Wilton 25 of 2018
The Most Dedicated, Most Creative, Most Intriguing
We’re proud to celebrate 25 of the most creative, dynamic, generous, and entrepreneurial individuals that make Wilton such a wonderful place to live.
Rob Silvan is a dedicated and inspired jazz musician, composer, and music educator. He created the non-profit organization K.E.Y.S. (Kids Empowered by Your Support) in 2004 with a mission to “bring one-to-one instrument lessons and group music instruction to underserved inner-city children in Bridgeport who have no other access to this empowering life experience.” The organization also provides performance opportunities and ensemble experiences to young musicians, and now reaches over 600 kids.
Nancy Dolnier Pretty much everyone in Wilton knows and looks forward to seeing Nancy Dolnier who has been helping customers at the Village Market for over four decades. Having a party and need some advice? Have a non-profit in need of a platter? Nancy is your go-to person. “She always has a smile on her face, makes great suggestions, and welcomes everyone who steps through the doors of the Village Market,” says nominator Jeanne Robertson.
Heather Borden Herve is the popular editor-in-chief of Good Morning Wilton but should also be known for her huge heart, outstanding community involvement, and passionate advocacy for those in need. “The list of the causes and organizations Heather champions is far too long to enumerate,” says her nominator. “She is a huge asset to the entire Wilton community.”
JP Kealy After being diagnosed with multiple myeloma three years ago, JP Kealy has handled this medical challenge with courage, strength, and a positive attitude that has inspired our entire community. Determined to beat the odds and help raise money for a cure, Kealy put all his efforts into getting well and preparing himself to participate in a patient/doctor/caregiver fundraising climb up Mt. Everest. JP and his wife, Annamarie, raised just under $60,000 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. After a stem-cell transplant at Mt. Sinai Hospital, he happily discovered that he is now in complete remission.
Paul and Susan Lauricella mentor the Robotics Team that meets at the library. “They are volunteers who put in countless hours organizing the team, the projects, and the competitions,” says nominator Marina Isola Campbell. “They keep everybody motivated while maintaining a sense of humor, and the kids love them.”
Jeffrey Busch In addition to being a husband and father, Jeffrey Busch is a lawyer, justice of the peace, beekeeper, entrepreneur, and marriage-rights advocate. He and his partner, Stephen Davis, were one of six couples who sued the state of Connecticut for the right to marry. The plaintiffs won and Busch and Davis married on their 20th anniversary.
Franey Donovan “I would like to nominate Franey Donovan as Wilton’s most deserving unsung hero,” says Cate Breslin. “Mr. Donovan is the ‘voice’ of Wilton High School sports. Not everyone may know him by sight but any fan of Wilton sports certainly knows his wonderful voice. Out of the goodness of his heart and his love for the student athletes, Franey announces all the high school football games, girls’ and boys’ basketball games, as well as any other sport that asks him. Not only does he have the perfect voice for an announcer, but he calls all the games fairly and impartially, never letting his affinity to Wilton show.”
Chance Browne “One would be hard-pressed to find a more creative person in Wilton than Chance Browne,” says nominator Jack Disbrow. In addition to being an international cartoonist (“Hi and Lois”) Browne is also a painter, and a well-known musician who has played and sung with his band, “The Twinkies” since 1973.
Kevin Meehan & Jen Grass Nominator (and Wilton 25 awardee) Susan Schmitt is passionate about the Ambler Farm Apprentice Program run by Kevin Meehan and Jen Grass. “They have built this amazing program that hosts over 150 kids each year where they learn to work the farm and care for animals,” says Schmitt. “But it’s much more than that. Kevin and Jen teach our children to work together and demonstrate that much can be accomplished with hard work. In the days of digital technology, this program gets our kids out into the fresh air, learning about our surroundings. Kevin and Jen have made their program a town treasure.”
Janice Goff Hess When the Weir Farm Art Center experienced tough times nine years ago, Janice Goff Hess stepped up and volunteered to help—pro bono. Under her leadership as Executive Director, the Artist-in-Residence program has flourished, bringing in hundreds of topnotch artists from around the world. She has also raised funds and overseen the hugely popular Jazz in the Garden program. Nominator Ed Romer says, “Over the years I’ve known Janice Goff Hess there has been no one more dedicated than she is. Whatever the project, wherever the need, you can always count on Janice to help.”
Susan Schmitt is the indefatigable owner of The Painted Cookie, a nut-free bakery that provides delicious and safe treats for all. The perennially friendly baker can me found baking beautiful custom cookies pretty much seven days a week. A longtime Wiltonian, Schmitt started her business in her home kitchen and has successfully grown and expanded the brand, remaining unfailingly generous to all Wilton organizations.
Pamela Hovland has donated her creative services to define the visual brand identity and/or signage for AmblerFarm, Wilton Library, the Wilton Historical Society, Weir Farm, Wilton Playshop, ABC, Circle of Care, Wilton Episcopal Church, and others.
Skip Ploss is a popular special ed para-professional, IT guru, and frequent director at Wilton Children’s Theater. Ploss is also the author and illustrator of a number of self-published children’s books. In addition to positive messaging, many of Ploss’s books are designed to help children gain a better appreciation and understanding of different styles of art.
Anika Bhagavatula is a problem solver and passionate about science. Those combined talents led her to become atop-ten finalist in the Discovery Education 3M Top Young Scientist Challenge for her invention EcoBoom, a natural product designed to help clean up oil spills. Bhagavatula, now a WHS freshman, plans to continue developing her product and to become an innovator in the field of environmental science.
Julia Morneau is committed to raising awareness and shining a light on mental health. She helped to implement a week-long mental health awareness event held at the high school in May, and also launched littlemindsct.com, which raises money for families in need of mental health services. For Julia, it’s personal. The WHS student has struggled with ADHD, anxiety, and depression since she was six years old. Now, she wants to become a doctor so she can help others.
Greg Jacobson In 2011, four weeks before his wedding, pro-golfer Greg Jacobson was diagnosed with MS, but the life-long athlete refused to be defined by his diagnosis. Thanks to a Paramobile adaptive golf cart, Jacobson not only plays golf, he also teaches it to adults with intellectual and physical disabilities, works with stroke victims, military vets, and children with physical disabilities. He has raised $100,000 for the CT MS Society.
Genevieve Eason serves as the Vice President of the Wilton Youth Council and chair of the parent education program committee. “Genevieve works tirelessly to improve the overall well-being of our town and, specifically, the lives of Wilton students and their families,” says nominator Vanessa Elias. “ Her dedication, wisdom, insight, and passion inspire all who know her. She is a true treasure.”
Phil & Anne Richards along with their friend Ken Dartley floated the idea of “aging in place” to a group of seniors over a decade ago. The response was so enthusiastic that soon after, Stay at Home in Wilton was born. The membership-based organization helps seniors stay in their own homes while getting the support and services they need to maintain their independence.
Katherine Reid’s love of cats motivated her to start Animals in Distress, a no-kill cat shelter located in Wilton. Reid takes in an average of 20 cats at a time and runs the shelter with the help of volunteers and donations from the community. “She’s there every day administering medications to multiple cats,” says nominator Tess Martin. “She’s also out trapping stray and injured cats, getting them to vets—many times at her own expense—and works tirelessly to adopt them out. Katherine gets little recognition so I would love to thank her publicly for all the lives she has saved.”
Andrea Topalian In addition to being an award-winning photographer, a dedicated daughter to a mother with Alzheimer’s, wife, mother to three kids, and caregiver to numerous adopted shelter animals (the number is always growing), Topalian is a community champion. The original creator of the popular (some might say essential) Wilton CT 411 Facebook group, Andrea has done more to bring our town together than she ever could have imagined.
Les Lewis III Owner of Les Arbres Exceptional Tree Care and Fine Gardening is known as the “Tree Whisperer.” He has been a practicing arborist in Wilton and the surrounding area for over 40 years. Recently, Lewis III was awarded “Arborist of the Year” and at 71 he is still actively climbing trees, hoping to become the oldest active climber in all of Connecticut—a goal he’s close to achieving.
Liz Salguero and Dawn Landenheim co-founded Circle of Care over 14 years ago when Salguero,whose two-and-a-half year old son was still in treatment for leukemia, sensed the need to fill a gap in support services for newly diagnosed families. This Wilton-based non-profit organization now serves families across the state who are facing a pediatric cancer diagnosis. Circle of Care supports families from the moment of diagnosis, through treatment, and beyond.
Janet Montalbano uses her skills as a hair stylist and makeup artist to make people look and feel better. For over a decade, she has done pro-bono makeovers for women undergoing cancer treatments, battered women trying to get back on their feet, and women going through divorce and re-entering the workforce. She also launched the annual “Sip ‘n Shop” that benefits the Circle of Care, now entering its third year.
Hal & Judy Higby Over several decades the Higbys have volunteered and served on boards for the Wilton Community Nursery School, Wilton Board of Education, Wilton Children’s Theatre, Wilton Commons Board. Brownies, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Wilton Library, Wilton Playshop, Wilton Family YMCA, the PTA, the League of Women Voters, Wilton Historical Society, Wilton Commons Board and Visiting Nurse & Homecare.
Faye Kim worked as a pearl buyer at Tiffany & Company and then as the fine jewelry buyer for Bergdorf Goodman. After Kim and her family moved to Wilton, she began designing jewelry again and soon launched the Faye Kim Designs boutique in downtown Westport, where she has built a loyal following. Whether working on a new design or a private commission Kim creates jewelry that is timeless, stylish, and wearable.
The Wilton 25 Celebration is Thursday, April 26, 2018 for more information and to purchase ticket click here.