily lives and lead to more serious things if they don’t get the rest they need to recover.”

 

 

One Hill of a Guy

Photograph by Olivier Kpognon
Above: Hill Harper delivering the keynote speech at Celebrating Hope 2017

Hill Harper is familiar to audiences for his nine-season role on CSI: New York, hosting HLN’s documentary series How It Really Happened with Hill Harper and most recently in his role as the president-elect’s chief-of-staff on Showtime’s mega-hit Homeland. A Harvard-educated lawyer and thyroid cancer survivor, Harper is a prolific author who has used his celebrity to advocate for cancer research and to inspire young people to engage in philanthropy.

Last May he gave the keynote speech at Celebrating Hope, the annual Fairfield County benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association, Connecticut chapter. Before the event at the Delamar Greenwich Harbor and l’escale, Harper chatted with us about his hopes for finding a cure for Alzheimer’s as well as the latest plot twists in his television and film career.

GM: ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE HAS A 100 PERCENT MORTALITY RATE AND SEEMS TO TOUCH NEARLY EVERYONE. HAVE YOU BEEN IMPACTED?
HH: You’re right. It doesn’t have survivors and I think once you’ve experienced Alzheimer’s up-close, it leaves an indelible impression. My best friend in the world [director/producer Jordan Walker-Pearlman] had a wonderful uncle who was a mentor of mine. That man was the great Gene Wilder. I knew him as Uncle Gene and he lived right here in Stamford. To see his decline over time was heart-wrenching. Once it impacts you in a personal way there becomes an urgency about it.

WHAT IS THE FOCUS OF YOUR MESSAGE GOING TO BE AT CELEBRATING HOPE?
HH: One thing I want to share is that there’s a chance we can make this a “window” disease. What I mean by that is you think of certain diseases we’ve seen that were devastating, like Polio or more recently HIV/AIDS, and you look at them now and think, it was terrible, but it was a disease that was just a window in a period of time. I hope we’re looking back at Alzheimer’s that way soon. So my message will center on research and funding. There are a lot of people doing great work in this space. There are companies doing great work too, but they are having trouble getting funding. So at diseases like HIV/AIDS and we know we can make tremendous progress and have breakthroughs—if we stay vigilant and committed.

YOU WORK A LOT WITH THE YOUNGER GENERATION; HOW WOULD YOU SUGGEST GETTING THEM INVOLVED?
HH: A lot of the stereotypes you hear about youth these days, I find, are largely inaccurate. They want to do well by doing good. If they understood the scope of the problem–just how serious this epidemic is—they would be on board. You don’t have to motivate. You have to educate.

Put a personal touch on the problem. Take kids to [memory care] facilities and have them do volunteer work. Form partnerships between [those facilities] and an organization such as a local Boys & Girls Club and get the kids involved. Hopefully, by engaging them young, they see Alzheimer’s up-close. Then the message they need to hear is, “We are going to cure it, but we need funding and research to do it.”

LET’S TALK HOMELAND FOR A MINUTE. THE SEASON ENDED WITH WHAT SEEMED LIKE YOUR CHARACTER’S TRAGIC DEMISE, BUT THERE WAS SOME AMBIGUITY. ANY CHANCE YOU’RE COMING BACK?
HH: I think I blew up in that SUV. It was a one-season contract, and so I think that’s the end for me and my character. But it was an incredible experience being part of a show that I think is one of the best-written series on television. And what a cast! It was wonderful to be part of it.

 

 

Take it Outside!

Even the most dedicated gym rat can be tempted to break out of the CrossFit box on a beautiful summer day. So, to help make sure you don’t break your workout routine, we turned to three Fairfield County personal trainers for their advice on making the most of al fresco fitness. Here’s what they had to say.

Doug Schwartz
Personal Trainer and Founder, Endurance House, Norwalk
Rob Tracz
Trainer, Combine Training, Greenwich
Kimberly Nuzie
Personal Trainer, Edge Fitness, Fairfield; and The J Fitness, Bridgeport

 

 


MAKE IT A GROUP EFFORT
“We organize a lot of group runs and rides here; we find it’s a great way to get people engaged in a fitness community,” says DOUG SCHWARTZ, a Stamford-based trainer and founder of ENDURANCE HOUSE in Norwalk. “People really enjoy the companionship and motivation that can come from working out with other people, and when fitness is fun, it leads to more consistency.” If you can’t trek to Norwalk to meet with an Endurance House group, he suggests forming a sport-specific group of your own and up the fitness ante by committing to shared goals. “If you normally walk four miles a night, take one night a week where you agree to add on an extra mile,” Schwartz suggests. “Or get together once a week for an extended walk or run. Walk from the beach, head north and then meet somewhere for brunch. Turn that really tough workout into a social event.”

BEAT THE HEAT
Heading outdoors in summer heat requires extra hydration, but Doug Schwartz advises against sport drinks. Instead, to avoid added sugar and calories, try adding an electrolyte- boosting tablet into a water bottle to replenish and rehydrate. He recommends Nuun electrolyte- enhanced tablets.

To avoid heat-related illnesses, Kimberly Nuzie suggests opting for early morning or late-day sessions and hydrating before, during and after workouts.

PLAY A GAME
ROB TRACZ of COMBINE TRAINING in Greenwich is also a fan of group dynamics but suggests organizing impromptu games of Wiffle ball or basketball, or tossing a Frisbee to get out of a fitness rut. Games “force us to move, and into different positions and ranges of motion we might not normally experience,” he says. Playing a game you don’t usually play also forces your body to adapt, which Tracz says builds endurance, strength and stamina. You’ll end up with a “healthier and more durable body than you started with.”

HIT THE BEACH
Parks and beaches are nature’s gyms and great places to rev up an existing routine, says KIMBERLY NUZIE, a Fairfield-based personal trainer affiliated with THE EDGE fitness studio in Fairfield and the new J FITNESS on the Fairfield/Bridgeport line. Use the beach sand to execute “some killer leg exercises,” since walking or jogging in the sand is more taxing. But add walking lunges, jump squats, burpees, mountain climbers and side shuffles. “They will have you really feeling the burn because of the uneven sand terrain, which creates natural resistance,” she explains.

Nuzie says you can do similar moves in a park, adding upper body elements, such as tricep dips using a bench. Bring your yoga mat along for some before-and-after stretching.

If time and distance allow, Nuzie recommends biking, running or walking to the beach or park for a jump start. “If you have to drive, warm up before you get going,” she says. Start with ten minutes of high knee raises, jumping jacks, and marching or jogging in place.

FIT FOR FREE
Check out the free fitness at Mill River Park and Harbor Point. Held weekday evenings and weekend mornings, classes are led by area trainers. Every fitness level is covered so no excuses. Visit millriverpark.org and harborpt.com.

Photographs courtesy of trainers