Above: Melissa Griffin and Jessica Hill
Melissa Griffin and Jessica Hill connected the way so many suburban moms do: at preschool pickup and drop off. The Westport friends quickly discovered they had more in common than kids who shared morning circle time. Each had given birth in England where the prenatal classes offered by the National Childbirth Trust are a nurturing rite of passage for anxious first-time parents preparing for childbirth and beyond.
Comparing notes, the enterprising moms realized that the kind of supportive environment they had found in England was largely missing on this side of the pond. “Hospital type classes tend to be a little more dry, scary and clinical,” explains Jessica, an American who gave birth to her two children during the decade she lived in England. Melissa, a native Brit and fellow mother of two adds, “We felt like new mums and dads were craving connection before they came home with that new little one, but it was hard to find their crew.”
So, last year the pair launched The Parent Collective, which offers warm, informative prenatal classes taught by experienced labor and delivery nurses from Fairfield County hospitals. Parent Collective classes offer expert advice in judgement-free zones where potentially hot-button topics such as breastfeeding and delivery methods are discussed in ways that support parents’ choices and experiences.
“We also want people to have time to bond,” says Melissa, who notes the two hour classes include a “tea break” so expectant parents can connect. “We love seeing them foster those connections, because they will need and appreciate them once their newborn comes.“
This spring the Parent Collective, which has already launched in Fairfield, Westport, New Canaan and Manhattan, began offering Sunday afternoon classes at the Go Figure barre studios in Greenwich. “We’ve found there is a real interest from working, commuting moms who want to make connections close to home,” says Melissa. The program is also designed to get dads-to-be more comfortable and empathetic in their roles too, including asking them to slip on heavily weighted vests that simulate a pregnant belly and diaper change lifelike dolls. Melissa and Jessica welcome all family types, from traditional to same-sex to single moms. A series of four classes is $350 per couple.theparentcollective.com
FACT OR FICTION? Common parenting myths and how The Parent Collective helps dispel them
New Motherhood Is Bliss
“Being a new mother isn’t all hearts and flowers and anyone who tells you otherwise is setting you up for failure,” notes Jessica, who adds everything from exhaustion to loneliness to postpartum depression can take its toll. “I subscribe to the eyes-wide-open notion. If you go in knowing it’s not easy, you may actually roll with it a little easier.”
C-Sections Are Failures
“No one can predict or plan how their delivery is going to go and no one should have guilt about a C-section,” says Melissa, who explains that The Parent Collective has actually expanded its cesarean section curriculum because so many new parents are disappointed and bewildered when their babies are delivered surgically. “It’s important to understand C-sections so if you end up having one, you are prepared for what the experience might be like.”
You Must Draft a Birth Plan
“Actually, please don’t have a birth plan,” says Melissa. “It’s okay to say that you’d like the lights dimmed and certain music playing or tell your doctor you would prefer not to have an episiotomy if possible, but too many things about childbirth are unpredictable. You have to be prepared to go with the flow a bit.”
Breast is Always Best
The Parent Collective calls its newborn feeding segment “Breast & Bottle” class because it supports the idea that feeding choices are personal and sometimes beyond a mother’s control. “To only advocate for breastfeeding would make our mothers feel judged and that’s not our style,” says Jessica.
Above: A private chef harvests fresh produce
J ack Kelly’s professional life has included stints as a theatrical agent, boutique hotelier in Sri Lanka and work in the design industry, where he paired clients with the architects and interior designers well-suited to execute their vision. Now the former Westporter is matchmaking clients looking for the perfect chef to whip up five-star meals in their home kitchens.
“Because I’ve worked in the luxury industry my whole life, I’m very client driven and understand their desire for excellence,” explains Kelly of his JK Chef Collection, which he launched with friend and cofounder Chef Jeff Purrazi four years ago. Together, they’ve cultivated a bench of talented personal chefs they hire for catering special events and more-permanent household staff assignments. “We go from helping you find someone who can make that elegant, romantic four-course meal for a special birthday to finding that person you want to have making meals for your family on a daily basis.”
After establishing a following with Hamptons- and Manhattan-based families, JK Chef Collection has branched out to Fairfield County, where Kelly says his clients are often looking for someone to become a regular part of their household dynamic. Because today’s open-floor plans mean kitchens are not tucked away Downton Abby–style, Kelly notes he’s hyper-focused on placing chefs who are compatible with their clients’ palates and lifestyles. “They are affluent and busy and, quite often, commuting,” he says of his Fairfield County clientele. “By the time 6 p.m. rolls around, they appreciate a good, healthy meal and the luxury of having someone talented to prepare it.”
NOW SERVING Are you one of two top types of JK Collection clients?
ECLECTIC DINING CLANS Wanted: Go-with-the-flow chefs who can whip up meals that accommodate a variety of schedules, appetites and dietary needs. “Our chefs may be asked to accommodate children who are eating gluten- and dairy-free because of allergies or other concerns,” says Jack Kelly. “The mom may be a foodie who prefers to eat organic, but the dad may be more of a simple meat-and-potatoes guy. The task for us is placing that chef who can accommodate all those different eaters in a way that makes everyone happy.”
EMPTY NESTERS Wanted: Cooks on the go. “They want someone who may be cooking with them at their local home several months a year, but who is then willing to come to Palm Beach…for the winter. For these clients, we are looking to place a chef who is talented and super flexible.” A private chef, who knows your likes and dietary needs, eases transitions, too.
When fitness entrepreneur Clair Mason was vacationing in Spain last year, she dropped into a boutique fitness studio and spent an exhilarating hour being pushed through the paces of an intense group workout on an elliptical trainer. “After class I said, ‘This is genius. I’ve got to find a way to bring this home.’ ”
Sweat-drenched inspiration soon led to a partnership between Mason, a Westporter, and Laura Laboissonniere, a Greenwich resident and fellow Fairfield County fitness entrepreneur. They recently merged their diverse fitness business backgrounds to collaborate on the launch of ELLIPTICA, a new workout concept featuring vigorous, instructor-led workouts performed from the perch of sleek, elliptical-style machines.
Elliptica opened the first of its two Fairfield County studios in Fairfield’s Sportsplex complex in September 2017 and quickly followed up with an Old Greenwich outpost in January.
“What’s great about this is you’re going to sweat, have fun and the class is going to be filled with a contagious energy,” says Laboissonniere, who also owns the Pure Barre fitness franchises in Fairfield, Westport and Darien.
The Elliptica approach to group fitness is a lot like an indoor cycling class. An instructor leading from an elevated platform-based machine coaches students through an upbeat—yet upright—cardio routine set to a motivating, up-tempo playlist. “You are getting that energy of a spinning class, but because it’s done standing, you’re also working your core,” she adds.
Students are encouraged to pace themselves, varying their intensity by lowering and raising resistance from a small lever on their machine’s handles. Typical classes include hill climbs, sprints, and crank-up-the-resistance segments mixed with strategic pauses in full-on acceleration to perform squat sets and upper-body segments holding handheld weights.
Mason—who owns Intensity fitness club on the Westport/Norwalk line—imported Elliptica’s equipment from Europe soon after a test run in Spain. They are less bulky than typical gym floor elliptical machines and weigh in at less than 100 pounds each.
She notes the streamlined machines are ergonomically designed to encourage good posture, while allowing for a more whole-body fitness approach than a typical elliptical trainer does. Besides the cardio benefits, she says, “You are incorporating strength and balance, which is critical for all of us, especially as we mature.”
The owners report classes have been popular with both men and women and fitness enthusiasts of all ages eager to try something new. “One thing we’ve noticed are mothers and daughters coming in together,” says Laboissonniere. “It is a workout that appeals to a lot of people interested in something that’s going to get those good endorphins going.”
BEFORE YOUR FIRST CLASS…
1 BRINGING YOUR “A” GAME?
Try Elliptica’s longer HIIT classes, which mixes a vigorous thirty-five minutes on the elliptical and an extended, off-machine floor workout with additional abdominal and weight-bearing glute work, such as squats.
2 COME PREPARED
Wear supportive kicks, light layers and pants or shorts that allow for easy, vigorous leg movement. Bring water and hyper hydrate before class. You’ll sweat!
3 A FIRST-TIMER’S REVIEW
“I’ve never warmed to indoor cycling—and since the elliptical is normally my go-to machine when I’m dragging, and don’t want to work that hard—I was skeptical that I could truly embrace this workout. Yet I found the Elliptica workout physically taxing and mood elevating. My instructor, Stephanie, was warm and encouraging. The hands-free standing-while-peddling segments were a slightly wobbly challenge, but I was sold during the intense squat intervals. My heart rate was soaring. At the end of the hour, I was a fan. I booked a second class on my way out the door.”
READY TO STEP TO IT?
Classes are sold in bundles of five, ten and twenty or for a single-class drop-in fee. Elliptica currently offers seven days of free classes to first-time riders. ellipticastudios.com
Photograph by Julie Bidwell
Above: The trees around town are not only gorgeous, they also play very important roles in a healthy environment.
It all started a decade ago when developer and philanthropist Peter Malkin was driving home with his wife, Isabel. She observed that many of the magnificent trees lining the roads seemed “a little tired.” Turns out, they were. “I was intrigued enough by what she noticed to do a little research and learned that some of the trees were planted by William Rockefeller and dated back to the 1890s,” Malkin explains. “They were failing because they had done their duty. A lot of them were more than 100 years old.” As Malkin dug deeper, he began to appreciate the town’s trees as more than purveyors of shade. “Trees are about so much more than being attractive,” he says. “They are good for the environment in all sorts of ways. And we were losing too many.”
So Malkin and a group of similarly motivated arbor enthusiasts began a campaign to plant trees around town. Parks, roadways, schools and community centers have all benefitted. Greenwich Tree Conservancy’s Executive Director JoAnn Messina explains that the town and the GTC both play an active role in the purchase and planting of trees.
As GTC begins its eleventh season with its upcoming Tree Party on April 27 (Arbor Day) at McArdle’s, it’s also in a period of transition. In January, Malkin stepped aside as president, passing the mantle to Cheryl Dunson, a longtime board vice president. He remains chairman.
WHY TREES MATTER The GTC strives to educate residents on the benefits of trees, which include:
LEAF SYSTEMS AND ROOTS THAT PREVENT SOIL EROSION
FLOOD PROTECTION A mature tree can absorb a whopping 5,000 gallons of storm water.
SHADE, which has the added benefit of reducing utility bills
PROVIDING DIVERSE ECOSYSTEMS FOR WILDLIFE
INCREASING PROPERTY VALUES BY AS MUCH AS 20 PERCENT
ABSORBING CARBON DIOXIDE FROM THE AIR
STICKING UP FOR TREES
“Advocacy has become a big part of what we do,” explains Malkin. The GTC team has been at the forefront of advocating for the inclusion of tree plantings in new development plans. It has also been outspoken about the threat utility companies such as Eversource pose in clearing trees for power lines. “We haven’t been reticent about voicing our objections,” says Malkin. In the case of Eversource, he notes: “We were able to stop them from clear-cutting and bulldozing through Bruce Park.”
PROMOTING ARBOR APPRECIATION
The GTC, which has offices at the Garden Education Center, hosts seasonal tree walks at parks and preserves around town. JoAnn notes that these hikes, great for nature lovers of all ages, are often led by expert arborists who indentify noteworthy trees along the way.
To see significant trees anytime, check out the Bruce Park Arboretum. This trail of twenty-six distinctively labeled trees of different varieties is sponsored by the GTC. It’s the first in what the GTC hopes is a larger effort to create a town-wide arboretum by labeling special trees in parks and preserves.
PLANTING FOR THE FUTURE
The GTC advocates an ambitious concept of public greening by campaigning for new plantings in public spaces that are currently tree barren. One long-term goal is to make the Island Beach parking lot lusher.
The good news about testicular cancer is that it’s a relatively rare disease with impressively high cure rates when caught early. The downside is that males most often afflicted by it—teens and young men between fifteen and thirty-four—don’t always have the disease on their personal health radar. “It can be challenging at times because you are not talking to a demographic that is particularly worried about cancer,” says Dr. Craig Tifford, a Stamford resident and orthopedic surgeon who is a sixteen-year survivor of testicular cancer diagnosed at stage four. “Since there’s no blood test and no imaging test for this, my mantra is self-exam. It’s the only way to catch it early.”
Indeed, urologists who diagnose testicular cancer stress the importance of regular self-exam as the most proactive way to catch it when it’s most treatable.
Dr. James Rosoff, a urologist affiliated with Greenwich Hospital, and an assistant professor of urology at the Yale School of Medicine, says testicular cancer usually presents with a small, painless lump, about the size of a dime, that is palpable when touched by hand. “Just checking once a month in the shower and you should be able to tell if something is not normal,” he says.
Dr. Scott Serels, chief of urology at Norwalk Hospital, notes that the importance of self-exam probably isn’t being discussed enough because in 2004, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of primary care experts, recommended against routine testicular cancer screening. (It reaffirmed that decision in 2011.) “Their thinking was because it’s so rare, screening is actually creating unnecessary anxiety,” he says. “As urologists, we…have a different perspective. There’s screening for breast and colon cancer, which can and does save lives. We know if you encourage men and boys and their doctors to check for this, you can stop the disease in its path and that can improve outcomes.”
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW
1 KEEP UP SELF-EXAMS
While urologists recommend regular self-exams should begin in teens as young as fifteen, it’s important for men to keep the habit up for a lifetime. “Even though you tend to see this in younger men, I’ve diagnosed testicular cancer in men in their fifties,” says Dr. Rosoff.
2 TALK TO THE PEDIATRICIAN
Parents should not assume their pediatrician is covering the finer points of self-examination with their teenage sons. “There’s a lot to cover in a teenager’s well visit,” says Dr. Rosoff. “Talk to your pediatrician [and] let them know you would like that [talk] to happen.”
3 KNOW YOUR RISK FACTORS
Boys born with undescended testicles have a higher risk of developing testicular cancer. Since undescended testicles are often repaired when boys are babies, Dr. Serels says, some men are unaware of this risk factor. So, it’s important for parents to share this background—and any family history—with their sons. “It’s also something your doctor should know,” he adds.
4 TREATMENT OPTIONS
Caught early, testicular cancer has cure rates in excess of 90 percent, and responds well to a regimen that includes chemotherapy and radiation, says Dr. Serels. Surgical removal of the testicle is required and men opt for a prosthetic replacement. “I’ve found that whether they decide on a prosthetic tends to depend on age,” he says. “Younger patients tend to go in this direction because they are more self-conscious.”
5 WHAT ABOUT FERTILITY?
Dr. Rosoff says normal fertility usually returns in about two years for men treated for testicular cancer. Some men opt to bank sperm if their regimen includes chemotherapy.
Photographs by Bob Capazzo
Above: One of Jane and Bobbi’s favorite cartoons
Seventeen years ago a mutual friend brought Bobbi Eggers to see comedienne Jane Condon do her stand-up routine at a Greenwich fundraiser. After the laughter had died down, introductions were made and it quickly became apparent the two busy moms had lots in common. “Within about one minute, we were talking about collaborating,” says Bobbi, an illustrator who at the time was a Madison Avenue creative director.
Soon, the duo began to pair Bobbi’s witty art with Jane’s spot-on comedic zingers to create cartoons for a long-running series in the Greenwich Post and other publications. They zeroed in on the often ironic trappings of suburban mom culture including husbands (and ex-ones), a fondness for wine and the reasons moms secretly love invites to back-to-school parent teas. “Because you get to check out other people’s houses,” says Jane.
Recently, the two published Chardonnay Moms, a “greatest hits” collection of their most popular and favorite cartoons.
Over Diet Cokes in Jane’s backcountry kitchen (because it was before noon), the funny ladies shared some behind-the-drawings dish. “Naturally, there was a fair amount of wine involved,” quips Jane, who actually prefers red. “But we went with Chardonnay because it just sounds better.”
GABBING WITH THE GALS
1. ON CHOOSING FAVORITES
Some of their picks, like the one featuring a “Back to School” sale at the Porsche dealership, were no-brainers. “It’s not true that every kid in Greenwich gets a Porsche, but it can seem that way,” says Jane. Another classic pokes fun at the practice of affixing stick-figure families to the back of luxury SUVs. “We wondered what happens if the parents get divorced,” explains Bobbi. So, she sketched a cartoon that simply crossed out the dad stick figure. Then, there’s the one of three soccer moms, with one whispering to another, “Your kid just scored a goal, pretend you saw it.”
2. ON THEIR CREATIVE PROCESS
Bobbi, a mom of five adult children, used to draw by hand but has transitioned to iPad drawing, saying technology gives her illustrations a more sophisticated look. The technology also allows her to slip pieces of photos into her cartoons to make them more lifelike. As for pairing images with captions, she and Jane often brainstorm while socializing. “Our best work tends to happen just sitting here, like we are now at the kitchen table, talking about life,” says Jane, the mother of two adult sons. “We’re like an old married couple, except we’re married to other people.”
3. ON THEIR INSPIRATION
We won’t name names, but the collaborators told us some Chardonnay Moms characters are based on friends and family. A longer-haired, red-headed Jane (“from when I had long red hair”) was also the muse for a few of Bobbi’s drawings. “But we don’t tell people, ‘Oh, that’s so-and-so’ because we don’t want anyone to feel bad or sit around wondering if we’re picking on them,” says Jane.
4. ON BEING NICE
While their cartoons do take some amusing jabs at affluent suburban culture, the cartoonists say they are careful not to mock anyone’s choices or lifestyle. For example, a cartoon of a snowwoman sporting surgically enhanced breasts is laugh-out-loud funny, but they would never devote a series to mocking plastic surgery. “What’s important is that people can relate to what we’re saying,” says Bobbi. “The idea is that we’re in this together—and we all get it. We’re not lampooning anyone as much as we’re commenting on a shared experience we can all laugh about sometimes.”
Sage advice from the ladies
Chardonnay Moms is a perfect Valentine’s gift for that mom with a sense of humor. It can be purchased locally at Diane’s Books, via Amazon or through ChardonnayMoms.com for $15.99.
The joke in my social circle is that I’m the one who is always cold. I wear sweaters in the summer and crank up the thermostat by September. So when my editor asked me if I wanted to try out the new deep-freezing CryoPoint chamber at Performance Physical Therapy and Wellness in Greenwich, she initially got a chilly reception.
but then she promised me that the cryotherapy treatments were brief and sent a cool picture of her friend’s teenage son with his head popping out of a sleek tube enveloped in a thick Arctic mist; I was curious enough to say okay.
I was dispatched to Performance PT&W’s newly renovated state-of-the-art headquarters in Cos Cob. There, I was introduced to the freezing-for-health concept by owner Todd Wilkowski. The physical therapist explained that he launched CryoPoint at his facilities as part of an effort to enhance wellness options such as nutrition, personal training and physical therapy. “The idea is to get you healthy and keep you well,” he says.
THE FINE PRINT
While enthusiasts in Japan and Europe have long claimed the treatments can reduce inflammation, speed athletic recovery time, boost metabolism, increase circulation and even promote a more youthful glow, Wilkowski stressed he cannot promise those things because the treatments are not FDA approved in the U.S. Despite the caveat, he said his clients are trying CryoPoint at his Greenwich and Darien locations hoping it can accelerate injury recovery, diminish the aches of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, improve athletic performance and even accelerate weight loss.
HOW IT WORKS
Wilkowski explained that the concept is similar to that of applying an ice pack to an achy joint but in an intensified, whole-body way. Frozen liquid nitrogen is blasted at the body at temperatures as low as negative-260 degrees. Being subjected to this temperature throws the body into a “fight or flight” state, where blood rushes to the vital organs. After the treatment, as the body temperature returns to normal, the blood rushes back to the extremities, bathing joints in super-oxygenated blood. This biological reaction is what some proponents claim has an anti-inflammatory, healing effect. The recommended frequency depends on your goals, but first-time users are encouraged to try two or three sessions in the first week and continue treatment for six to eight weeks.
GETTING READY I was encouraged to eat, drink and exercise normally before arriving and was asked to fill out a detailed health history. Many of the questions focused on cardiovascular diseases—such as a history of heart attacks or high blood pressure—that make the process riskier. It’s also a no-no for pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions that may cause sensitivity to the cold.
Medically cleared, I was escorted to a changing room and given a small towel to wipe my body of any moisture because sweat and lotions can burn the skin during treatment. Then, it was time to slip on a fluffy white towel wrap, knee-high socks and some frumpy slippers.
READY, SET, FREEZE
CryoPoint staffer Adam Geiger helped me into the CryoPoint chamber. It reminded me of a sleeker, oversized version of those deposit cylinders used at the bank drive-thru. Once inside, I stripped off the towel and Adam gave me some oversized mittens. (Protecting vulnerable extremities from frost bite is a requisite.) Otherwise, my torso was bare.
I gave a go sign and the chamber was turned on, delivering a blast of ultra-cold mist that evoked an immediate physical and emotional reaction. “This is the coldest cold you will ever experience,” Wilkowski told me. He wasn’t exaggerating. I was gasping in shock, stifling curses, yet giddy.
Once I got over the shock, I found taking deep breaths made the process more tolerable. Nothing about the treatment was painful, but I was numb, a little shocked and then, completely exhilarated.
Normally, a treatment lasts three minutes, but because I was a first-timer Adam recommended two (standard with new clients). So, just as I had settled into the searing cold, my treatment was over. I came out of the tube relieved to be at room temperature, but also experiencing the endorphin kick of a really intense workout.
I entered the chamber at noon. A few hours later, I ran into a friend, who told me my skin “looked amazing,” a glowing side effect I was told to expect from the circulation boost. At midnight, I was purging my closets. My euphoric state led me to think the buzz about the treatment’s ability to accelerate metabolism by 500 to 800 calories a day is plausible. And while I realize it could be a placebo effect, my slightly arthritic right hip was pain-free for four days. Would I do it again? In a really cold three minutes.
Photograph by William Taufic
THE LOCAL CELEBRITY FAN Good Morning America coanchor Lara Spencer, who recently had hip replacement surgery, was at Performance for her regular physical therapy when I visited. She told me she’s been having regular CryoPoint treatments and feels it’s helped with her post-surgical recovery. (LeBron James, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Mavericks are other noteworthy devotees.) As we compared notes, I noticed my speech was unusually rapid—Lara said the therapy puts her in overdrive, too. “I get an energy boost every time I go in,” she said. “I don’t like to be cold, but I can do anything for three minutes.”
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.
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.”
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.”
On top of medication, behavior modifications can elevate depressed moods. These include:
“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.
“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.”
“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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.”
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
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.
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?”
“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?’”
“I just want my tombstone to say, She Gave Joy.”
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
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.”
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.”
Above: On set with the girl-power cast of Hyperlinked – Courtesy of youtube
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
For thirteen years we’ve relied on our discerning readers for their in-the-know scoop on the best places in Fairfield County to grab brunch, book a spa treatment and find something fabulous to wear for any occasion. From decadent sweet nibbles to great places to work off those treats, voters in our annual Best of the Gold Coast readers’ poll inevitably lead us to old and new favorites. Lucky for us, so many top picks in our poll consistently hail from Greenwich. Use this guide, highlighting top vote-getters in Greenwich, for your nearby indulgences.
Photographs by Paige Heeter
Above: Cofounders Justin Weinstein, Jarrett McGovern and Grant Gyesky
Back in their Brunswick School days, classmates Jarrett McGovern, Grant Gyesky and Justin Weinstein would percolate ideas for entrepreneurial success during their free periods. “The idea was to find something we could do that would have us retired by forty,” laughs Gyesky.
Since the friends (now in their thirties) launched a start-up to sell their delicious cold brew, nitrogen-infused Rise coffee in Brooklyn’s Colonie restaurant last year, they have put their youthful imaginings on the fast track. Their intriguing chilled beverage—which boasts an extra caffeine kick—has developed a cult following with coffee lovers at the corporate headquarters of Facebook, ESPN, the Creative Artists Agency and the NBA, as well as several Fairfield County eateries.
Business is growing so fast (the guys are now brewing more than 1,000 kegs a month) that the start-up has moved from its humble beginnings in McGovern’s Manhattan apartment to bigger digs in an industrial space in Stamford’s Waterside neighborhood.
Recently, two of the founders sat down for a mug of their frothy brew and filled us in on the buzz.
A few years ago, coffee-lover McGovern started making cold brew in his one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan’s East Village. His buddies liked it so much they began experimenting with ways to make more in less time. “It was taking a day to make four cups,” says McGovern, explaining the method that involves steeping coffee grounds for several hours. Eventually they began steeping the grounds in a large sixty- gallon stainless steel coffee serving station (that the guys nicknamed Jerome) and introduced the infusion of nitrogen to add volume. The chemistry equipment needed for the brew made it look “like something straight out of the set of Breaking Bad,” says Gyesky.
NOT YOUR TYPICAL CUP OF JOE
A mug of Rise is a bit like a caffeinated cross between a Guinness and a designer cup of joe. Poured over ice, thebrew’s foamy cap resembles that of a dark lager—or a root- beer float—but tastes like rich espresso blended with creamy dairy. It hits some of the same sweet notes as a coffeehouse latte, yet it’s dairy-free and racks up less than five guilt-free calories a mug.
WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD
McGovern explains that the secret to Rise’s thick pour and deceivingly decadent taste is a complicated brewing process, which renders the beverage about 80 percent less acidic than regular coffee (hence its smoother, creamier taste). After the beans are roasted, they sit for a few days to allow the carbon dioxide to escape; they are then ground to a specific size optimal for the cold brew process and placed in brewing vessels. Once the coffee reaches the desired strength, it is transferred into a large tank and chilled while nitrogen is infused. The end result produces a product with one-and-a-half times the caffeine of a regular cup of coffee.
THE GREAT BEAN SEARCH
After tasting jaunts to countries throughout Latin America, the Rise team settled on beans from a Fair Trade organic farm in Peru. “We wanted the kind of company where knowing the people who pick our beans earn a fair wage and are treated well, matters,” explains McGovern.
WHY NOT HOT?
Traditionally brewed hot coffee is available at Rise’s pop-up shop on the Lower East Side, but the founders are sticking with the cold version, sold in kegs and single-serving portable cans for retail consumption. “Right now we think cold brew is our niche,” says Gyesky.
WHERE IT POURS LOCALLY
The Granola Bar, Green & Tonic and Aux Délices shops
WHAT FANS SAY
“It’s incredibly FRESH, VERY SMOOTH and doesn’t need any added calories to make it delicious,” —Julie Mountain, cofounder of The Granola Bar restaurants in Westport, Greenwich and Stamford, where she pours Rise on tap
For those fitness fans who have found barre’s dance-inspired workouts great for tush toning but thought they lacked sweat-inducing power, consider giving them another try; besides their undeniable ability to sculpt and tone, barre classes at some Fairfield County studios have evolved, giving routines a little more cardio oomph.
Don’t take our word for it. We checked in with the owners of three popular studios for the head-to-toe breakdown on how taking a stand at the barre can invigorate an overall fitness routine.
IT’S A TOTAL BODY WORKOUT
Yes, the typical barre routine involves intense isometric moves that sculpt the lower body, but some studios’ signature workouts also dig deep above the hips with, say, demanding push-up sets and weights to transform arms, backs and shoulders. “We start with an upper-body sequence,” says Christina Schwefel, owner of Go Figure in Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan. “We pride ourselves on muscle activation and engagement to make movement more effective for every part of the body.”
IT IS CARDIO
For barre buffs who prefer to sweat, Laura Laboissonniere, owner of Pure Barre in Darien, Westport and Fairfield, suggests Pure Barre Platform, a fifty-five-minute class that combines bursts of high-intensity cardio with lower intensity muscle-sculpting sequences and classic barre postures to fire up the metabolism.
The Bar Method in Fairfield has added Bar Move, a workout, co-owner Caitlin Giambalvo explains, designed for cardio cravers. This fast-paced class offers a little less stretching and a bit more focus on lower body sequences designed to elevate the heart rate.
Still, our experts say sweat isn’t a requisite for barre routines to work wonders. “What’s important to understand … is that you burn fat at a lower heart rate; our clients can see incredible changes without having to be dripping in sweat,” says Giambalvo.
THERE’S MORE VARIETY
Studios have also added specialty classes for specific fitness needs to meet demand. At The Bar Method, forty-five-minute Bar Express classes were designed to offer a top-to-bottom workout in less time.
Go Figure now offers post-natal classes for moms and babies (up to age nine months). “This class is an opportunity to learn about postpartum abdominal health and some of the frequent imbalances we see in the months after childbirth,” says Schwefel. “Not to mention it’s [so] adorable to plié with your little love looking on.”
For students who were drawn to the barre for all its classical dance references, Go Figure has plans to offer ballet-inspired workouts this spring. “Ideal for all levels, this class will be like an adult ballet class and will leave clients feeling flexible, elegant and graceful,” says Schwefel.
IT PAIRS WITH OTHER CLASSES
If you have other workout loves, consider barre as part of your fitness repertoire. “Yoga is an excellent complement for Figure Method, as it allows for more opening of the body and lengthening of the muscles,” says Go Figure’s Schwefel. Laboissonniere says many of her studios’ clients who take running and spinning seriously, use Pure Barre classes as a complement.
Tweens and teens in search of page turners to add to their summer reading lists would be wise to check out the picks of a group of young book critics based at the Perrot Memorial Library.
Publishers’ representatives have been known to visit the Perrot just to hear what two critics’ groups, one for middle-schoolers (YCC) and another for fourth- and fifth- graders (Y2C2), have to say about new imprints. “I love being around people who love books, but I think one of the most interesting things about being involved is that publishers want to hear what we say about books,” says Y2C2 member Maggie Petz, an eleven-year-old who is heading to Eastern this fall. “It’s a good way for them to know what kids actually like.”
Critics like Maggie are keeping up a tradition that began in the ’80s under the leadership of Kate McClelland and her successor Kathy Krasniewicz, Perrot librarians who were tragically killed by a drunk driver in Colorado in 2009 after attending an American Library Association conference.
“What they created is not so much a book discussion group as it is a book opinion group,” explains Kathy Jarombek, Perrot’s head of youth services, who honors the librarians’ legacy with the help of dedicated volunteers. “These kids are testing books for other kids.”
For committed young readers, there’s a literary cachet to being one of the approximately sixty students chosen through a competitive application process to meet every other week for book talks led by Kathy and volunteers Mary Jane Wynne and Jennifer Lau. The critics take turns reading new books and rate them on a system of zero to four stars, sharing their reviews at meetings.
“What we find is that the kids who end up doing this usually don’t come because their mom thinks it’s a good idea,” notes Kathy. “They just genuinely love good books.” Longtime critics Charlie Decker and Sarah McDonnell (both bound for Greenwich High this fall) say it’s not unusual to read two or three novels a week. “It’s a great vocabulary builder,” says Sarah, “and it exposes you to ideas, places and experiences you might not have otherwise.”
The kids take their rating seriously and meetings are often punctuated with good-natured sparring over the pros and cons of novels. What stirs hot debate? Just about anything ending with a cliff-hanger, something the young critics seem to love or hate.
“It can be frustrating,” says Sarah. “But it also means there will probably be a sequel.” Recommendations are available at Perrot and on its website. Currently, there’s a wait list for 2017-2018 groups.
THUMBS-UP YCC and Y2C2 reviewed more than fifty new books during the past year. Here are a few favorites.
FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL READERS
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
A girl unlocks the magic hidden deep within her in this epic fantasy that the YCC readers called “amazing.”
The Reader by Traci Chee
Sarah McDonnell loved this engrossing novel about a girl trying to solve her father’s murder in a society where there is no reading and writing.
FOR THE OLDER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SET
Framed! A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery by James Ponti
Two middle school students help the FBI solve a case involving an international crime syndicate. The Young Critics declared it “un-put-downable.”
The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley
Maggie Petz recommends this mystery novel set in the ’60s Harlem for its interesting characters and “the fact you never know what’s going to happen.”
Blessed with an operatic singing voice and a flair for drama, Nola Larkin was performing at the famed Hollywood Bowl by age seventeen. A descendant of noteworthy Mormon pioneers and the aunt of actor Matthew Modine, the ninety-two-year-old Greenwich resident’s supporting role in Hollywood’s Golden Age —and her fast track to Broadway—was an improbable but determined one.
Her devoted mother, Zella, took in laundry during the Great Depression to pay for her daughter’s voice and dance lessons (she studied in the same company as Shirley Temple) and uprooted her family to take Nola to Hollywood when she was still in high school. In a career that spanned two eventful decades the actress, who performed under the stage name Nola Fairbanks, played opposite Bette Davis in The Corn Is Green, toured as a singing soloist with the popular Sonja Henie Ice Show, joined the chorus of Cole Porter’s Out of This World and won over critics when she took on the late Florence Henderson’s role in Broadway’s Fanny.
Despite the accolades, Nola’s star turn was too short. When she was thirty-one, a producer sent her a blunt letter proclaiming her too old to play the ingénue. “You used to be a pretty girl, but now you’re a pretty woman,” he wrote, urging her to accept her career’s twilight. Then a newlywed, Nola took the cruel missive as a sign it was time to start a family. “He was so mean,” says Nola, who had four children she raised in Westchester County and Greenwich. “But I always wanted to have a family and that was wonderful too.”
Today, Nola is treated like a celebrity at the Nathaniel Witherell Home in Greenwich, where she moved two years ago after a stroke made it challenging to live independently. “What’s been nice about her living here is that she has lived—and continues to live—a remarkable life that’s appreciated and acknowledged,” says Nola’s daughter Jenny Larkin, who notes that her mother was a bit lonely before moving into the skilled nursing facility operated by the town of Greenwich. “Here she has companionship and she’s also celebrated for who she is, which I find is true with all the residents.”
Greeting a visitor sporting khakis tucked into knee high boots and a leather blazer, the great grandmother of twelve remains remarkably spry. Despite lingering speech limitations from her stroke, Nola communicates with broad hand gestures, lots of laughter and short sentences. “I’m still dramatic,” she says with a sweep of her arms.
At Nathaniel Witherell Nola regularly takes in performances of the Bob Button Orchestra (which rehearses on the premises weekly), diligently keeps up with politics via CNN and has enjoyed a bit of the limelight. Fellow residents have had a chance to listen to a rare recording of her melodic soprano on a cast recording of A Night in Venice, which she performed in Mike Todd’s first musical production at the Jones Beach Theater. “Oh, he was a big flirt,” Nola recalls of Elizabeth Taylor’s late husband’s romantic overtures toward her. “But I wasn’t interested.”
FRIENDSHIP BLOSSOMS AT NATHANIEL WITHERELL
Nathaniel Witherell’s Friendship Garden is a new wheelchair accessible formal garden that features a central fountain, plants chosen for their ability to morph with the seasons and soft lighting so residents can navigate its pathways day and night. The garden formally opened last October, but on May 20 the skilled nursing facility will welcome the public to enjoy its spring blooms at an Open House from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
The Friendship Garden is not just a physical improvement to the Nathaniel Witherell campus. Studies show such gardens have clinical benefits for seniors experiencing depression and can stimulate the senses and emotions of patients living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
SAVE THE DATE
Nathaniel Witherell will host its annual spring luncheon on Wednesday, May 24 at Greenwich Country Club. nathanielwitherell.org
Last year, the American Heart Association (AHA)updated its heart health nutrition guidelines by calling for limiting consumption of foods with added sugar. Besides the role sugar plays in promoting obesity, there are other reasons why everyone needs to curb eating the sweet stuff, says Dr. Steven Kunkes, a cardiologist affiliated with Bridgeport Hospital. “The main issue is that this kind of sugar leads to inflammation and elevates cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease,” Dr. Kunkes explains.
At present the AHA’s recommendations call for adults to get no more than 10 percent of their calories from sugar. For most that translates into the equivalent of a daily twenty-ounce can of soda. Add a scoop of ice cream and it’s over the limit by heaping teaspoonfuls. “It can be an unpleasant transition that’s hard for people who are used to eating sugar, and hidden sugar added to our foods,” says Catherine Staffieri, registered dietician affiliated with Greenwich Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Nutritional Health. “I often advise a step-down approach where I encourage people to make tweaks to their diet with a goal of gradually reducing how much sugar they consume.”
CUTTING BACK STRATEGIES
Soda is a real dietary bad boy. “It’s the first thing I tell my patients to give up,” says Dr. Kunkes. Staffieri reminds patients that sports drinks, fruit-flavored beverages and sweetened ice teas are as loaded with sugar, too. Other actionable steps include:
Learn to decode how sugars, including high fructose syrup, are hidden in food products. “Be careful with foods labeled low-fat,” adds Staffieri. “In some cases, they’ve replaced the fat with sugar.”
Cut back on sugar in your coffee or honey in your tea. “If you are a three-teaspoon per coffee person, and you drink more than one cup of coffee a day, you are sugar loading,” says Staffieri. Her tip: “Gradually decrease the amount of sugar a spoonful at a time to wean your palate of the sweet taste.”
Try antioxidant packed fruit and dark chocolate as a healthier way to please a sweet tooth.
Be vigilant about seemingly healthy kid-friendly foods; think some organic baby yogurts. Dr. Kunkes says some can be packed with added sugar.
Avoid packaged muffins, cookies and candy, says Dr. Kunkes.
Our experts say fruit, bread, pasta and low-fat dairy products, which have naturally occurring sugars, do not fall under the AHA guidelines. Still, Dr. Kunkes and Staffieri say they often counsel patients who think they must ditch those items to comply. “The natural sugars in fructose (from fruit) and lactose (from dairy) are good sugars and you should not restrict yourself,” Dr. Kunkes says. “The body uses these for energy, and a healthy diet should be rich in fruit and dairy.”
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT SUGAR
Dr. Kunkes says that while the new focus on added sugar is important, cutting back is just one part of a much larger strategy for achieving optimal heart health. An overall good diet, exercise, stress reduction and positive social interaction are part of the equation too. “The reason we so often focus on diet is that it’s the easiest thing to control,” he says. “But you really need all four elements to optimize your health.”
Excuses have long sabotaged the good intentions of diehards committed to New Year’s fitness resolutions. But what should you do after a night of overindulging, or when a big lunch makes you feel like you’re only up for lifting the TV remote? Before you hit pause on your workout plans, we checked in with pros on when—and if—it’s okay to skip the gym when you’re feeling sluggish. (Spoiler alert: No skip passes were handed out.)
The Action Plan While you may want to opt out of a session at the local CrossFit, it doesn’t mean you should skip your workout entirely, says Bridget Philipp, senior director of healthy living at the New Canaan YMCA. “If you’ve done the damage already, I say it’s always better to do something, just some light cardio to get the blood flowing.” A walk, for example, is a great option.
Andrew Burlin, a trainer at Stamford’s Chelsea Piers Athletic Club, notes that while you may not be at your best for a pounding workout, an indulgent midday meal provides extra energy to burn off at the end of the day. He suggests cycling or weight lifting to burn off some of those extra calories.
It’s All About Timing:
To avoid disrupting digestion, make sure you time your workout to at least two hours after the meal.
The Action Plan Start by hydrating and then “get on your workout clothes and step out the door,” says Philipp. “The endorphins from just starting to move may make you feel better.”
Listen to Your Body:
“If you are five minutes in and you realize it’s the wrong idea, head back home, but you can’t throw in the towel on your routine because you missed one day,” says Philipp. So get back at it tomorrow.
The Action Plan As tempting as it is to forego your morning run or Barre class and head straight to the office instead, it may actually help you stay on task if you commit to a workout, says Burlin. “A well-formulated workout will get you cognitively in the right place to make substantial progress on your work.” If you are seriously time-crunched, Burlin suggests a quick twenty- to thirty-minute interval training workout. Try lifting weights combined with plyometric or power movements (think squats, jumps or burpees). “You will come back fresher, more energized and less stressed.”
Take a Pass: Skip a traditional sixty-minute group exercise class. “You’ll just be looking at the clock the whole time, thinking about your project,” says Burlin.
A Matter of When In terms of exercise science, morning workouts seem to have the edge in the clinical research pool for their ability to rev up the metabolism. Ultimately, you’ll burn more calories throughout the day.
Still, fitness experts say the best time to work out is when you can consistently make the time to do it. “The majority of us struggle to be consistent,” says Philipp, “so I always encourage people to find the time when they are most likely to do it.”
“If you are pressed for time on a regular basis, I suggest morning,” says Burlin. “As you lie in bed pressing the snooze bar, think about how an extra thirty minutes of sleep will not make you feel any more rested, but thirty minutes at the gym will set your mind up to feel accomplished and make great choices throughout the day.”
Take a Pass: On a high-intensity workout too close to bedtime. “If you really rev yourself up too much, it can interfere with sleep,” says Philipp.
Born to Japanese immigrant parents in Boston, Yumi Kuwana did not always see her biculturalism as a gift. When she was eight, her family moved to Japan. There, she was bullied by her classmates for her distinctly American ways. “Because the Japanese culture is very homogeneous, my differences weren’t celebrated or appreciated. Instead, they were mocked. In class, they said my English was ‘too perfect.’”
Eventually, Yumi’s parents enrolled her in an international school to escape the torment and feelings of not belonging. Raising her own family in Greenwich, the Harvard-and- Wharton educated mother of three was determined to find ways to give her sons and daughter the benefits of their biculturalism in the most thoughtful way possible. “I wanted them to be bilingual and bicultural with a strong moral compass,” says Yumi, a founder of Greenwich-based Cook Pine Capital. “It was important to me that their background was something they saw as a strength.”
When she founded the nonprofit Global Citizens Initiative (GCI) here in 2012, Yumi says her goal was to create a network of young global leaders who could engage in an intense cross- cultural dialogue while embracing their differences. “And I wanted it to be a conversation they could continue for a long time,” she says.
Each year since its founding, GCI fosters understanding and action by gathering a maximum of twenty-eight teenagers from places as different as Greenwich, Syria, Brazil and Afghanistan for a nine-day summit in Cambridge, Massachusetts, held on and nearby the Harvard University campus. There, the students engage in largely self-directed discussions on topics related to global engagement, ethics, excellence and leadership.
“One of the things we are teaching is that being a good global citizen is not about jet-setting. While that has its own value, this is about engaging with people who have a different perspective from yours,” says Elizabeth Losch, GCI’s chief operating officer and a Greenwich Academy graduate.
Local participants at GCI Youth Summits have hailed from local schools including Greenwich High School, Greenwich Academy and the King School in Stamford.
Many of the international students attend summits on scholarships and GCI raises funds to underwrite their tuition and expenses. Yumi notes the student leaders—chosen from a strong applicant pool for their authentic interest in global citizenship—are a deliberately small and select bunch.
Their discussions are led by teachers who by design join the conversation infrequently to let the teens shape and drive their own dialogue. “We believe we can have a high impact program by going deep and narrow rather than large and wide,” explains Yumi of the small group that its annual summits employ. “And we also believe they learn a lot from these peer-to-peer exchanges.”
Each GCI student leaves the annual summit with an assignment: A mentored project they must embark on at home that incorporates some of the values and goals they developed from engaging with their international peers. “We have a student in Kenya who’s created a $10 water filter that could be a game changer in her community and beyond,” Yumi says. “We have someone in Greenwich who is teaching dance to students with autism. Ultimately, what’s exciting to see is the leadership and initiative they are getting out of this and bringing home.”
Lessons into Action
From creating inexpensive water filters for Kenyan villagers to dance classes for autistic children in Fairfield County, the Global Citizens Initiative Youth Summit participants have been passionate and innovative in their efforts to become more socially conscious and engaged citizens. We checked in with two Greenwich summit participants to find out how lessons learned inspired good works close to home.
Developing a dance project for the local nonprofit Backyard Sports Cares that supports children with autism. “Dance is often unavailable to children with autism, which struck me as particularly sad since dance has been shown to have a positive effect on empathy and social interactions.”
On The Power of Forming International Friendships
“It’s an amazing thing to know people your age from all over the world, especially when they are so committed to making a difference. One of my closest friends was a former Syrian refugee who is currently running his own nonprofit that brings education to children in refugee camps. There were students from Afghanistan, from mainland China, from Hong Kong and more. It was humbling to realize how much I still have yet to know about the world.”
An avid cook who has long been intrigued by the way food connects people, the Greenwich Academy senior is focused on finding ways provide good nutrition to the estimated 12 percent of Fairfield County’s residents who meet the definition of being “food insecure” because they lack consistent access to adequate healthy food. Besides creating a pamphlet for local food banks, Whitney has made hunger the focus of a school capstone project and also become involved with Community Plates, a local nonprofit that works to “rescue” quality leftover food from area restaurants and deliver it to local food banks and shelters for meals and distribution.
On The Inspiration of her GCI Peers
“The other students were probably the most driven, enthusiastic and motivated individuals I have ever met,” says Whitney. “Having the opportunity to take part in discussions on topics such as ethics has inspired me to stay involved in the realm of social activism. I have since joined the First Selectmen’s Youth Council in hopes of learning more about public policy, which I’ve found to be an integral part of the fight against hunger.”
Lots of fit-minded folks seek out yoga for its calming, restorative benefits, but when Lexy Stauffer and her volunteers with the nonprofit Exhale to Inhale teach poses to local victims of domestic and sexual violence, they are seeking to help them feel safer in their bodies.
Exhale to Inhale began in New York City in 2013 when Zoe LePage, then a Barnard student with a personal history of trauma, began teaching yoga to survivors of intimate partner violence. Lexy, a Darien resident and longtime yoga practitioner, brought the program to Connecticut last year, after taking Exhale to Inhale’s intensive teacher training. Now she and a small group of volunteer teachers offer free yoga to students at the Greenwich YWCA’s Domestic Abuse Service, Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Stamford and most recently, The Center for Family Justice (CFJ), which serves domestic and sexual violence victims.
“I knew I was doing something of value when a client told me she was not afraid to go to sleep anymore,” says Lexy, who hopes to expand the program throughout the state.
Classes are taught by instructors trained in yoga adopted for trauma survivors. Since respecting personal boundaries is paramount, instructors never touch clients to correct poses. “These are not competitive classes,” says Lexy. “We go slowly. Trauma is something we hold in the body, and we are helping victims find a healthy way to release it.”
“Our clients are learning an approach
to wellness that can stay with them for a lifetime,” says Debra Greenwood, president and CEO of The Center for Family Justice. “It’s an essential part of helping them transform from victims to survivors.”
Lexy Stauffer of Exhale to Inhale says anyone can benefit from the program’s gentle approach to a more mindful yoga experience. Here are some tips for bringing calm to your practice.
Breath is the key to calming the mind and body
“When people experience trauma their breath is really shallow,” notes Lexy. If you simply take the time to mindfully spell out the words “inhale” and “exhale” as you breathe in and out deeply, you can slow the process and achieve calming benefits.
Give yourself permission to be distracted
“It’s okay for our minds to wander,” says Lexy. So, if during class your thoughts turn to your grocery list or that work project that’s due, “it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.”
Know each body is different
Every yogi brings a different set of experiences and capabilities to the mat. “Our bodies can’t all do the same things and that’s okay,” says Lexy. “While it’s hard to not place judgment on ourselves, you’ll get more from practice if you accept your unique abilities.”
It’s been three decades since Maria “Empy” Constante began shaping and polishing the nails of Greenwich women. Back then she was a recent immigrant from Colombia with a passion for the beauty industry. Manicures seemed the most expedient route for the ambitious newcomer to get ahead. “I was struggling with English, but I could manage to say to my customers, “Round or square?” Empy says with a laugh. “Nails I could manage. So I did nails.”
Soon Empy was filing and shaping her way to success. Encouraged by some high-profile customers who remain loyal to this day, Empy left behind the Greenwich Avenue salon where she got her start and opened Empy’s Nails in Cos Cob with her sister, Gloria Jaramillo, at her side.
Gloria, who had immigrated to the Greenwich area a few years before Empy, spoke more confident English. Empy begged Gloria to leave a good job elsewhere to help her get started. “She was my right hand and she still is,” says Empy with a smile.
Together the sisters—among the youngest of eighteen children raised in a small Colombian mountain village—pursued the American dream. Their goal was to earn enough to live locally so that Gloria’s son, Mario, could attend town schools. “We did everything for Mario as a team,” Empy says.
When a celebrity customer advised Empy that day spas were the next big thing, she took a chance. She leased space in a West Putnam Avenue strip mall, adding hairstylists, aestheticians and massage therapists. She grew her staff from four to its current eighteen, often hiring fellow South American immigrants and mentoring them as they built their own secure futures here.
As she planned to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Empy’s Day Spa with a November cocktail reception, the gracious and enterprising businesswoman sat down with us and shared some of the secrets to her success.
IN HER WORDS THE LIFE LESSONS THAT HAVE BUILT A LEGACY
Take a risk
“I started knowing almost no English. I would tell my customers, ‘Please correct me.’ I always wanted to learn. And I listened to their tips on building my business. It was very hard, but you can’t get where you want to be without trying.”
“A successful business can’t just be for your benefit. You have to share your success. It builds loyalty,” explains Empy, who considers her staff family. “If you have good people, you have to be good to them.”
All Customers are Celebrities
“I have a lot of famous customers. But I often say, you don’t know who that person is who walks in wearing yoga clothes. If you think everyone is important and treat them that way, everyone leaves feeling pampered.”
Insist on Quality
While Empy teases she can’t give up all her trade secrets, she allows that one reason her manicures are so long-lasting is the attention paid to nail bed preparation. Her manicurists use absorbent cotton towels—rather than cotton balls or pads—to aggressively sweep away old polish. “You don’t want any residue or oils on the nail bed or the polish won’t last as long.”
Christine Georgopulo worked in real estate development before
her life took a graceful turn when she discovered beautiful, elegant ballroom dance and began competing. Five years ago, she quit her day job and opened Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom of Greenwich. Christine was recently honored with a Greenwich YWCA Brava Award for the philanthropic work her studio does on behalf of nonprofits, which include Kids in Crisis, Greenwich Hospital’s cancer patients and the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club. We caught up with the Greenwich resident as she was preparing for a dance training weekend with her teaching team.
GM: YOU’VE GONE FROM REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT TO BALLROOM DANCING. THAT’S A BIG TRANSITION.
CG: It’s been life-changing for me. When I worked in development, I was building whole blocks. It was transformative—you were changing communities—but as soon as the punch list was done, so were you. So, I never got to see people enjoy it. Here, you get to see the exponential benefit of their progress and even how it affects their lives outside. Dance opens everyone’s world. It opened mine.
GM: HAS THE POPULARITY OF DANCING WITH THE STARS BEEN GOOD FOR THE BUSINESS?
CG: Yes, in the sense that it has shown people that anyone can dance. You’ve got NFL football players doing it and someone like Kirstie Alley going on and losing all that weight.
GM: IS THERE HOPE FOR SOMEONE WITH TWO LEFT FEET TO ACTUALLY MOVE THAT WAY?
CG: If you can walk without falling down, you can dance. If it came naturally, we wouldn’t have to teach it. But I realize the idea that you can’t dance can be a big barrier for some people before they come in the door. So I say this: Every dance begins simply with putting one foot in front of the other. And I encourage people to have goals. It’s no different than going to the gym. You start out at one place, but if you work at it, you’ll get to another.
GM: DO YOU NEED A PARTNER FOR LESSONS?
CG: It’s not necessary. Your instructor can be your partner. Our approach is based on the idea that if you’re taking private lessons, your instructor can fulfill that role. We also encourage people to come for group sessions, where you can dance with your significant other. We also make everyone change partners, so you can learn to dance with others at different speeds and styles.
GM: DANCE IS SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD FOR THE MIND AND BODY. HAVE YOU SEEN IT TRANSFORM LIVES?
CG: You know. I’ve got binders full of stories—people who’ve lost tons of weight, people who’ve danced as they recovered from cancer—but here’s one that sticks out: I had a client who, we would eventually learn, was in an abusive marriage. Somehow, she got her husband to let her take lessons. It was the only thing she really was allowed to do on her own. When she came to us, she was so haggard she looked twenty years older than she actually was. But she came to perform in a [showcase] we did. She stepped out in this cute little Latin number, with her shoulders up and her head held high and she rocked it. She just blossomed before our eyes. Eventually, dance gave her the confidence to take the kids and leave the marriage.
President Barack Obama’s historic March visit to Cuba signaled a détente that eased more than fifty years of Cold War tensions. Yet months before Air Force One touched down on the Caribbean island, the team at the Greenwich-based Innovadores Foundation had already been engaging in some high-tech cross-cultural diplomacy with young, aspiring Cuban entrepreneurs.
Last July the Greenwich-based foundation, whose founders include town resident and angel investor/innovation expert Miles Spencer, brought four Cuban students to Manhattan to immerse them in the entrepreneurial culture through the startup incubator Grand Central Tech.
Inspired by the experiences of the first group of students, Innovadores (Spanish for innovators) will send its second class of promising Cubans ages sixteen to twenty to the Big Apple this month. The foundation picks up the tab for their lodging, meals and travel so they can begin their journey of learning more about potential advancements in technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.
The motivation for mentoring the Cuban students is simple, says Spencer: “I’ve been all over the world, and what I’ve seen from them in terms of their epic resourcefulness is extraordinary. We believe they’re in the best position to solve Cuba’s problems.”
The foundation’s local supporters including Greenwich residents John and Hollie Franke, traveled with Spencer to Cuba and helped pave the way for the first interns to arrive with the help of diplomat John Caulfield, who served as chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana until 2014. The Frankes also helped expand the Innovadores program to include internships in food and fashion, which start this summer.
Twenty-one-year-old Havana native Raul Saunders spent last summer working at startup incubator Grand Central Tech in Manhattan as a guest of the Greenwich-based Innovadores Foundation. Because communication with the island nation is still complicated, the engineering student answered questions through a foundation representative via email.
1 IMPORTANT LESSONS
“That every second counts when it’s about the tech industry, marketing and innovation…I also had the pleasure of interacting with the American culture and the American people in their motherland and learning the true meaning of the American dream.“
2 ON HIS MOTIVATION
“I now know how to work harder because they pushed my limits and forced me to think harder and outside the box. I can see now how this is a turning point for our society for a better tomorrow, and I see it is in tech.”
3 ON COMING TO AMERICA
“It (was) very important because we don’t have a tech industry in Cuba, and it’s important to see what the world is up to.“
Beginning with filming the life story of his own late mother, Peter Savigny has a knack for telling the stories of family members often hidden in old photo boxes and unspoken memories.
The Westchester resident, who was born in Shanghai to German parents, is a longtime television art director who’s won five Emmys for his special effects and creative work. Savigny has spent the past decade creating documentary-style biographies for subjects ranging from some of Greenwich’s first Italian-American immigrant families (as part of a long-term project for the Greenwich Historical Society) to real estate magnate Peter Malkin.
His company, TimeStories, specializes in documenting family history for posterity by artfully blending filmed personal interviews with archival family photos and cinematic elements, such as musical scores and lush cinematography into pieces he calls DocuMemories.
Peter notes his filmed biographies are not vanity projects. “It’s about honoring time, family history and memories,” he explains. “The value is in capturing memories before they’re gone. We’ve all opened a box of old family photographs and said, ‘Who are these people? Where was this taken?’ So, what I do is a little like family archaeology.”
Peter conducts detailed personal interviews that mine life histories that sometimes get lost over generations. “The number one secret to what I do is that I’m not family,” Peter explains. “People are a little more comfortable telling me things than they might be a close relative. Yet when they do tell me, it’s almost spiritual and even cathartic. I just finished interviewing a woman and I asked her a question and she said, “Well, I’ve never told anyone that before, but since you asked….” timestories.com
THE MAKING OF A DOCUMEMORY
Peter meets with all subjects one-on-one at least once before shooting begins. “You don’t want to be talking to a total stranger,” he explains.
DocuMemory subjects complete a detailed biographical questionnaire, which asks factual and philosophical questions, giving the filmmaker a framework for his interviews.
THE STAR OF THE SHOW
Group subjects featuring more than one family member can be accommodated.
Most still photography is contributed, but Peter often incorporates historically accurate stock images of important locations (such as
a city of origin) to evoke mood and period setting.
Fees vary as projects are customized and clients determine how simple or elaborate their TimeStory will be. Small projects start at around $5,000, but Peter has done some feature-length works with fees in excess of $25,000.
Portrait by Rob Lang; All other images courtesy of time stories
Above: 2015 Greenwich Cup Triathlon; Photograph by Jeff Yardis
Last year the world-class hospital, which specializes in treating a variety of orthopedic issues and musculoskeletal conditions, opened an 18,000-square-foot medical facility at Chelsea Piers Stamford. There, a total of twenty-two HSS physicians, including one-time Greenwich High School quarterback Dr. Sam Taylor, now see patients in an outpatient center with strong ties to HSS’s New York City campus.
“For a really long time, we’ve been attracting patients from Fairfield and Westchester counties, but this allows us to go deeper with those relationships,” explains John Englehart, HSS’s chief marketing officer.
So when it came to forming an alliance with the Greenwich Cup, which at thirty-one bills itself as the longest-running multisport series in the world, the relationship seemed like a perfect match. “We’re all about supporting athletic training and encouraging healthy lifestyles,” says Englehart, a longtime Westport resident. “But what we’re most excited about is the culture of the Greenwich Cup itself. There’s just a tremendous energy and goodwill about the event that makes it more exciting every year.”
Presented by the YMCA of Greenwich in cooperation with the Greenwich Parks and Recreation Department, Greenwich Cup signature events include the HSS Greenwich Cup Half-Marathon, the push-the-limits HSS Greenwich Cup Triathlon, and the HSS Tour de Greenwich XXXII 20-Mile Bike race. The schedule is packed throughout the year with events that appeal to more casual athletes too. And do stay tuned: At press time, race director Mickey Yardis, owner of Threads & Treads, was completing plans for more events, including the likely revival of a fan favorite or two.
Yardis says the marriage with HSS is a good fit for the expanding series. “The crew at Threads & Treads and the entire HSS Greenwich Cup team is excited to have Hospital for Special Surgery lead the charge for the 2016 series,” Yardis says. “Along with my gold sponsors, Betteridge jewelers, Greenwich Time/Hearst Connecticut Media, and Poland Spring/Nestlé Waters, I am surely one blessed race director to have such unwavering support.”
GREENWICH CUP 2016 EVENTS
HSS Greenwich Cup Half-Marathon:
April 10 at 7:30 a.m. at Greenwich Point
Jim Fixx Memorial Day Five-Mile run & Kid’s Half-Mile :
May 30 at 8:30 a.m. on Greenwich Ave.
Whole Foods Cook Your Buns Three-Mile Run & BBQ & Kid’s Mile:
June 10 at 6 p.m. at Greenwich Point
Greenwich Point One-Mile Swim:
July 16 at 7:30 a.m. at Greenwich Point
HSS Greenwich Cup Triathlon:
July 31 at 7 a.m. at Greenwich Point
HSS Tour de Greenwich XXXII 20 Mile:
Sept. 11 at 7:30 a.m. at Greenwich High School
Eleven years ago, seventeen-year-old Greenwich native Jonathan Geller began surreptitiously reporting on the latest technology innovations before they hit the market. He would go on to found the technology news website, Boy Genius Report (BGR), and become a major market influencer on the latest electronics and gadgets.
Geller explains that his love affair with technology happened “sort of by accident” when he dropped out of Greenwich High School as a sixteen-year-old sophomore to answer the insistent call of hip-hop music. “Back then, I was way more into music than school,” he explains. In Atlanta he immersed himself in the burgeoning hip-hop scene under the tutelage of Scooter Braun, fellow Greenwich native and Justin Bieber manager.
But Geller’s plans skipped a beat when his connections to music insiders had technology companies slipping him hot prototypes (think the latest Blackberry, when Blackberries were actually hot commodities) before their official release dates. His then-anonymous blog about his discoveries for AOL developed such a following that he eventually founded BGR. Geller sold the site to Penske Media in 2010 for a deal reportedly worth several million dollars. Remaining BGR editor-in-chief, he now focuses less on the bottom line and more on the savvy content that claims 11 million unique views a month.
It stands to reason that the backcountry Greenwich home of the newly married twenty-eight-year-old was upgraded to anticipate his every want and need with the touch of his iPhone—from opening the bedroom shades to syncing his sprinklers with technologically transmitted weather forecasts. Naturally, his doors lock and unlock by intuitively recognizing his comings and goings.
The renovation was conceived with an eye to discreetly integrating technology “without making the place seem like a tech lab.” Yes, even Boy Genius has his limits. “I’m kind of old-school when it comes to the kitchen,” he confesses. “I like to grind my coffee beans myself.” So while his morning joe isn’t brewed in sync with an app that senses he’s awake (although he notes it could be), the rest of his transitionally styled home is well-appointed with ultra-smart creature comforts.
Super-cool technology isn’t just for inside the home. One of the hottest new products featured by Geller and his staff is an outdoor grill controlled by voice activation or the touch of a smartphone.
Geller’s home technology essentials
These motorized shades, which Geller notes are “surprisingly affordable,” open and close on the command of a smartphone app. Of all the techie features he’s installed at home, Geller says “these are my favorite. It’s kind of a kick to open them in the morning to let some sun in without getting out of bed.” BONUS: No annoying or dangerous strings to pull.
HIDDEN WI-FI ACCESS POINTS
“For someone like me, Wi-Fi is a big deal.” Having portals built into walls throughout the house and stashed behind art solved spotty cellular issues without adding eyesores.
RACHIO SPRINKLER SYSTEM
No need to schedule this intuitive, automated lawn irrigation system because it syncs with the weather forecast to determine when—and for how long—to drench the lawn.
SAMSUNG SMART THINGS HUB
By connecting everything from light switches to keyless entry systems to this smart portal, doors lock and lights turn off whenever Geller heads outside with his iPhone in tow.
Geller’s tips on domestic technological enhancements just about anyone can—and should—consider installing
PHILIPS HUE LIGHTBULBS
At less than twenty dollars each, Geller says these bulbs, which allow lights to be switched on and off via an app, are among the most cost-effective technology upgrades on the market and can save hundreds on electric bills. The lights can also be programmed to change color for added ambiance.
“Most people don’t know how to program their thermostats, but there are some terrific ones out there that do the job for you.” He recommends models by Nest and Honeywell.
These reasonably priced home surveillance systems are a great way to “know what’s going on at home when you’re not there.” Geller has several at his place.
SONOS HIFI WIRELESS SPEAKERS
For an investment of between $150 and $500, a home can be outfitted with indoor and outdoor speakers that respond to a smartphone app, playing your favorite playlists on demand. “Years ago, doing the same thing would have cost $20,000,” says Geller.
A FEW OF HIS FAVORITE THINGS
The innovations that have Geller’s attention right now
1 NON-COMBUSTIBLE CARS
“I just turned in my Mercedes for a Tesla,” says Geller, who envisions a future with “no gas, no combustion” and cars so brainy, “my kids won’t have to learn how to drive.”
2 IPHONE 6S
While Geller confesses an overall weakness for “all things Apple,” his omnipresent phone is “simply the smartest phone ever made.” “I run my entire business from my phone; pay for things with Apple pay. It’s the one thing I absolutely couldn’t live without.”
3 APPLE TV “It is all app- based, which I love. You can go to CNN and watch it live, or dig into the archives and watch something old.
4 APPLE WATCH “I think wearable technology is going to continue to be a huge trend. If you don’t care that much about your phone, this watch does it all and it’s right there on your wrist. You can track your fitness, monitor your health and access your apps.”
As a therapist turned life coach, Martina Faulkner has heard her share of “WHAT IFS?” Often, they’re the past tense kind tinged with remorse and regret. Think, “What if I married my college sweetheart instead?” or “What if I hadn’t eaten that entire sleeve of Oreos?”
Often, Martina’s clients come to her in the midst of life transitions. When contemplating their future, she finds the “WHAT IFS?” often get filtered through a negative lens. So, someone unhappy with their current position might wonder, “What if I take that new job and it’s an epic mistake?”
Martina specializes in trying to upend that kind of negative mentality, encouraging her clients to take their thinking to a more positive place. “The crux of my work is about trying to teach people to live more deliberately and less by default,” says Martina, a Greenwich Academy graduate now based in suburban Chicago. “While some people are limited by circumstances, a lot of life is about choice. A lot of what I do is getting them to see, “Hang on, I really can participate in my own life.”
In her new book, aptly titled What If ..?, Martina shares pragmatic strategies for approaching life decisions with an in-the-driver’s-seat mindset. On her recent book tour, she shared some of her motivating nuggets of wisdom with audiences that ranged from current GA students to staffers at Google. martinafaulkner.com
AS THE SEASON OF RESOLUTIONS BEGINS, HERE ARE SOME COMMON “WHAT IF?” QUESTIONS THAT CAN BECOME GOAL-ORIENTED.
INSTEAD OF ASKING
“What if I lost that last stubborn ten pounds?
“What if I ate healthier?” or, “What if I skipped dessert on weeknights?”
“Asking these kinds of questions makes you the driver. You are owning choices instead of fixating on a number,” says Martina.
INSTEAD OF ASKING
“What if I can’t get out of this dead-end job?”
“What if I found a job I love?”
“This way of thinking forces you to be more deliberate about your life. It may get you to seek a job that’s more about your passions,” says Martina.
INSTEAD OF ASKING
“Why am I stuck in this emotional rut?”
“What brings me pleasure?”
“I ask my clients what brought them joy when they were five. It sounds simple, but it can be the root of getting toward something that will bring pleasure into your life. I find it’s often some form of play. For one of my clients, the answer was, “A dog!” says Martina.
INSTEAD OF ASKING
“What if my date doesn’t like me?”
“What if I liked myself more?”
“A lot of times in relationships, we look for people to fix us. If you don’t like yourself, you often end up inviting the wrong people into your life to fill the void,” says Martina.
Above: Peter Sinkevich – Photograph by Sandro DeCarvalho
Peter Sinkevich was in his twenties when he made his first multimillion dollar exit from a startup—an online gaming technology he and his partners sold in 1999. Since then, the Greenwich resident, who calls himself a “serial entrepreneur,” has made similarly profitable exits from other startups. Along the way, he’s relished playing a mentoring role to ambitious sorts looking to do the same. “The question I got a lot was, ‘How did you do that?’” says Peter.
So Peter was game when approached by Google executives to establish the first Connecticut chapter of its entrepreneurial incubator, Startup Grind. He suggested Greenwich as the place to start. “There’s a cachet to Greenwich, but it was more than that,” says Peter. “It’s essentially a town made up of investors. I thought, Why not bring entrepreneurs to the investors and see what happens.”
The philosophy behind Startup Grind, which launched in the Silicon Valley in 2010, is that entrepreneurs thrive by developing like-minded professional friends (not contacts). “It’s about more than passing out business cards,” says Peter. “The point is to create a sharing economy. So when people enter the room, no one wants to sell you anything. It’s about real connections. How can they truly help each other?”
Speaking of connections, Peter’s already used his vast contacts to bring some true business visionaries to town for Startup Grind’s signature Fireside Chats. To date, guests have included GE’s first female vice chair Beth Comstock, former Virgin Atlantic Airway’s executive David Tait and Datto founder and CEO Austin McChord. startupgrindgrw.com
PETER’S TOP 5 TIPS FOR ENTREPRENEURS
1 DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL
“You have to be risk tolerant. And you don’t learn anything from being perfect. You learn from failures. That’s a very entrepreneurial trait.”
2 BE SOCIAL
“Businesses are built as much on the process of connecting with people as they are on selling. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. That can be really difficult when you are trying to run a business, but you have to be open to reaching out constantly.”
3 HAVE PASSION
“Having an excitement for what you do is the only thing that’s going to get you through the highs and lows of the business cycle, which are inevitable. You have to constantly convey that passion when you talk about your business.”
4 HIRE YOUR WEAKNESS
“It’s impossible for you to do everything correctly, so make sure you hire people who are better than you. There’s no fear of them taking over.”
5 YOUR PEOPLE ARE YOUR BEST RESOURCES
“If you have high-quality people working in an environment where they want to be, you’ll be amazed at what you can get done. Your role is to be the visionary.”
When Bill Gorgas and his wife, Barbara Davis, adopted golden retrievers Chase and Clancy in 2014, they made a place in their hearts and a home for two of Greenwich’s best known and beloved pets.
The popular canines had spent most of their lives as Greenwich Avenue fixtures—the companions of the late Monsignor Frank Wisell, former pastor of St. Mary’s. They were well-known to Avenue passersbys. “People would often thank us for adopting them,” says Bill, who volunteered to take in the half-siblings after Wisell’s failing health precipitated a move to a nursing home. “But I would say, ‘We got the gift.’” Bill quickly developed a man’s-best-friend bond with both dogs. He calls the too-short year he spent with Clancy “one of the best of my life.” So when Clancy died unexpectedly from a cancer detected only days before his death in June, his heartbroken owners decided to channel their grief to benefit other dogs and their devoted owners.
Bill and Barbara founded Clancy’s Cure, an endowment they created at Stamford’s Cornell University Veterinary Specialists (CUVS) to support research in canine cancer. Bill says they have ambitious goals for the cause, which formally launched last September. The fund will support cutting-edge canine cancer research—studies that Bill notes have significant parallels to trends in human cancer research.
“The focus is on finding more targeted therapies,” explains Dr. Lindsay Thalheim, a veterinary oncologist affiliated with CUVS, who notes that mutations and genetics can play a role in how cancers respond to treatment. “The goal is to maximize the response for the tumor type and even limit toxicity” by providing more personalized therapies.
Unfortunately as this issue was going to press, Bill and Barbara got news that Chase (now thirteen) has the same cancer that took Clancy. Bill says that lavishing attention on Chase and spearheading Clancy’s Cure has helped him process the grief. “So many people have lost pets to cancer, but this helps keep Clancy alive.” clancyscure.org
Imagine if 100 women formed a partnership where each contributed $1,000 with one goal: making a difference. That pot could grow exponentially. And so, too, could its potential impact on smaller projects that may not be receiving the support needed. Greenwich residents Vicki Craver and Wendy Block not only imagined creating such a giving circle in Fairfield County, they linked their shared passion for philanthropy to start one.
Drawing on their diverse backgrounds in philanthropy management (Wendy) and Wall Street (Vicki), the women joined forces this year to found Impact Fairfield County. The nonprofit is modeled on similar female-driven giving circles around the country that began when Cincinnati’s Impact 100 launched in 2001. Each independent “impact” circle is focused on empowering women to use their financial clout and collaborative instincts to support community projects.
The premise is smartly simple. Impact Fairfield County is focused on recruiting at least 100 women who commit to a minimum annual donation of $1,000 each. Their contributions are pooled to underwrite grants of $100,000 each.
Members play a direct role in vetting the organizations seeking grants. And popular vote determines recipients, the founders explain.
“We see this as an opportunity for women to get involved,” says Vicki, who was introduced to philanthropy when she chaired the Fairfield County Community Foundation’s Fund for Women and Girls. “It’s leveraging their thousand dollars into a hundred thousand dollars.”
Already, fifty women throughout the region have opened their checkbooks since the nonprofit’s soft launch in May. A formal recruitment campaign kicked off last month with the goal of awarding at least one major grant by spring. “It would be a dream if we could do more,” says Vicki.
HOW TO BENEFIT? WENDY AND VICKI OFFER INSIGHT INTO THE PROJECTS MEMBERS WILL CONSIDER FOR THE FIRST ROUND OF GRANTS THIS SPRING.
“We have an interest in learning about and highlighting needs we may not even be aware of,” says Vicki. “We hope people will learn about an organization more broadly through our support.”
“We want people to dream big,” says Wendy. “The idea is that these grants can be transformative.”
“While we are both from Greenwich, we’re committed to the idea that this should benefit the region and not just our one community,” says Wendy. “It’s also the best way to grow our own giving community.”
Five years ago Mary Bloomer, a former Wall Street investment banker, founded Early Career Launch, a Darien-based consultancy that’s unique in its focus on helping college undergraduates define and achieve their professional goals. Only two other such companies, as far as Mary is aware, exist in the country.
After working as a career counselor at Yale University’s School of Management, Mary
realized the coaching that she was providing MBA students was largely missing in the life of the typical undergraduate. Even though most institutions of higher learning have career offices, “A lot of students don’t access their campus resources. And for some it’s difficult to get the level of attention and expertise they’d like,” she explains.
Mary and her team are decidedly hands-on. They work with students building skills ranging from identifying their dream workplace to mastering tricky, if predictable, interview questions. It’s an elaborate process that can include everything from vocational testing to videotaped practice interviews.
The business, which has prospered mostly through enthusiastic word of mouth, has counseled students from more than 100 colleges and universities, including many Greenwich clients. (The mother of three has a daughter who attended Greenwich Academy.)
Perhaps it’s no surprise that many Early Career Launch clients are liberal arts majors looking to translate their smarts—and those seemingly ambiguous humanities degrees—into a rewarding professional life. “What we talk a lot about is identifying the universal skills that everyone has and every company is looking for,” says Mary. “Many kids come in with no idea of what they want to do, and sometimes we begin the process simply by helping them figure that out.” earlycareerlaunch.com
TIPS FOR YOUNG JOB SEEKERS LOOKING FOR AN EDGE
BE DISCIPLINED ABOUT BUILDING A PROFESSIONAL NETWORK.
Mary notes a large number of internships and jobs are never advertised. So it’s critical to create a contact network to capture opportunities. Alumni, friends, family and former colleagues all can help, but you “have to let people know you are looking.” Stay in touch with these contacts on a regular basis.
BOOK “INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS.”
Mary notes informal chats with professionals in fields of interest can reap long-term rewards. “They can really help build confidence because the pressure is off when there’s no job on the table,” she notes. Plus, “the good impression you make can also lead to a job interview when something entry-level comes up.”
KEEP SUMMER EXPERIENCE NOTES.
Mary notes it’s easy to forget what you did on school vacation once the academic year begins, so jot down tasks and accomplishments at internships, part-time jobs and volunteer commitments. Those notes can ultimately help identify and articulate skill sets.
CAST A WIDE NET AND KEEP AN OPEN MIND.
Mary encourages clients to take interviews for opportunities that may not seem especially appealing. “You can learn so much from these experiences that you can take into the interview for that dream job,” she says.
UNDERSTAND THAT JOB SEEKING IS A PROCESS THAT CAN TAKE MONTHS OF EFFORT.
“It’s not as simple as logging in online and sending off your résumé,” says Mary. “It is hard work, and all about understanding the importance of time, effort and building a network.”
Above: Erin Cardillo; Portrait by Brad Everett Young
Back at Greenwich High School, Erin Cardillo (class of ’95) persuaded her drama teachers to let her stage a one act farce she wrote herself. “I think I called it, Where There’s a Will There’s a Way,” Erin says, laughing. Turns out it was a prophetic first act.
Besides earning her credit as a founder of The Magic Circle, the annual GHS student playwrights’ festival, Erin’s script foreshadowed the trajectory of her career. She went on to land parts ranging from a breakout role on the soap opera Passions to the Disney Channel’s The Suite Life on Deck.
Most recently the Hollywood-based actress wrapped the first season of the CW network’s Significant Mother, a sitcom she wrote and produced with creative partner Richard Keith. Fresh after winning first prize at the annual New York Television Festival for a different teleplay, Erin and Richard were asked to develop Significant Mother.
Erin also guest starred in the romantic comedy, which explores the complications that ensue when an overachieving twentysomething discovers his newly divorced mom has fallen for his best friend. “It was fun, after creating all those characters, to jump on the other side of the camera,” says Erin, who appeared in a two-episode role as the cougar mom’s opinionated lesbian boss.
Also satisfying? Finding a home for Significant Mother in prime time—a feat Erin explains once seemed quite improbable. “Writing was something I did to stay creative during those off times every actor has while they’re waiting for that next part,” Erin says. “But it’s taken off in ways I sort of hadn’t expected.”
At press time, the multi-tasking actress was waiting to hear if Significant Mother would get a second season, while developing other comedies for the CW as a part of a long-term deal.
BEHIND THE SCENES WITH ERIN
CELEBRITY MOMENT Erin was once rushed by throngs of twelve-year-old Suite Life on Deck fans while touring historic sites in Washington, D.C. “My husband (actor Joe Towne) said, ‘You’re like the Beatles.’ There’s nothing quite like diehard Disney Channel fans on a school field trip.”
TRUE TO HER SCHOOL
She still checks in with GHS drama teachers Richard Kohn and Patty Cirigliano–Kohn and plans on attending her upcoming twentieth GHS reunion.
FAVORITE GREENWICH SPOT
“So many of the restaurants and bars have changed, but the one place that’s a constant for me is Tod’s Point. I usually head there with my mom for a walk whenever I’m home.”
MEMORABLE ROLE Playing Cobweb the fairy, in a GHS production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream affirmed her life-long dramatic aspirations. “It was a smaller part in an ensemble cast, but I remember feeling part of a community and loving it.”
“I studied Shakespeare in London, so it’s always been a dream of mine to play a role like Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It would be great to have a big dame role, like Cleopatra. I’d also love being the lead on a sitcom.”
Above: Chris Harrison – Photograph: courtesy Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and TV Distribution
Chris Harrison’s television career has been forever linked to all things related to tears, roses and relationships. For twenty-five seasons he’s hosted ABC’s reality romances The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, the hookup-inducing spinoff Bachelor in Paradise and more recently, the Miss America Pageant. Yet on a soundstage at Stamford’s Connecticut Film Center, there’s not a rosebud or rejected reality suitor in sight. Last summer we caught up with the dapper Harrison as he handed out cash (instead of coveted date cards) in his role as host of the fourteenth season of the syndicated game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.
Parent company Disney/ABC Home Entertainment announced last spring that Harrison would assume the role originated in prime time by Greenwich resident Regis Philbin. The former sportscaster quickly settled into his new gig—and part-time life in Stamford and Old Greenwich—with the same telegenic ease with which he’s advised and consoled dejected lovers at The Bachelor mansion for thirteen years.
When Harrison’s Millionaire season debuted in September, he hoped audiences would appreciate how the game show has been tweaked to better resemble the 2002 original that was a television phenomenon. “To be honest, the show sort of lost its way for a while, and we’ve returned to its roots,” Harrison says. “We’re trying to go back to the old-school Regis style of hosting and quite frankly, that’s my kind of hosting.”
Harrison says he’s discovered some parallels between his dual positions as reality romance host and game show rainmaker. In effect, his Millionaire job is to foster, well, a love connection between the audience and participants tapped to compete for cash by answering a series of increasingly challenging questions. “For the contestants, it’s a journey too,” Harrison says in a tongue-in-cheek reference to how The Bachelor/The Bachelorette contestants ubiquitously refer to dating twenty-five potential mates at the same time. On Millionaire, “it’s a different forum, but one of the things I’m trying to elicit [from contestants] is, what’s their story? Why should we care if they win? Regis was the godfather of this show, and I consider myself a student of his genius.”
This is Millionaire’s second year taping at the Stillwater Road CFC studios, a warehouse-style complex that’s also home to The People’s Court and HGTV’s Flea Market Flip. (Past shows include Showtime’s The Big C, the TBS sitcom Are We There Yet?, and the short-lived reboot of soaps One Life to Live and All My Children.)
Harrison notes that in his many encounters with local fans—he affectionately calls them “Bachelor Nation”—he’s surprised at how few know Millionaire tapes locally. “They are shocked we are here and I love the fact that I can invite them to come sit in our audience.”
Besides being downright hospitable, the Dallas native and amicably divorced father of two went out of his way to make his time here a family affair. He rented a “big old house” in Old Greenwich and brought along his children for much of the two months he spent taping.
“The nice part is we got to have a real summer here,” says Harrison, whose permanent base is in Los Angeles. “I’m a Texas boy who went to school in Oklahoma. I’ve never spent any real time in Connecticut—lots in New York—but we love it here,” he says.
Despite a hectic taping schedule, he got out and about. He enjoyed Alive @ Five concerts, beached it at Tod’s Point and took in the July 4 festivities at the Stanwich Club.
What did fans here want to chat about? Harrison says they’ve wanted to share their strong feelings about the messy love triangle recent bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe was in with final two suitors Nick Viall and Shawn Booth. (She handed her last rose to now-fiancé Booth.) “It’s a side product of the show that people feel like they know me and can tell me their opinions, and I welcome that,” he says. “It also gives me a chance to tell them about Millionaire.”
As is the case with other experienced trainers, Stamford-based Kelvin Smith often hears female clients worry about “bulking up” if they lift weights. “If that were true, the tiniest kid on the high school football team could transform himself,” he says. Truth is, weight training can obliterate fat, build lean muscle and anti-age bodies by making them taut. Still, female clients recoil at the sight of heavy metal. So we asked local experts to weigh in on the myths they would like to dispel—once and for all—about pumping iron.
MEGAN HOFFMAN Trainer at Oxygen Fitness
THE MYTH: Lifting Packs Extra Pounds You may see the scale inch up when weight training becomes routine, but it’s
for a lean reason, Hoffman says. “You’re replacing fat with muscle, which weighs more than fat,” she says.
THE TRUTH: Lifting Is Slimming
“You may be much smaller, inch-wise, but weigh a little more.”
Ignore those numbers on the scale and use the comfortable fit of your “most intimidating, scary pair of jeans” to assess the true benefits of lifting.
AMY TILLOTSON Trainer at Equinox
THE MYTH: It’s Dangerous
Just like crossing the street, there are risks involved in attempting any fitness odality,
THE TRUTH: It’s Good for You
The bone-protective strength built as a result of weight lifting helps to defend against injury in daily life. It can also improve performance in flexibility practices such as yoga and Pilates. “You might be surprised that strength training can help you hold your yoga poses longer,” she notes.
If you’re inexperienced with weights, work with a trainer to get started and rely on a workout buddy for spotting, motivation and accountability as skills improve.
Trainer at The Gym
THE MYTH: Cardio Is Queen
Too many women rely on intense cardio sessions as their only workout, says O’Hara, adding that if weight loss is the goal, it’s a mistake. “A five mile run is great, but you shouldn’t be doing that cardio to the exclusion of everything else,” she says.
THE TRUTH: Variety Is Preferable
Adding weights to your routine builds muscle that makes for a more efficient metabolism. O’Hara likens it to running a car with a bigger engine. “And that muscle burns more calories even while you’re lying on the couch watching TV,” she says.
Alternate intense cardio bursts with strength-training moves to maximize results and cut down on gym time.
THE MYTH: Little Weights, Lots of Reps Is the Way to Go
Smith says the benefit of lifting lighter weights in multiple sequences is in building muscle endurance.
THE TRUTH: Heavier Weights, Fewer Reps Is Better
To really build muscle mass that will obliterate fat and tone the body, lift weights that are so heavy you fatigue the muscles quickly.
Hoist weights so heavy you are exhausted somewhere between the tenth and twelfth rep.
Anyone who thinks domestic violence is a problem limited to other ZIP codes simply needs to listen for the calls coming into the Greenwich YWCA’s Domestic Abuse Services hotline. The phone rings fifteen to twenty times a day, sometimes more, says Suzanne Adam, the YWCA’s director of domestic violence services. True to her point, Suzanne had to briefly interrupt our interview about Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October) to take one such urgent call.
In Greenwich, by all measures a relatively safe community, domestic violence is consistently the second most frequently reported crime, second only to larceny, according to Suzanne. She estimates that 90 to 95 percent of the approximately 6,000 people the program services annually—that’s about 10 percent of Greenwich’s population—live in town.
Yet Suzanne notes that despite its pervasiveness, spreading the word that domestic violence is an equal opportunity issue remains a challenge. “There’s a cultural bias that can contribute to the idea that it’s not really a problem here,” she says. “You have to educate people that regardless of where you are—whether it’s Bridgeport or Greenwich—this is happening in families every day.”
Suzanne explains one reason people tend to underestimate the seriousness of domestic violence is a desensitizing she associates with images engrained in the media, sports and pop culture. “We live in a world where someone like [NFL football player] Ray Rice can brutally assault his wife on camera and people still come to his defense,” she says. She also points out that victims can minimize the problem as well. “There’s a misperception that domestic violence is something that always ends with someone being black and blue. It’s much more complex. It can involve sexual violence, emotional abuse. It’s a very complicated syndrome that manifests itself in many ways.”
TO HELP SHED SOME LIGHT ON THE ISSUE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE WE ASKED SUZANNE TO SHARE SOME KEY POINTS
1 VICTIMS ARE NOT ALONE
Domestic violence victims tend to feel isolated, vulnerable and often ashamed. But every nine seconds, a woman is assaulted by a domestic partner. “When it happens, we are here for you,” says Suzanne. The hotline is staffed twenty-four hours a day.
2 PREVENTION STARTS EARLY
The YWCA has programs for children as young as first grade that promote healthy conflict resolution. With adolescents, the focus shifts to dating violence prevention. “The key is to stop the cycle before it starts,” says Suzanne.
3 THE YWCA’S HELP IS FREE AND CONFIDENTIAL
This includes shelter options for families fleeing violent homes. “A lot of women living in these situations have deep economic fears. Where will they go? How will they take care of their kids? They feel stuck in abusive situations, but they are not aware these services are completely free,” says Suzanne, who notes the YWCA has witnessed an increase in demand for long-term shelter placements.
4 YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The YWCA is often looking for volunteers to help with its domestic abuse hotline, community education and prevention programs, and support services at the center. Visit the website for volunteer requirements.
5 FUNDRAISING IS CRITICAL
It takes an annual budget of $2 million to provide the YWCA’s services. One way to help is to make a donation or support the annual Old Bags luncheon, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. The popular event, held each spring, “literally keeps our hotline going,” says Suzanne.
Last December, one of Greenwich fitness instructor Wendy Rosa’s class regulars was diagnosed with breast cancer. The diagnosis came at an especially vulnerable time for her friend. “She was just reeling from the loss of her mother to cancer and then this news came. Her whole world was turned upside down,” says Wendy.
So when the fitness expert’s friend asked for help maintaining a workout routine during treatment, Wendy jumped in to help with the boundless energy of a woman who routinely teaches fifty fitness classes a week. She took an intensive course, earning her certification in cancer fitness. Then she created a first-of-its-kind Greenwich-based fitness class for women undergoing breast cancer treatment.
At press time, Wendy’s gentle, highly customized class was being held Saturday mornings at the Greenwich YMCA. Participants include women in treatment for various stages and types of breast cancer.
While Wendy deliberately dials down the intensity for women whose energy may be zapped by chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries, she says the workout is appropriately challenging. She includes some simple Zumba choreography adding in optional light weights, core and leg work as well as calming tai chi elements. Adaptations are made for a student’s individual concerns and limitations.
“What I’m giving them is a little part of their life that they want to keep,” explains Wendy, adding that research shows breast cancer patients who make exercise part of their recovery tend to have better long-term survival rates. “And what I’m getting back is something personal too. It’s become not just for my friend, but about a little bit of positive I’m trying to put back into their world.”
Breast cancer patients can have a variety of fitness challenges. Here’s how wendy works around those issues. Cardio Modified Zumba moves that are done at a pace that’s ideal for a woman fatigued by treatment. Leg and Core Work Movements done lying on the floor are less taxing, but highly effective. Optional Light Weights Can strengthen the upper body post- surgery, but students are encouraged to drop them if “they aren’t there yet.” Tai Chi Provides stretching benefits and alleviates stress and anxiety. “The idea is for this to be a feel- good experience.”
Above: Sophie, Stefanie and their busy kids Photograph: Esther Horvath
Sophie Koven is one of those busy Greenwich moms whose kid-shuttling needs require a detailed flow chart. With four children ranging in age from fourteen to one, Sophie conservatively estimates she spends six hours a week driving children to various schools, activities and sports commitments.
Carpools do help, but they come with their own inherent complications: long, drawn-out text conversations about other parents’ ability (or inability) to pitch in, and the glitches that happen when one kid has lacrosse practice the same time another has last-minute choir rehearsal— inevitably on opposite sides of town.
Sophie and her friend, Stefanie Lemche, a Westport mother of two, were convinced there had to be a way to reduce all that gas-guzzling idle time spent in the school pickup line and making solo crosstown trips. “It felt silly. It felt like we shouldn’t need Excel spreadsheets or endless text sessions to figure out who could or couldn’t carpool somewhere,” says Sophie. The friends decided to create a marketable solution. Drawing on their diverse professional experience and passion for greener transportation practices, the women teamed up to create GoKid, a free downloadable smartphone app designed to eliminate some of the most common roadblocks to efficient carpooling.
GoKid’s many smart conveniences include allowing multiple parents to join a specific carpool group and block off times when they can or can’t take turns driving. Parents can even track the day’s designated driver through the app’s built-in GPS device. “So if your child’s ride is late, you can actually figure out when they’ll be in your driveway,” Sophie says.
At press time, the GoKid app was set to hit the Apple store this fall. Sophie hopes GoKid ultimately delivers more carpooling efficiency and fewer needless solo trips. “The dream is that by using it you save on gas, you save on wear and tear on your car, but maybe the biggest thing you’ll save on is time.”
Before starting the first American office of London-based domestic staffing concern Angela Mortimer Ltd., Greenwich resident Stephen Candland had a decades-long career in corporate and executive recruiting.
Since becoming Angela Mortimer’s U.S. director two years ago, Candland has played a role in placing employees—everyone from nannies to personal concierges—in households in Fairfield and Westchester counties.
The recruiter notes that there are many parallels between hiring great corporate leaders and exceptional domestic talent. “Today’s [domestic employee] often takes on executive functions in the home,” he explains. “We are often looking for people who have the ability to make the way a household runs seem effortless.”
Candland recently filled us in on trends—and who’s who—in the contemporary domestic team hierarchy.
Does anyone hire a Downton Abbey-style butler or lady’s maid anymore?
They actually do. We just filled a job where the client was a retired ambassador in Georgetown. We placed a staff of four in his home, and he hired a very formal butler who is sort of his full-time personal assistant and welcomes the guests too. He packs the suitcases for travel and does anything and everything that needs to be done so this man can focus on matters he cares deeply about; things such as international diplomacy and statesmanship.
Any trends in domestic hiring that are especially popular locally?
In the Greenwich area it’s personal assistants. These are employees who can manage a family or couples’ activities, travel and schedules. They are often complementary to the housekeepers and nannies. One thing we hear often from our clients who are looking for this kind of help is that they are tired of managing the staff, the vendors, and all the various people who provide them with services. They want to enjoy their beautiful homes and their families more and worry a little less about keeping things running.
What kind of skills set you apart if you want to work for a high net worth family?
Often, it’s being able to do the job in a dedicated way. It’s not that you’re working 24/7, but sometimes you have to be available to meet needs on a moment’s notice. If the couple you’re working for is stranded in Dubai, you’ve got to be able to take that call and make the arrangements they need.
How important is discretion?
It’s the one thing about the domestic staffing business that’s really changed. In this era of technology, think about the personal violations that can happen just being tapped on a smartphone. That’s one reason why confidentiality agreements are essential. They are a part of the hiring process that can’t be overlooked.
Whether on or off the ice, Travis James strives for excellence
When crafting the men’s apparel line Tora, Travis James, a lifelong Cos Cob resident, obsessed (“and I mean obsessed”) over everything from the quality of his ultra-soft cottons to the stitching that allows the shoulders of his tailored T-shirts to drape just so. “For the longest time, I’ve wanted to create the simplest of garments with a flawless fit,” says James, a former professional hockey prospect, who long struggled to find casual, comfortable pieces that would hang properly on his athletically broad shoulders and tapered waist.
With prices starting at around $75 for his signature V-neck T-shirt, James hopes to make Tora the go-to brand for discerningly dapper yet laid-back guys. James spent years conceptualizing Tora’s polos, hoodies and T-shirts. “I never trained as a designer but always had a knack for it,” he says. (He designed his junior hockey goalie gear, “right down to the thread color.”)
The accidental designer, now thirty-two, was influenced by the stylish menswear that captured his attention while studying in Tokyo as a University of Vermont exchange student. “They are design masters and take their clothing and fabrics seriously,” says James. Tora, which means “tiger” in Japanese, was chosen because of the nickname James’ Japanese instructors gave him thanks to his fierce and ambitious nature.
Leaving the financial industry to bring Tora to market without the help of deep pocket investors required a lot of that ambition. He launched his label online last December while also working as an assistant coach for Greenwich High’s standout boys’ hockey team.
What do his young charges think of Tora? “Some of them appreciate the quality and colors,” says James. “But it’s not something I could really stand to see them tossing on the locker room floor. I do hope they’ll be customers in a few years.” tora.com