Today Magazine • September 2020

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Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley

CLOUD WALKER More To ‘Crutchwalker’ Than Meets The Eye



Pandemic causes outbreak of generosity Community supports families via Gifts of Love

Special to Today Magazine

THERE’S AN UNTOLD STORY about the coronavirus pandemic — there has also been an outbreak of generosity. Despite rising unemployment, there has been a noteworthy rise in donations. “We are heartened by the number of people who are looking for ways to help,” says Nancy Carlson, the volunteer and outreach manager at Gifts of Love in Avon. “They are donating financially in record numbers, stepping forward to hold critical food drives, and volunteering their time in unexpected ways.” In recent months, Gifts of Love has had more than 80 new donors whose gifts have totaled over $10,000. This is in addition to the regular donors who continue to support this vital nonprofit. Online donations have increased dramatically in numbers and size. “Those donations are critical if we are to keep up with the increasing need as more people lose their jobs due to the pandemic,” says Carlson. The generosity also extends to the number of people reaching out to hold food drives. As news of the increased need

for food assistance has risen, people have been looking for ways to help. The result is a record number of food drives to feed Gifts of Love’s rapidly increasing base of clients. “The number and size of the food drives have increased,” says food pantry coordinator Michael Olivieri. “Among

keep up,” says Carlson. “With the help of our neighbors, we are determined not to turn away anyone who’s in need and comes to us for help.” Due to social distancing, Gifts of Love has had to discontinue its practice of having clients choose their own housewares, clothes and food.

“The generosity of our neighbors has been remarkable” — ancy Carlson i ts o ove those sponsoring them on our behalf were Boy Scout Troop 274, Farmington Woods, Keller Williams Realty, KinderCare in Granby, Simsbury Crew and Valley Community Baptist Church, to name just a few. Those drives have brought in 7,000 pounds of food and $7,500 in gift cards and donations. It’s been heartening to see our community reach out to so many people in need.” In addition to the 900-plus people Gifts of Love serves monthly, the client base has increased 10% during the COVID shutdown. “We’ve had to up our game to

Instead, volunteers are pre-packing bags of food for pickup. For over three decades, Gifts of Love has responded to the needs of working individuals and their families who have been impacted by financial crises “The generosity of our neighbors has been remarkable,” says Carlson. “Perhaps that is the silver lining in all of this. We are all in this together, and clearly many people have accepted responsibility to help us all get through this.” 860-676-2323

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Today Magazine • Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley

‘Crutchwalker’ Eyes Charity Hike

CONTENTS COVER STORY 4 — ‘CRUTCHWALKER’ + CLOUD WALKER An above-knee amputee, Dana Albrycht calls himself a “Crutchwalker” — and he’s hiking an iconic mountain range to benefit the disability community. COMMUNITY INTEL

8 — Moving Ahead With Forward CT Forward CT aims to educate, build community and advance civic neighborliness in the Valley. HONORING FIRST RESPONDERS

10 — All In A Day’s Work From saving babies to getting murder confessions, police chief Paul Melanson has served with distinction.

LOOKING FOR some inspiration as the summer wanes? Look no further than our September cover story on Canton native and Simsbury resident Dana Albrycht (pronounced All-bright). A lifelong above-knee amputee, Albrycht is going for a hike this month — but not just any hike. The self-proclaimed “Crutchwalker” plans to trek the grueling Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire’s White Mountains as a way to raise funds to benefit the disability community. A 1996 Canton High graduate, Albrycht was captain of the wrestling team and then captained his swim team at the University of Vermont. He competed as a swimmer in two Paralympic Games. The former pool director started swimming at 8 months old and says he “practically grew up at the pool every summer swimming all day with my friends.” Oh, he’s also the onetime worldrecord holder for Fastest Marathon On Crutches. An avid hiker, he’ll soon scale eight 4000-foot peaks in the White Mountains > search: Crutchwalker with a clear mission in view. + • Two other Valley magazines • Print Circulation — less than 20,000 • Today Magazine • Print Circulation — 42,000+ • Ad Rates — about the same


13 — Ravenswood: Haven For Herbal Medicine Seeking resources for natural remedies? Ravenswood Natural Health is (naturally) a go-to option. EQUITY AND RACE IN THE VALLEY

14 — Residents Invest In City Youth A partnership between local residents and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford is sowing hopeful seeds.


Bruce Deckert — Publisher + Editor-in-Chief 860-988-1910 • Today Magazine — > Digital Edition Facebook — @TodayMagazineCT • LinkedIn— Today Magazine Advertising — Contact the Publisher Editorial Associate — Kayla Tyson Contributing Photographer — Wendy Rosenberg • 860-305-1655 Today Magazine Online — Five Towns, One Aim — Exceptional Community Journalism


COVER STORY — WORLD WAR II REDUX THE ARTICLE on my father looks great and we all really appreciate it. Nice job on the story. Thanks very much. Chris Benjamin • Simsbury WHAT A WONDERFUL article on my father. Thank you for helping me Cynthia Crouch • Simsbury honor him. I RECEIVED THE AUGUST EDITION of Today Magazine the other day and it was the first thing I read. I particularly enjoyed the World War II Redux accounts of some of our local heroes — very well done! My late father-in-law (George Adame) was a member of General Douglas MacArthur’s elite bodyguard — known as the Honor Guard — and I enjoy reading about the accomplishments and bravery of service Lynne Adame • Simsbury members during WWII. EQUITY AND RACE IN THE VALLEY


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Editor’s Note — Our July issue included coverage of George Floyd’s death, with powerful comments by Farmington Valley officials (pages 18-19) • July digital edition: THE JULY ISSUE is a wonderful public service. Avon should be very proud of its police leader, our town council head, our state senator and our two state representatives. Thank you for reaching out to them and putting those pages together. Thank you also for the article from Noelle Blake. We have a good number of Hartford students in our schools. I worry about how at home they feel. I am sure the article will help. Of course, thank you for your continuing support for Avon history, both with Cal Miller-Stevens’ wonderful story (page 8) and AHS president Terri Wilson’s letter (page 3). Norm Sondheimer Avon Historical Society (AHS) TODAY MAGAZINE – – SEPTEMBER 2020




‘Crutchwalker’ Eyes Mountain Hike To Benefit Disability Community TWO RECENT SEARCHES on the popular GoFundMe platform reaped a combined 57,084 results. The first search — for Crutch — gleaned 6088 results. The second search — for walker — realized 50,996 hits. (You can check the math, but don’t get sidetracked and miss the rest of this distinctive story.) A third search found only one … single … solitary result. What was this unique search? Crutchwalker. The full GoFundMe headline — Crutchwalker: Hiking to Help the Disabled On that GoFundMe page, the “Crutchwalker” himself says: “My name is Dana Albrycht [pronounced All-bright]. I’m a lifelong amputee who grew up in Canton, CT and I’ve always had a passion for sports and helping others. I competed in the 1996 and 2000 Paralympics for swimming.” The Paralympic Games are held in conjunction with the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. “Combining my desire to be an advocate for people with disabilities with my passion for adventure,” Albrycht says, “together we have the opportunity to truly change the lives of people in the disability community through your support and contributions.”

“I went to any extreme to show people I was the opposite of ‘disabled’ — which is why sports played such a big role in my life” A Simsbury resident, Albrycht comprises numerous titles and designations, both exclusive and common — and, rolled into one, they define a singular life aiming for excellence: • Onetime world-record holder for Fastest Marathon On Crutches (2007 NYC Marathon) • Canton High School graduate (1996) • Captain of Canton High wrestling team • Captain of University of Vermont swim team • Bronze medal, 50M freestyle — 1994 IPC Swimming World Championships (IPC: International Paralympic Committee) • American record holder, 100M butterfly (1996-2004) • Son of Canton residents Richard and Cherilyn Albrycht • Dad of daughters Scottlyn (13), Acadia (3) and son Denali (7) • Husband of Simsbury native Jessica Demeo “I’m no stranger to the spotlight, for I grew up as an aboveknee amputee and happened to be pretty good at sports,” Albrycht tells Today Magazine — and if you detect a classic understatement in his “pretty good at sports” comment, you’re not alone. “These accomplishments brought a lot of notoriety my way, which at the time I shied away from because I did not want any attention drawn to me … now I’m actually trying to seek the attention for a good cause.” His tangible cause: Raise funds to benefit the disability 4


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By Bruce Deckert Today Magazine Editor-in-Chief

ROCK-SOLID Dana Albrycht has served as a school counselor at Har-Bur Middle School in Burlington. ON THE COVER Albrycht at Chaugham Lookout on the Jessie Gerard Trail in Peoples State Forest in Barkhamsted, Conn. community by undertaking one of the East Coast’s most challenging hikes on Sept. 20-21 — the 22-mile Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire’s fabled White Mountains, encompassing eight 4000-foot peaks, including the East’s tallest, Mount Washington (6288 feet). Two trail-mates plan to join Albrycht: Brett Attmore of Simsbury, a childhood friend since first grade at Canton’s Cherry Brook Primary School, and former Simsbury resident Michael Norton of West Hartford. Norton and Albrycht are the cofounders of True Adaptive LLC, a company that seeks to create innovative adaptive equipment for the disability community. “I have been an avid hiker for the past 15 years or so and now I do all my hiking completely on crutches,” he says. “I can no longer wear a prosthesis.” Albrycht, 42, explains why — and far more — in the following eye-opening Q&A:

He is an above-knee amputee and a former marathon world-record holder — clearly, there is far more to Dana Albrycht than meets the eye How did you become an above-knee amputee? I was born with a birth defect in which I had no right hip socket, and my femur was pushed up against my spine at a right angle. My doctor (Dr. John Hall) at Boston Children’s Hospital felt my best chance to live an active life would be to have my leg amputated, so at 11 months old that’s exactly what happened. So I’ve never known what it was like to have anything but one leg. What has been a bigger obstacle — the physical challenge of being an amputee, or the psychological/ emotional challenge? By far the psychological and emotional challenges of being someone with a disability. Growing up, I didn’t want people to see me as being “different”, and I definitely did not want people to have pity on me because I was an amputee, so I went to any extreme to show people I was the opposite of “disabled” — which is why sports played such a big role in my life. Sports was the “great equalizer” for me because I was either as good or better than my able-bodied peers, so I forced people to see me as something other than “disabled.” I felt I needed to be “the best” at everything I participated in, and never would I let on that I might be feeling sad or dissatisfied with who I was as a human being, so that way I was not looked at as having any physical challenges and would never warrant pity. The problem with this way of thinking is that I stuffed many of the actual negative feelings I was having about my disability and never allowed myself to explore or deal with these psychological or emotional challenges. It wasn’t until my swimming career was over after the 2000 Paralympics that these feelings really started to rear their ugly head and I was forced to confront them. How have you been able to overcome this challenge? Once my swimming career was over and I didn’t really have an outlet to mask the negative feelings, I started to have a lot of mental health problems in the form of depression and anxiety. I eventually found an amazing therapist who over the course of several years was able to help me confront my disability and allowed me to accept who I was, and love myself despite my differences. This was a game-changer for me, being able to be completely comfortable in my own skin, to love myself for who I was, and not allow external factors to determine my happiness. Why do you no longer wear a prosthesis? I wore a prosthesis my entire life, literally a wooden peg leg, and the reality was I was never really supposed to be able to walk very well with a prosthesis because of the fact I had no hip socket. But despite this I made the best of it and the muscles in my hip created a pseudo hip socket, which allowed me to walk the best I could. About three years ago I started feeling a tremendous amount of pain in my hip. I went to see Dr. Michael Joyce of Glastonbury, who is one of the premier orthopedic surgeons in the country, and he determined that my hip was beginning to degenerate and I had advanced signs of arthritis. Because of the uniqueness of my hip, a hip replacement is not possible, so it was determined I could no longer wear my

PEAK PERFORMANCE Dana Albrycht has summited about three-quarters of the 67 mountains in New England that are 4000-plus feet. prosthesis without experiencing extreme pain and doing more damage. This was a difficult situation to go through because I could no longer perform some of the activities that required two legs, so it was like experiencing having a disability all over again. But once I was able to accept this, I was able to move on, and so I am now a full-time “Crutchwalker.” Why did you choose the Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire’s White Mountains for this hike? Being in the White Mountains is pretty much like having a spiritual experience for me — I just love the beauty and majesty the White Mountains provide in New Hampshire. I wanted to do a hike that would really challenge me and that would push my body and spirit to the extremes. I also thought since we are having an election soon the Presidential Traverse seemed like the perfect choice. What is the purpose of your fundraiser? Where are the funds going and who will benefit? 2020 has been a really difficult year for many people, so I wanted to do something that would perhaps make people happy and really inspire others to help their fellow man and woman. Several years ago, when I lost the ability to use my prosthesis, I started to realize life is short and can change in a moment. Everyone has two lives, and your second one begins when you realize you only have one. So it was during this time that I made the decision to spend the rest of my life serving the disability community and trying to make a positive impact on a macro level. The purpose of this fundraiser is to inspire others and raise money to help several of the local and regional adaptive programs that help people with disabilities, and to create new programs that can truly benefit individuals with disabilities. I was very fortunate to have the resources to participate in a variety of sports and activities growing up. However, many disabled people do not have the resources to participate in sports because of the high cost of adaptive equipment — sports wheelchairs, prosthetic devices, specialized crutches, etc. — and many of these amazing adaptive programs TODAY MAGAZINE – – SEPTEMBER 2020


lack the funding to increase participation for the disability community. The high cost of adaptive equipment along with lack of funding for these programs is a barrier for participation. The money I raise will be put toward these programs, specifically ones that have had a major impact on my life, including the [New Britain-based] Hospital for Special Care’s Adaptive Sports Program and [New Hampshire-based] New England Disabled Sports, both of which have amazing programs and do so much for individuals but are also in need of financial resources. In addition, I want to create a mentorship program for children and teens who have disabilities. Individuals with disabilities are at a much higher risk for mental health issues, and unfortunately there really is not a program in our state that addresses these issues. Having a mental health background as a former school counselor as well as experiencing problems with mental health on a personal level, I feel it is crucial to start addressing all the various feelings that surround having a disability through a mentorship program at a young age, so children and teens along with their families will have an outlet that is currently missing to appropriately deal with this extremely important topic. What do you see as the benefit of participating in sports, and what have you appreciated most about sports? The ability to participate in sports despite ability level allows individuals to gain a sense of independence, confidence and camaraderie through physical fitness. This should be experienced by any person who seeks this out. What are the most important life lessons you’ve learned by playing sports? One of my favorite quotes is, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” I wasn’t necessarily the most talented or gifted athlete, but I was willing to work hard and push my body further than most could ever dream of, which is why I was able to reach the pinnacle of my chosen sport of swimming. This is a great life lesson that anything worthwhile is worth working hard for, whether sports, careers or relationships.



Courtesy Photos

BIKE HIKE — When he isn’t hiking, Dana Albrycht relishes riding on various Farmington Valley bike trails with his family.

I discovered the sport of wheelchair basketball just last year and I’m now a member of the Connecticut Spokebenders Wheelchair Basketball Team. I have fallen in love with the sport and appreciate so much the relationships and camaraderie sports gives me. When I think back on my athletic career in swimming, it was not all the medals or accolades that I necessarily remember fondly, but rather the relationships and bonds that I was able to form through sports, and to me this is much more important than any medal or record. If you have a two-hour window of time, would you rather play a sport or watch a pro sporting event? Without a doubt playing. I do not take for granted my ability to be able to go for a “run” in my sports wheelchair, or take my kids into nature and go on an amazing hike. These are experiences that help me grow as a human being, and I couldn’t be more appreciative of having this ability because you never know when it can be taken away. What do you see as the upside and downside of the emphasis on pro sports in our society? Pro sports gives people a way to see something absolutely amazing that most human beings simply are not able to do, and I think during 2020 pro sports have been extremely missed. However, the downside of pro sports [is that] being someone who is a world-class athlete can come with unintended negative consequences. Michael Phelps recently released a documentary on HBO called The Weight of Gold, which discusses the negative issues surrounding Olympians, specifically mental health issues. However, you don’t have to necessarily be a “world-class athlete” to experience these negative consequences. Speaking from my own personal experiences, my whole life was geared to earning a gold medal at the 2000 Paralympics. Literally, it is the only thing I thought about and strived for, and as a result, I only identified as a “swimmer and Paralympian” and not necessarily even as a human being. I fully planned on breaking the world record and winning gold in the 100M butterfly at the

DOUBLE DUTY In 1996 and 2000, Dana Albrycht competed as a swimmer in the Paralympic Games. He was the pool director at Mills Pond Pool in Canton from 1995-99. 2000 Paralympics, but when I was in Australia and got injured the second day I was there, I barely was able to make it to the finals of this event, let alone win the gold, and I was completely devastated. Because everything in my life was built around this moment and in my mind I had failed, it was extremely difficult to deal with and comprehend — I felt absolutely worthless because I had not accomplished my goal. It wasn’t until I worked with a great therapist who showed me the folly in this way of thinking that I appreciated everything I had accomplished despite not reaching that goal, and [this] helped me not identify simply as an athlete but as a living breathing human being with purpose — this is the same therapist who worked with me on my disability issues and who influenced me to get a degree in counseling to help others. This is why it is so important for an athlete to live a wellrounded life and see oneself as a well-rounded human being and not just “an athlete.” What is the main message you want to communicate to people with disabilities and similar life challenges? The one thing that people with disabilities and physical challenges share which connects us all is “the struggle” — people with disabilities do not like to talk about the fact that sometimes we have hard moments or days because of the physical challenge one faces, because we never want the outside world to see we are struggling. But what I have had to learn the hard way is that it’s OK to say, “This really sucks right now, but you know what, that’s OK.” What’s not OK is wallowing in self-pity because that’s a recipe for disaster. I have a motto: Accept, Adapt, Overcome. Accept the situation you are in and realize you are not happy about what you’re going through. What can I do to Adapt to my situation in order to put myself in the best situation to succeed — and this may come in the form of doing something in a different way, using a piece of adaptive equipment to make things easier, or asking for help. People with disabilities often don’t like asking for help because it makes them look “inferior,” but asking for help should be looked at as a sign of strength because you are comfortable and confident enough to understand you need help to accomplish a certain task or goal and that’s OK. And finally Overcome — have the willingness, discipline and fortitude to do whatever it takes to overcome whatever obstacle is put in front of you. Everyone has problems or “mountains”

in their life, whether you have a disability or not, which is why hiking is such a great metaphor. Another phrase I like to use is: “One step at a time, one mountain at a time”. What is the main message you want to communicate to the non-disabled population about people with disabilities? The body is simply a container for the human spirit; we come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. No matter the physical challenges one faces, we all have the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life and overcome whatever mountains are placed in front of us. + > search: Crutchwalker

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Forward CT seeks to educate, build community Examples of past accomplishments?

By Emmaline Howe Special to Today Magazine

ONE COMMUNITY, One Project is a new initiative of Forward CT in the Farmington Valley, with the goal of engaging residents to make our community even stronger. A new theme will be launched every quarter of the year. The first is a public education campaign about the Connecticut law that prohibits vehicles from idling longer than three minutes. Avon residents Carrie Firestone and Eleni Kavros DeGraw are the co-founders of Forward CT. Firestone has answered the following Q-and-A (edited for length). What is the mission of Forward CT? Forward CT was founded on four pillars. • CONNECT — we connect people to one another with the purpose of building community and encouraging service and civic engagement. • INFORM — we share relevant information on a variety of social issues and present forums designed to help people better understand important topics. • SERVE — our service team partners with local nonprofits and creates win-win service projects. • LEAD — we support local residents who show an interest in running for office and encourage civic engagement in all its forms.


Forward CT has hosted community forums on topics such as climate change, effective charitable giving, healthcare, immigration, prison reform and “how not to be a bystander.” We have spearheaded dozens of service projects — from partnering with Hartford-based My Sisters’ Place to give residents coats and laundry detergent and school supplies, to helping Hurricane Maria victims get furniture, to assembling basic necessity care packages for refugee families, and much more.

Yes, we’ve gotten the Avon Coalition for Climate Justice group to partner with us. We’ve also met with the Avon Clean Energy Commission and the Avon/Canton Rotary Club, and have presented at the Farmington Library. If your family, business, school or organization would like more information about our One Community, One Project Anti-Idling Initiative, please contact Carrie Firestone at or follow One Community, One Project on Facebook.

Why is idling a problem?

What is the anti-idling initiative?

Breathing the exhaust from idling is linked to dangerous health issues like asthma, lung disease and heart disease. According to Sustainable America, idling wastes 3.8 million gallons of fuel and $11 million in the U.S. every single day. Yet we often see people idling in parking lots. School buses and cars often idle in school parking lots and pickup lines. Idling can damage your car engine and, in states like Connecticut, idling longer than three minutes is against the law.

Our first One Community, One Project initiative focuses on spreading the work about idling. We have found that once people are aware of idling, they quickly stop. We are encouraging people to be more mindful of idling and to share anti-idling information with friends and neighbors. We also encourage local schools and businesses to consider posting info about idling in parking lots and near drive-thrus.

Several Avon High students have been involved. What is their role in the organization? What Avon groups have you contacted to help with this effort?

How does this fit with the mission of Forward CT? Forward CT’s mission is to find local ways to address global issues. Idling is one of the ways people in our community can reduce emissions and combat climate change. +

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PROUD campaign celebrates town heroes Giving thanks for volunteer firefighters, EMTs

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THE CANTON COMMUNITY has come together in recent months to celebrate the local volunteers who contribute greatly to the good of the community. Residents are expressing their greater appreciation for community volunteers during the global health crisis with videos sharing kind words and gratitude. In other words, Canton is celebrating the volunteers who make them proud. The PROUD campaign is designed to help the community give back with words of thanks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these volunteers contribute significantly to the safety and protection of Canton residents, businesses and visitors, which is why it is so important to honor them. Local business owners and town residents are submitting videos of appreciation to the Canton Volunteer Fire

The PROUD campaign is designed to help the community give back with words of thanks

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& EMS Department, voicing what makes them PROUD of their community. Now more than ever, the slogan “We’re all in this together” rings true to Canton citizens, and people have decided to take action. So the Canton Volunteer Fire & EMS Department is inviting the Canton community to express what makes them PROUD. Here is how you can participate: • Create a 20- to 30-second, selfie-style video. • State your name, title (if appropriate), department, organization, business or other Canton affiliation. • Share a comment about your experience with our volunteer firefighters, EMTs and/or fire police. • Finish your video with a statement as to why your comment makes you “Canton PROUD.” Now is the time to come together and give Canton all the more reason to be PROUD. + Info —

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From SWAT to police chief, Melanson has seen it all Special to Today Magazine

SIMSBURY NATIVE Paul J. Melanson served as a West Hartford police officer for 20 years before being appointed Farmington’s police chief in May 2009. After graduating first in his Connecticut Police Academy class, Melanson began his career as a patrol officer and accepted increasingly responsible roles throughout his career — such as hostage negotiator and SWAT team member (Special Weapons and Tactics). Melanson, 51, is currently the oversight chief for the region’s SWAT and crisis negotiator teams. In West Hartford, he held the ranks of captain, lieutenant and detective sergeant — investigating many serious crimes — and also served as a bicycle officer and polygraph operator. Plus, he oversaw the acquisition of Tasers and the introduction of a computer-aided dispatch system. In 2003, Melanson was honored as national runner-up for the American Legion’s Police Officer of the Year award. He speaks about his multifaceted career in this wide-ranging Q&A with Today Magazine: Born and raised — Simsbury, CT What motivated you to become a police officer? When I was 16, I became a cadet in the volunteer fire department, and at 18 started volunteering as an emergency medical technician for the volunteer ambulance. I enjoyed helping people and working at a job where every day is different. Policing has allowed me to do that.

Most satisfying aspect of your police work? A mere thank-you from someone you’ve helped, whether someone needing assistance or a victim. Most memorable moment? There are so many — from chasing down criminals, to getting confessions from rapists and murderers, to responding to two scenes where officers were murdered, to having a 19-year-old on drugs try to shoot me and my partner (only to find that the bullet didn’t fire because it was too rusty), to clearing an obstruction from a nonresponsive infant and then a week later getting a thank-you card from the parents with a picture of the baby doing well. Of the police movies or TV shows you’ve seen, which comes closest to the real deal? COPS would be the closest. However, none of them show the hours of paperwork required for every arrest and the months of waiting for forensic lab results • Editor’s Note: COPS is a reality TV show that features real-life police officers The best thing about my town is: The community support and the police and town employees I am honored to work with. The main thing I’d like to see change in my town is: continued on page 15

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Courtesy Photo

World War I veterans from Simsbury’s American Legion Post 84, across various branches of the military, gathered in May 1923. Simsbury is celebrating its 350th anniversary this year — yes, the town was founded in 1670.

Ravenswood Natural Health

MAGLIERI construction & paving inc. QUALITY & SERVICE Since 1975

1606 Hopmeadow St. Simsbury 860.264.1587

Commercial & Residential


Discover the 2020 Best of the Valley Press Health Food Store! Four fabulous rooms

² ²

Carefully curated selection of regional and national brands


Small Batch Central & Zero Waste sections


For Call EE FR tes a Estim

860-242-0298 Licensed & Fully Insured LIC # 523704

39 West Dudley Town Road, Bloomfield


Thank YOU for your support!

Hours: Tues. – Fri. 9.30 – 5.30 Sat. & Sun. 10 – 5




Ravenswood a haven for merits of herbal medicine

Special to Today Magazine REMEDIES FOR HEALTH ISSUES are vital in general, but especially during a pandemic. For all who seek resources and education regarding natural remedies, Ravenswood Natural Health has been a go-to option in the Farmington Valley for a decade. Celebrating the shop’s 10th anniversary in 2020, owner Sara Thornton has lived in the Valley since 1985. She has researched herbal medicine for decades and holds two multiyear certifications through Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, a renowned clinical herbalist. Thornton, 58, says she was “raised all over the USA.” Today, she lives with her “middle-aged cat” — Flash! — and whimsically adds, “Yes, she has an exclamation mark in her name.” Business slogan: Science and nature, together naturally — from Aromatherapy to Zero Waste! Why did you choose this profession? To resolve childhood ailments. Most enjoyable aspect of your work? Finding solutions and helping people integrate herbal medicine into their lives. What is your main obstacle, and how can you overcome it? Herbalism in the U.S. has a huge credibility issue. Many people equate herbal medicine with magic rather than science-driven, efficacious products that have been used safely for centuries. I overcome this with my dual certifications — from Tieraona Low Dog, an MD, clinical herbalist, teacher and author — and by presenting proof that herbs work through clinical trials, websites, etc.

——————————————————— Ravenswood Natural Health 1606 Hopmeadow Street • Simsbury CT 860-264-1587 Year Established — 2010 ————————————————— Most satisfying accomplishment in recent years? Sustained growth – and we are already 10 years old! We are always expanding and looking to fit more and better things in. Goals for the next five years? Continued growth, of course! Expanding our Zero Waste alternatives, keeping up with customer trends, and adding something to our empty north lot. What sets your business apart? We are the only herb shop in the Farmington Valley owned and operated by a dual-certified clinical herbalist. The depth of experience and knowledge ensures top-notch products that really work. What do you appreciate most about the local business climate? The diversity and range — I can collaborate or use local businesses for many projects. What constructive change would you like to see regarding the local business climate? More support for businesses on the north end of Simsbury — it seems everyone thinks that Simsbury ends at the north end of Iron Horse Boulevard. Which business leader today inspires you most? Oh dear … today? If I could add a few years to that: Gen. Henning von Tresckow was a leader in the German Resistance. His courage and morality have always been an inspiration. Gen. George Patton, too. And Winston Churchill once said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Well, I suppose war is a sort of business, right? Further comment — Ravenswood is an oasis from the crazy world. We offer space to catch your breath, find some great supplements, grab tasty snacks and more. … Everyone is welcome. The shop is a neutral place where all people are welcome and should feel relaxed — able to leave the world outside the door. +

Ravenswood is an oasis from the crazy world. — ara hornton

It’s coming along!

Our ATM at 741 Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury is open as we continue renovating the office.

Before we can move in, we invite you to contact us now with any of your banking needs. We’ll answer the phone. We’ll help you switch banks. If you’re already a customer, we truly appreciate your business. Look for our grand opening this fall to come meet our staff!

Avon, 101 Simsbury Road, 860-677-2809 Granby, 33 Hartford Avenue, 860-653-8397 New Hartford, Torrington, Winsted

Member FDIC

NMLS ID: 510148




Natural health shop celebrating 10 years


Seeing the value of investing in city youth By Lisa Heavner Special to Today Magazine

THE DUAL CHALLENGE of the pandemic and the legacy of racism have brought to the forefront the cracks and inequalities in our society and within our state. For too long, there has been a gap been two Connecticuts — one of opportunity and one without. Last winter, long before the world knew George Floyd’s name, state Rep. John Hampton reached out to Alan Kreczko, a Simsbury resident and chair of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford (BGCH), to discuss how to bridge that gap through closer collaboration between Simsbury and BGCH. Hampton’s call was prompted by his concern over several racial incidents at our schools and by the optimism that we could start to undo stereotypes and create opportunities for both communities if we could connect our communities more. BGCH was receptive and a small contingent of Simsbury officials — Hampton, First Selectman Eric Wellman, school board member Sharon Thomas, former state Rep. Linda Schofield and I —

Residents partner with Boys & Girls Clubs went to BGCH on Asylum Hill to discuss possibilities. We toured the facility and learned how critical BGCH is in Hartford. Last year, the clubs served nearly half of Hartford’s school-aged children, ages 6-18, at multiple city locations. BGCH provides a safe and nurturing environment

essential pathway to opportunity and is closing the gap. Kreczko and BGCH CEO Sam Gray asked that we consider forming an advisory committee of Simsbury community leaders to meet periodically with BGCH, learn what the clubs are trying

We know Simsbury’s success depends upon Hartford’s success, which depends upon its kids succeeding for 8,000 children. BGCH prepares children to become productive adults through programs that focus on good character and citizenship, academics and career preparation, and healthy lifestyles. The impact is documented and dramatic: higher graduation rates and lower substance abuse, juvenile crime and teen pregnancy. Eighty percent of the children are from single-family homes, and support from the clubs allows parents, mostly moms, to work full-time. BGCH provides an

to achieve, and suggest new approaches, ideas and partnerships to enhance their programs. I am proud our community responded with a resounding yes. Nearly everyone we asked joined the BGCH Simsbury Advisory Committee: politicians, public and private school officials, businesspeople, ministers, students. Our first meeting produced offers to involve BGCH kids in activities that are readily available in our town, but not in most Hartford neighborhoods, like camping, crew, art camp, even

YOUR RESOURCE FOR RECOVERY Inpatient and Outpatient Rehabilitation Physical Therapy • Speech Therapy Occupational Therapy 860-693-7777 • 102 Dyer Avenue, Canton, CT 06019

We offer complete cremation services at

FARMINGTON VALLEY CREMATORY The only on-site crematory in the Farmington Valley The Vincent Family caring for yours for over a Century, since 1902 880 Hopmeadow St. Simsbury, CT 06070 (860) 658-7613

120 Albany Turnpike Canton, CT 06019 (860) 693-0251 14


WELDEN HARDWARE Your hometown hardware store serving all your seasonal needs Serving Simsbury and the Farmington Valley since 188 10 Station St., Simsbury • 860-658-4078 •

CALENDAR Event info is accurate to our knowledge — but be sure to confirm

Canton Main St. Farmers Market Canton Town Hall – parking lot Sundays thru 11/1 – 10 am-1 pm Dance Open House • FREE Mini Classes Connecticut Dance Academy Canton • 860-707-4198 Saturday 9/12 – 10 am-2 pm No registration needed Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center • FREE Movies in the Park Sat 9/12: Jurassic Park – 7:30 pm

Our digital edition is posted well before the month begins Get an early peek at the Calendar – Sat 9/26: Raiders of Lost Ark – 7:15 Get FREE tickets (space limited) at: Gates open at 6 pm • Darius Rucker resked – 8/28/2021 • Septemberfest canceled Simsbury Art Trail Numerous Simsbury locations Every day thru 9/29 – all outside Classic Seward Johnson statues: Sponsor – Simsbury Chamber Back to School Drive Thru 9/30 – Drop-off location: Canton Community Center Donate school supplies for Canton pupils –

horseback riding. Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center has formed a close relationship with BGCH, and the Simsbury ABC House recently secured a precedentsetting waiver from its national HQ to take applications directly from BGCH kids. Simsbury resident Rene DaguerreBradford has worked with other Farmington Valley women to produce 1,000 COVID masks for BGCH staff and kids. While we may not be able solve all the world’s problems, small acts within our community make a difference. We are thankful for the opportunity to be engaged.

While we may not be able solve all the world’s problems, small acts within our community make a difference We know Simsbury’s success depends upon Hartford’s success, which depends upon its kids succeeding. BGCH is doing a tremendous job for these children, but we can help the clubs do even more. As our country — and our Farmington Valley community — grapples with the impact of racism and the challenges of poverty, we need to share our skills and open doors to opportunity. We all benefit from these shared experiences. We welcome your help. If you would like to volunteer or learn more, please reach out to a committee member — Sam Gray (, John Hampton (, Lisa Heavner (, Alan Kreczko (, Eric Wellman (, Sharon Thomas ( + Lisa Heavner is a former First Selectwoman of Simsbury and currently serves on the Board of Finance

Send Events:

Online: Fitness Classes for Kids! Mondays – 4:45 pm FREE – all ages • Register at: Online: Beginner Pilates Thursdays – 6-7 pm Online: Intermediate Pilates Mon 9-10 am – Wed 8:30-9:30 am • Magna Physical Therapy, Avon Register — 860-679-0430 Granby & Simsbury Chambers Golf Tournament Hop Meadow CC, Simsbury Tuesday 9/1 Register —

MELANSON — continued from page 10 I think everyone would agree that reducing traffic congestion would be a top priority. Favorite spots in the Farmington Valley: My favorite spot is in a hockey rink playing a game with friends or coaching kids — it’s always the best part of my day in the winter. Awards — National Runner-Up: Police Officer of the Year, American Legion (2003) • State and Northeast Region: Police Officer of the Year, American Legion (2003) • Police Officer of the Year — West Hartford Exchange Club (1996) • Courage of Connecticut Award for bravery Education — Northwest Catholic High School • UConn, bachelor’s in business administration • FBI National Academy, 2016 graduate Committees + Organizations — Tunxis Community College Criminal Justice Advisory Board • Connecticut Polygraph Association • Connecticut Special Olympics Board of Directors • Police Officers Standards and Training Council • and other professional groups Hobbies + Volunteer Work — Special Olympics • Coach, Simsbury Youth Hockey and Simsbury High girls varsity hockey +

Heritage Day Simsbury Historical Society Saturday 9/26 FREE • Revolutionary War actors+ Gifts of Love Charity Golf Tournament Golf Club of Avon Tuesday 10/13 – 10 am Seeking sponsors • 676-2323 Celebration Gala The Riverview, Simsbury Friday 11/13 50th Reunion: Simsbury High ’70 • Postponed – new date TBD Info:

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860-676-9667 225 Hopmeadow Street Weatogue, CT 06089

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GOLDEN NUGGETS A goldfinch finds nourishment in a Canton backyard. Below, a bluebird calmly perches.

Photos by Wendy Rosenberg

Practices in Care Change … Our Priorities Don’t

Safety, comfort, and responsiveness have always been the hallmarks of care and service at both of our facilities. We don’t take anything for granted. Today our experience enables us to sustain the high quality care these ever-changing conditions require. We provide personalized post-acute and transitional care, traditional long-term care, dementia, hospice, and respite care services. Let us tell you more. Family owned and operated

652 west avon road, avon 860-673-2521



130 loomis drive, west Hartford 860-521-8700 PRESORTED STANDARD US POSTAGE PAID AVON CT PERMIT NO. 174

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