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The Top of the Mountain

Julie Hasselberger’s son, Daniel, who lives a severely medically restricted life with polymicrogyria, celebrated his 16th birthday recently. Julie had put out a request for birthday cards to brighten her wheelchair-bound son’s day, and found herself plastering his room with 845 cards received from all over the world — and they keep coming, says Julie. “A local 7th grade Girl Scout Troop came and sang to him at his school, STARR, at RIS, each holding a balloon and a card. Then we came home, and the Newtown High School XY Chromotones a cappella group, about 15 of them, was waiting in my yard. They came inside and sang the most beautifully harmonized ‘Happy Birthday’ song I have ever heard,” Julie says. A huge balloon bouquet, a giant pizza, cupcakes, flowers, and gifts all added to Daniel’s memorable 16th birthday. “Two very special girls, Haley Lambert and Romy Gold, came by with a giant banner they had made and a packet of cards from the entire 8th grade cluster they are in.” Julie adds, “If you sent [a card], I’m not sure if you realize how much impact you have.”

Golfers might want to check out www.charitybuzz.com/catalog_items/427010, where a round of golf at Newtown Country Club with Tiger Wood’s caddy Joe LaCava is up for grabs. The play date is being auctioned there to benefit Sandy Hook Promise. Or how about a Fender Guitar signed by Pearl Jam? Find it at www.charitybuzz.com/catalog_items/427012.

Newtown musician Jim Allyn says that the Newtown Youth Voices’ special film, Within Our Reach, in support of Sandy Hook Promise, is now online. To view, go to www.withinourreach.us. Jim cautions that the video function for mobile devices may not be optimized. The film features highlights from the June 8 gathering with Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary), Francine Wheeler, and others, and includes “vibrant artwork from youth around the world who participated in amplifying a message of hope, love and community.” Also, the Newtown Youth Voices new song, “Turning of the Year,” can now be downloaded for free at https://soundcloud.com/newtown-youth-voices/turning-of-the-year-newtown.

The WIN/FAITH Food Pantry Project at Newtown’s Starbucks reports that recent collections have included two boxes full of groceries. Plus, a WIN member received more than 50 items for the food pantry, and on another day one was given 46 items from Starbucks and four full bags of groceries. The WIN/FFP basket is inside the coffee shop. Donations are accepted during store hours.

Newtown Ambassador Girl Scout Troop 50651 is busy working toward the troop’s Eurotrip2014 Experience in April. The girls were part of the crafts festival set up at Edmond Town Hall this past weekend, and will return to the ETH gymnasium this Sunday, at the Newtown Holiday Craft Festival, from 11 am until 5 pm (free admission). Then it’s off to The Garage/Newtown Teen Center, 57 Church Hill Road, Sunday, December 15, from 9 am until 3 pm, with a Holiday Unique Boutique, offering free gift-wrapping. Friday, December 20, the troop will offer babysitting, from 5 to 10 pm, at Newtown High School. Register for babysitting at troop50651@yahoo.com. P.S. Can you donated cans and water bottles the girls can return for deposits? Drop off at any of the events.

Congratulations to Joan Moreno and Joseph Grills on their son Matthew’s latest achievement! Matt, a 2004 NHS graduate and 2012 grand prizewinner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finals Concert, will be the guest soloist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra this weekend, in Handel’s Messiah. The production takes place Saturday, December 7, at 7:30 pm, at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, in Hartford. Tickets range from $20 to $67.50, with student and young patron discounts. Call 860-244-2999 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org for reservations.

It’s time for the annual Folk Art Santas Open House. Last year Frank Navone of Newtown opened Panificio Navona, a bakery at 7 Francis J. Clarke Circle in Bethel. This year’s open house will again feature a presentation of hand carved and painted folk art Santa figures, as it did last year, and will be Saturday and Sunday, December 7 and 8, from 8 am until 5 pm, each day. Refreshments will be offered, and there is no charge to visit. Call 203-426-2927 for information.

Diana Paproski is thrilled to see a bumper crop of cedar berries this season. She had noticed more of the blue berries around the area than usual, she said recently, and then read an article confirming her suspicions. With the approach of Christmas, Diana is using plenty of the berries in wreaths and other holiday decorations, and finds it very comforting to know that cedar berries are a symbol of healing and strength.

It’s a heart break — from painting Hearts of Hope, that is. Sue Shaw, an organizer of the Newtown chapter, cites the emotional time right now and says, “We just feel it’s best to wait until January.” Volunteers host painting parties in Newtown, most of them at Newtown United Methodist Church. The ceramic hearts have gone out to Boston, Oklahoma, and Arizona, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Yale Children’s Hospital, military personnel, and to clients of FAITH Food Pantry. In addition, Sue mentioned that HoH-Newtown has started choosing a philanthropy project each month. No one is charged to participate in HoH events, but donations are always accepted. In October, the group donated $124 to The Hole in The Wall Gang Camp in honor of Great Pumpkin Challenge organizer Mackenzie Page, and in November the group added a $100 donation to its offering for FAITH Food Pantry.

Speaking of Mackenzie, Happy Sweet Sixteen! Rumor has it the young lady who launched The Great Pumpkin Challenge three years ago had a very special birthday on Monday.

It’s always a special day for me, of course, when I know that you’ll… Read me again.

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