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More cheerfulness in the neighborhoods

13 Jul

You may recall a few weeks I posted a blog titled “Finding Cheer Amid Adversity,” in which I encouraged everyone to look around while we’re walking or cycling, and see some of the fun, creative and beautiful things in our communities.

My list that day included yarn creations wrapped around trees, a fairy garden, and an aggressive lawn Zoomba. Today I’d like to add a few more to that list.

This first one is a nice segue from my recent blog about Little Free Libraries. I saw this one on a bike ride yesterday morning which took me down Apple Orchard Lane on the north side of town. It’s especially creative, with an actual chalkboard so people could leave notes. It looks like some children had a hand in its construction, so, well done!

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Next, on a bike ride around my neighborhood a few days ago, I came across this sign posted to a tree which caused me to come to a complete stop.

It tells the story of the “Teddy Bear Hunt,” an effort begun during the pandemic which has spread all around the country. It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt. The idea is that homeowners put teddy bears in their windows, and kids can “go on a bear hunt,” walking through their neighborhoods in search of the elusive teddies.  Remember when we were all encouraged to put up rainbows in our windows for kids to find? It’s kind of like that.

Click closer into this photo and you can read the story for yourself. (And take a closer look at the other photo to see the bear in this home’s front window.) You can also click here for an article I found in the New York Times.  If you run up against a paywall and can’t read the article, simply Google “Teddy Bear Hunt” and you’ll find several others.

Now, get your bear and let’s all be part of the hunt!

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A day of celebration for our seniors

12 Jun

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June is packed with a lot of fun days as we celebrate the last days of school, and especially those students who are moving up to new schools. Tops on that list of fun days for me is the day our high school seniors — in their gowns — parade through the halls of their former elementary schools.

That couldn’t happen this year, but the district was able to come up with something pretty darn close.

This morning, our Webster Thomas and Schroeder seniors were invited to drive through their high schools’ bus loops, where they were cheered and congratulated by their teachers. They they spread out throughout the district to their elementary schools, where they were cheered again by their former elementary school teachers. Most of the cars were decorated to the max with streamers and balloons, and signs indicating the student’s future college or life plans.

The event is always a very touching moment for these teachers, many of whom haven’t seen these kids since they were in 5th grade.

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Plank North teachers lined the bus loop to celebrate their former students.

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Across the “street,” Plank South teachers welcomed their former students at the same time.

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Birthday parade honors former St. Rita principal

13 May

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Birthday parades seem to be popping up every week these days, but this one was an extra special one.

On Monday evening, a parade of cars of cars honoring Sister Katherine Ann Rappl streamed through the St. Rita parking lot, offering gratitude and 80th birthday wishes to the school’s former principal.

It was a complete surprise for Sister Rappl, who clearly enjoyed the parade, which numbered about 140 cars. Thank you so much to Julie Schillaci for passing along the included here.

Julie also sent this write-up about the school’s beloved former principal:

No matter how many years pass, alumni of St. Rita School in Webster will always be “God drops” to Sister of Mercy Katherine Ann Rappl.

Exceptional students at the school are recognized with this honorary designation and receive raindrop-shaped sun catchers to hang in their windows to remind them 84CD1B72-D0E9-48EF-96F8-E6E6EF5CF9F9of how they capture God’s love.

The phrase “God drops” was one that Sister Rappl picked up during a National Catholic Educational Association Conference workshop years ago

“A raindrop is fully made up of what a cloud is made up of,” she always said, noting that people are God drops because they are made up of the same substance as God. God’s life is inextricably intertwined with their lives, she said.

And for the past 30 years, the lives of the students at St. Rita School have been intertwined with Sister Rappl, who began working there as principal in 1983.

She taught at St. Andrew and St. John the Evangelist, Rochester; St. Salome, Irondequoit; St. Louis, Pittsford; and St. Patrick Junior High School and Notre Dame High School, Elmira.

Formerly known as Sister Mary Benedicta, her home parish was St. Thomas the Apostle in Irondequoit, and she attended the parish school. She said the Sisters of Mercy who taught her at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton were very influential in her discerning her vocation, and she became a Sister of Mercy in 1958.

Sister Rappl loves being in Catholic education because she has been able to teach children both academics and their faith, and she has gotten the chance to see students grow.

“That’s a big joy in seeing how they learn to take responsibility and control of their behavior from kindergarten to sixth grade,”

And, she always points out, J.O.Y. — an acronym that stands for Jesus, others and yourself — is the school’s theme.

“I always tell students don’t let anyone take your joy away from you,” Sister Rappl received the “Lighting the Fire Award” from the Catholic School Administrators Association of New York State for her 50 years of service in Catholic education.

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You may have heard some commotion last night in the village around 7 p.m. That was yet another birthday parade, this one for Fritz Sierk, owner of The Coach Sports Bar on West Main.

This one featured not only a fire engine and other emergency vehicles, but also the WFD’s antique engine, and that huge Teamsters semi, blasting music.

Hard to tell if Fritz saw it all; he seemed to have something in his eye for part of it.

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Seniors are getting celebrated in a big way

1 May
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Webster Schroeder senior Anya Swinson with her lawn sign.

If you’ve been on Facebook at all today, guaranteed you’ve seen some videos of a great event that’s happening all over town today.

Webster School District representatives are driving all around town today in a mini-parade led by a loudly-honking school bus, handing out lawn signs recognizing every single one of our high school seniors — more than 700 of them.

The school bus is being followed by Webster Schroeder teachers/staff, Webster Thomas teachers/staff, and PTSA volunteers in their cars. The parade is expected to continue until about 3:30, so keep an eye out in your neighborhood!

Click here to see video of the delivery to the home of Webster Schroeder senior Anya Swinson, who will be attending Mercyhurst in the fall. The Webster Central PTSA purchased the signs.

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An update on Bella’s Bumbas

5 Apr

In March 2017, I first introduced my readers to Webster residents Rebecca Orr and Marty Parzynski and their incredible grass-roots organization Bella’s Bumbas when I wrote about them in my D&C East Extra column.  (And here is a follow-up I wrote in January 2018.)

Their niece Bella was born in 2015 with spina bifida, which caused paralysis of her lower limbs. Troubled by Bella’s inability to move around and interact with other children, they did a little research and found a posting on Pinterest about how to make a toddler-sized wheelchair using a commercially-available “Bumbo” infant seat and a child’s bicycle tires. Marty got to work, and before long had built one for his niece. He called it “Bella’s Bumba.”

When word started spreading about what Marty had done and how it had changed Bella’s life, he and Rebecca started getting requests for Bella’s Bumbas from other parents. So they set up a workshop in the garage and started to mass-produce the wheelchairs, using mostly donated parts. They asked families only to cover the shipping costs.

Bella’s Bumbas has grown steadily since those early days, and to date Rebecca and Marty have built and shipped more than 1400 chairs to children all around the world, still only charging families for shipping costs — when they can’t arrange to deliver them personally.

Marty, the master builder, has also continued to develop their product, coming up with design improvements specifically developed for children with particular disabilities.

I was thinking about these fine folks the other day and wondering how their “business” was faring in these difficult times. Rebecca filled me in, saying in her email:

Wow 3 years ????? Who would have thought we would still be “rollin” and growing the way we are…. We have been blessed with amazing volunteers, literally around the world now. We have made some amazing connections and have our little chairs in 36 countries.

During this this “social distancing”  time , we are missing our volunteers greatly . Uncle Marty is slowly but surely still making chairs, aunt Becky is learning, and has made her first chair. Our granddaughter Sage has been helping since we started and has become proficient enough for us to send parts to her home and volunteer her time remotely. She is assembling chassis then will drop them off (via her mom’s help) and we will attach the seats.

Even with everything else going on in the world today, requests for Bumbas are still “trickling in,” Rebecca said. But, she added, Corona has affected them in one big way: they’re beginning to run low on the shipping boxes that are usually donated to them regularly by businesses which are now closed.

The perfect sizes are 50 cm. x 45 cm. x 28 cm. (Rebecca uses two of these for the small chairs); 28″ x 20″ x 14″, and 29″ x 14″ x 24″ are great for the large chairs.

If you’re getting Amazon deliveries regularly, you might also have the boxes they need; the ones that say P5 on the bottom are perfect (25.75″ x 20.75″ x 16.5″).

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Bella, the little lady who inspired Bella’s Bumbas

So if you have any boxes that are the right size, and would like to donate them, please connect connect with Marty and Rebecca through the Bella’s Bumbas Facebook page or email bellasbumbas@gmail.com. They also still have a GoFundMe page if you’d like to send a direct donation.

And little Bella herself? She’s now almost 5 years old, and thanks to the strength she was able to build with her Bella’s Bumba, she’s now walking with help from a walker, and is even taking a few independent steps. This for a young lady whom doctors said would never walk, and maybe even never sit up unassisted.

Here are several other photos from the Bella’s Bumbas workshops:

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Thomas swimmer wins Section V scholarship

12 Feb
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Zoe Masters (photo courtesy sectionv.org)

And the accolades for our amazing Webster athletes just keep on coming.

Section V Athletics recently announced its fall 2019 scholarship recipients, and Webster Thomas swimmer/diver Zoe Masters was among the winners.

According to the Section V website,

Zoe started swimming on the modified team in seventh grade and has been swimming ever since. She shared that “my family says I’m happiest when I’m in the water and I have the great opportunity to be able to swim year round. Swim is my only sport.”

Her highlight of the season was being “a co-captain this season. Having that opportunity allowed me to interact with everyone on the team and not just the varsity girls.” After high school she is planning to study Mechanical Engineering at RIT, where she also plans to continue swimming. One word that best describes her is “intentional.”

Winners were chosen based on a letter of recommendation from their coach, their high school transcript and activities sheet, and their responses to application questions. More than 80 athletes applied for this season’s scholarships, and only 13 were chosen across the entire Section V.

Winners in each sport receive a $250 scholarship for each sport to be used toward future academic endeavors. To read about all of the other scholarship winners, click here

Congratulations, Zoe!

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Welcome to the new pastor of the Webster Baptist Church

24 Jan
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David Spiegel, new pastor at Webster Baptist Church, with his wife Martha

A warm Webster welcome to the new pastor at the Webster Baptist Church!

David Spiegel officially began his duties last Sunday, January 19.

In his first church newsletter column, Dave told his congregants a little about himself:

I am Rev. Dr. David J. Spiegel, Sr. As proud as I am of the titles that I have earned the right to use, I prefer to be called Dave or David. I have been married to Martha for 35 years. We have 2 children, Shannon and DJ. Shannon, married to James, is the mother of William. DJ, married to Nicole, is the father of Delilah, Colton, Jack, Micah, Thea and Gideon.

I was born and raised in New Jersey. I have three sisters and a brother, Cindy, Lil, Becky and Rich, and they are each amazing people. My parents, Sid and Barbara, are both deceased.

I am a graduate of Northwestern College (BA), Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv.) and New Brunswick Theological Seminary (D. Min.). I love reading, cooking and sports. I am a fan of the New York Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers and the University of Arizona Wildcats.

I took the liberty of editing his comments, but if you would like his full column,  click here.

(And let’s see if we can turn him into a Bills fan.)

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The next Webster Museum docent?

23 Jan

Edison PoppHere’s a wonderful tidbit from our Webster Museum and how the folks there are changing young lives.

The photo above is of 7-year old Edison Popp. His grandmother, Marianne Ferrara, had taken him to the Webster Museum where Sharon Pratt and Lisa McNamara were serving as docents. They gave him a tour of the museum, and he was so impressed that, upon returning home, he set up his own museum and acted as docent.

As for me, I would love to know what some of those objects are and am very impressed that he had access to all of them. I see a college history major in the future.

Haven’t visited the Webster Museum yourself lately? Make sure to pop in soon to see their latest exhibits. Perhaps you will also be inspired, juts as Edison was. The museum is located at 18 Lapham Park in the Village of Webster, open 2-4 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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Good hockey, great cause

27 Dec

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If you like hockey (or even if you don’t), and want to help support an awesome cause, I have the perfect event for you next week, on Friday Jan. 3 at the Webster Ice Arena on Publisher’s Parkway.

It’s the Webster Beats Brain Tumors benefit hockey game putting Webster Schroeder vs. West Irondequoit. The annual event has been organized for the last four years by Webster Schroeder grad Marshal Scheidt as his way of giving back to the URMC medical staff who saved his life.

Here, allow Marshal himself to tell his story:

When I was in high school at Webster Schroeder I was diagnosed with a large brain tumor my freshman year and I used my desire to play hockey again to keep my spirits high through surgery and rehabilitation. I was able to “beat the odds” and play the game I love again.

When the tumor grew back my senior year, I played the second half of the season knowing that there was a tumor on my brain and I would undergo surgery again after the year was over. The amazing doctors, nurses, and medical staff at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) saved my life and I’ve always wanted to give back. Without the game of hockey I’m not sure I would have been as motivated to go through everything that went along with surgery, rehab, and radiation.

Because of this I have created the Webster Beats Brain Tumors fundraiser (formerly Brockport Beats Brain Tumors). This is the fourth year we have hosted this event to raise money and awareness for brain tumors. … This is a perfect way to give back, and together, we can make this horrific experience a little easier for kids in the future.

After the game, everyone is invited to convene at Buntzy’s Sports Bar, 2235 Empire Blvd. for a concert by Dawgs For a Cauz, more games and prizes.

Marshal’s goal this year is to raise $7,000, which will be donated to the Brain Tumor Care Fund to support care for patients with brain tumors and their family members and caregivers during all stages of treatment.

There are several ways you can support the cause, even without attending the game:

  • Make out a check to University of Rochester Medical Center with “Webster Beats Brain Tumors” in the memo, mailed ATTN: Brooke Whowell, 300 E River Rd, Rochester, NY 14627.
  • Make a secure gift online at event.urmc.edu/braintumorcare
  • Donate a raffle item for the raffle. Email mscheidt27@yahoo.com to arrange pick up of donated item.
  • Attend the game on Jan. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Webster Ice Arena, 865 Publishers Parkway. All proceeds from the raffle and promotional items will be donated to URMC.
  • Celebrate at Buntsy’s at 8:30 with the Dawgs For a Cauz concert
  • Volunteer: Email Marshal at mscheidt27@yahoo.com for more information.

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The stories are still being told

16 Dec

WAHAS_11x17_PosterIf you haven’t stopped by the Webster Public Library yet to check out the We All Have a Story: The Stories Continue photography exhibit, I highly recommend you take the time to do so in the next few weeks.

The exhibit, created by local portrait photographer and Webster Central School District employee Linda Hayes, takes a closer look at the lives and stories of 21 WCSD staff members to help illuminate the people inside the classrooms and offices who work with our children every day. The stories are thought provoking, happy and sad. But more than anything else, they’ll probably make you think, “Wow, I never realized that.”

My story is among them. I tell my story about how three simple — but powerful — words a teacher spoke to me many years ago changed my life and inspired me to become a writer.

You will probably know at least one other of the participants, which also include:

  • Joe Montemaro, WCSD Director of Technology
  • Elizabeth Livorsi, Spry math teacher
  • Elizabeth Ristow-Klem, Klem South music teacher
  • Sandy McCormack, retired Wilink special education teacher
  • Ashley Yang, Webster Thomas Social Studies teacher
  • Karen Murray, Webster Thomas administrator and Chester French, retired Buildings and Grounds
  • Kyle Suffoletto, Webster Thomas English teacher and his father Mike Suffoletto, current school board member
  • Diane Huot, Plank South literacy teacher
  • Marnie Weinmann, Plank North kindergarten teacher
  • Leslie Jones, Klem South literacy teacher
  • Julie Provenzano, Schlegel speech pathology teacher
  • Krista Lawton, Webster Schroeder English teacher
  • Hannah Formella, Webster Schroeder speech pathology teacher, with Julius, her therapy dog
  • Kelly Stevens, State Rd. art teacher
  • Leslie Hall, Webster Schroeder foreign language teacher
  • Martha Sullivan, Webster Thomas English teacher
  • Patty Cooke, Webster Schroeder guidance counselor
  • Sarah Harding, Klem North PE teacher

It’s worth a few minutes to check them all out, so next time you’re at the library, take the time to do so. Or make a point to stop by before the exhibit closes.

The exhibit runs the entire month of December, and is open to the public during the library’s normal business hours, Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 10 to 6, Saturday from 10 to 5 and Sunday from 1 to 4. (The library will be closed for the holidays on December 24, 25, and 31.)

The library is located at 980 Ridge Rd., its main entrance on Van Ingen Drive at the back of the plaza.

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