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Parenting Plus



Parents will do anything for their children. Some parents, by circumstance of illness or other challenge, go further, becoming activists who make a difference—for everyone.

When Eve Kessler’s son started school, there was little know-how for parents of special needs children about getting school services or available therapies. “This was 17 years ago, when few children in Wilton were diagnosed with autism. There was no place to fill this incredible hole of knowledge, and this hole in your heart. Knowledge wasn’t coming to you, you had to find it.”

A public defender with Legal Aid in Manhattan, Kessler knew research. “Another parent with an older child handed me her file and that’s where I started. I went to conferences around the country; I talked to experts, learning everything I could.” Meeting other families along the way, she saw she wasn’t alone. “People needed information tailored for their child and support—connecting with parents facing similar challenges. We started SPED*NET as a not-for-profit place for both.”

SPED*NET trailblazed for Wilton’s special needs families where there’d been nothing before. They authored a special services handbook that’s become the go-to resource distributed by school districts, including Wilton—“Bringing Knowledge to the Table: How to be an Effective Advocate for Your Child”—and published it online for free. They sponsored speakers, empowering parents to stand up for their children. News spread through Fairfield County, Westchester, New Jersey and beyond.

“We taught parents to advocate for their child and not rely on someone else. That thing about put your oxygen mask on first—you are the oxygen mask. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of your kid. If you’re not, no one else will.” SPED*NET continues as the resource for families desperate for information. “Seventeen years later, there are always parents in this ‘new’ situation,” says Kessler.

Jeff and Kristy Snyder faced a different “new” situation when their 12-year-old daughter, Kennedy, was diagnosed with spinal cord tumors at age two. They started the CORD Foundation after learning medical research into her rare cancer was grossly underfunded. “We took matters into our own hands, not to teach people, but to save Kennedy’s life,” explains Jeff, raising more than $1.8 million.

Jeff’s business is event marketing; he raises money the same way he makes a living—creating events to get people participating through fun. He spearheaded Wilton’s “Million Mile Run” team for pediatric cancer in September, raising $60,000 in one month. “Creating fun activities—scavenger hunts, poker tournaments—people feel helpless and want to help; it’s easier to jump onboard and have fun doing it. I design something so people not only open their hearts, but also open their wallets.”

Maryann Lombardi opens doors—literally and figuratively—on behalf of children with developmental disabilities, like her son Gianni. She became a fierce advocate in Hartford and DC against restraint and seclusion rooms in schools after discovering Gianni was regularly locked in a small room at school without her knowledge. She was instrumental in passing state law protecting children against punitive use of such methods, and advocated for legislation in Washington.

Now that Gianni is 22, Lombardi promotes creating independent living situations for adults with special needs. “Parents aren’t encouraged early enough to start planning. We think about college when typical kids start school, but when a child is profoundly disabled, we take a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, because we don’t know what’s next.”

She encourages parents to take initiative. “State Sen. Toni Boucher said to think, ‘What can we do to help the state to move forward?’ not, ‘What can we get from the state?’ I took that seriously. We needed to put our money where our mouth is. My husband and I did—we bought the house on our corner, renovated it, and made it a home for young adults with developmental disabilities.”

Lombardi hopes other families do the same, even though, she laughs, “It wasn’t easy! On top of renovating a house, you’re dealing with governments—local, state and federal. In Wilton—the building department, planning and zoning, health department, fire marshal; in the state, inspections for the rent subsidy program; the federal government has a role, because Medicaid pays for programming and support once the house is finished. It’s one step at a time—if you look at the whole thing, you’d go, ‘Oh God, I could never do that!’” Wilton, she adds, was great. “Everybody at Town Hall really wanted to help.”

Lombardi was vice-chair of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, and lectured about creative housing for a “Partners in Policymaking” class at UConn’s Center for Excellence. Making her individual experience work almost universally is the secret to her successful brand of activism. “My son is every child. Whatever I’m doing for him benefits every child.”

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November 2018

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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On November 11 from 12 – 3 p.m. bring your knitting projects or spinning wheels and enjoy a relaxing afternoon with seasoned knitters and spinners. They will coach you on your knitting challenges...

Cost: free, but donations in support of our fleecy flock will be welcomed!

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
View map »


Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

More information

A chamber concert of music for handbells, featuring varied bell ensembles -- solos (one ringer, many bells), duets, quartets, sextets and more -- performing popular classics in a singular way. This...

Cost: Free, with donations welcome: $20 suggested.

Where:
WEPCO Parish Hall
48 New Canaan Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Music on the Hill
Telephone: 203-529-3133
Contact Name: Music on the Hill
Website »

More information

The Sanctuary Series begins its 2018-2019 Season on Sunday afternoon, November 11, with "Studies in Virtuosity" featuring Ukrainian-Canadian pianist Dmitri Levkovich in the Sanctuary of the South...

Cost: $15 to $50

Where:
South Salem Presbyterian Church
111 Spring Street
South Salem, NY  10590
View map »


Sponsor: The Sanctuary Series
Telephone: 914-763-5402
Contact Name: Mary Jane Newman
Website »

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The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
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A Grammy Award-winning son of the legendary Bob Marley, Stephen continues his father’s legacy with forward-thinking reggae. In addition to his critically acclaimed, award-winning solo albums,...

Cost: $56

Where:
Ridgefield Playhouse
Ridgefield Playhouse
80 E Ridge Rd
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Playhouse
Telephone: 203-438-5795
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us for a FREE lecture! Falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults. However, the fear of falling doesn’t need to rule your life. Learn strategies for preventing falls and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stamford Health Tully Health Center
32 Strawberry Hill Court
1st Floor Auditorium
Stamford, CT  06902
View map »


Sponsor: HSS Sports Rehab
Telephone: 203-705-2933
Contact Name: Pamela Villagomez
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Wednesday, November 14th at 4:00 PM. Open to all ages. Decorate an apple with candy to make it look like a turkey! This event is free and no registration is required. Co-sponsored with the NS...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ruth Keeler Memorial Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Saturday, November 17th from 12:00 - 3:00 PM for kids K+. Plan on staying with your children and having fun together.   This year’s annual STEAMFEST will feature Mad Science’s special...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ruth Keeler Memorial Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

On Saturday November 17 at 6 p.m. join a wonderful team of astronomers and view planets, stars, and constellations. Note: Families are invited to a special preview in the Learning Center...

Cost: $4/New Pond Farm member ($16 max/family), $6/non-member ($24 max/family)

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
View map »


Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

More information

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