Enabling Tomorrow’s Leaders: Rotary Sponsors Two to Leadership Conference

Helping Others:

By Bill Maxwell


RYLA;’s logo: Click on image to learn more.

The Rotary Club of Ridgefield, doubling down on past levels of participation, is sponsoring two local high school students – Aspen Shafer and Skylar Shafer – at this year’s Conference of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). RYLA is an internationally recognized program for young adults and each year more than 9,000 young adults are sponsored by Rotary Clubs in over 25 countries. The RYLA conference will be held October 31 – November 2, 2014 at Camp Hazen in Chester, CT.

The conference is designed to increase the leadership skills and commitment to community service for the attendees. The selection criteria for the attendees includes: demonstrated leadership in school or community organizations, ability to make moral decisions, willing to be a participating member of a group, be informed about current events, and willingness to express one’s thoughts in front of an audience.

You probably guessed that Aspen and Skylar Shafer are both sisters. In fact, they are twin sisters. Both expect to graduate from Ridgefield High School in June 2016. “We are sponsoring Aspen and Skylar who, in addition to their studies and part-time work, have been involved with the Midnight Run for the homeless in New York City to other various charitable causes,” said Rich Vazzana, Rotary Club President.

At the Club’s November 12 meeting, last year’s RYLA attendee, Allie Savino will be the speaker. Allie excelled at enhancing her leadership skills and she has earned an invitation to return at this year’s conference — this time as a conference leader.

“Enabling tomorrow’s leaders is an integral focal point of Rotary Youth Services and I am proud that our club is supporting the leadership development of our young adults,” states Rich.

If you are interesting in learning more about Rotary Youth Services in Connecticut, please visit the Rotary District website: http://rotaryyouthservices7980.com.

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Megan Smith-Harris and BOY|BLUE

Having Fun / Helping Others


Blue, a Labradoodle

(President Rich Vazzana requested that we link to the BOY|BLUE website – just. click on Blue, or here to learn more.)

Megan Smith-Harris was our speaker at the evening meeting on September 3.  Megan is producing and directing a documentary film  BOY|BLUE.  The film is “a poignant, joyful portrait of the relationship between seven-year old Liam Peterson and Blue, his specially trained autism assistance dog.”  In the process of discussing the film Megan also educated us about autism. Faqs from the film’s website:

What Is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex differences of brain development. These differences are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors, as well as by gifts such as increased visual skills, a heightened ability to remain focused on a task and a refreshing inclination to think outside the box.

How Common is Autism?

According to the latests statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Studies show that autism diagnosis is four to five times more common among boys than girls, but this may be a failure on our part to identify girls on the autism spectrum. Female brains are different from male brains, and this difference may impact the presentation of the child as well as the diagnosis of the professional. An estimated 1 out of 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are currently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders in the United States; ASD affects over 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide.



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Mentoring Costs You No Money

Having Fun / Helping Others

By Bill Maxwell

Speaker Summary
District Governor Mukund Nori
Rotary Club of Ridgefield, August 27, 2014


DG Nori’s banner. A Rotary District Governor serves for one year. Each Governor is encouraged to adopt a banner expressing his or her theme for the year.

During our last meeting in August, we enjoyed a spirited and enthusiastic talk from our District Governor Mukund Nori. Larry Gardner, our Assistant District Governor and who is no stranger to us, introduced Mukund with extensive detail that exemplifies Mukund as living “service above self” in all that he does each and every day.

Mukund’s call to action for Rotary members included mentoring people and how every dollar impacts our international projects.

He is passionate about mentoring others and Mukund encourages us to “mentor someone as you have always something to give.” Seize opportunities to mentor and he underscores the importance of smiling as it makes you attractive to others and it is contagious. Of course, he emphasized that when you mentor, “be prepared to talk about what Rotary is about.” For Mukund, Rotary is about “it is the most fun in making people happy and helping people in their lives and in making people smile.”

He then discussed the global impact of Rotary projects and he emphasized that one dollar goes a long way in our various initiatives. Mukund encouraged us to think about “a dollar for a lifetime of immunity from polio,” “a dollar for clean water for a family of 10 for a year,” and “a dollar for mosquito netting for a year.” He grounded us all that a dollar can truly make a difference.

Mukund further discussed the role at the Club level and that at the District level and that his goal is to “smooth our way.” He also highlighted upcoming events such as the Rotary Leadership Institute, Council of Presidents, District Day, and UN Day.

Having personally inducted our newest Rotarian, Joe Cleary, Mukund applauded the velocity of our new members. He stated, “9 new members in 7 weeks is absolutely remarkable.”

He closed by encouraging us that “mentoring costs no money” and “that by mentoring, we can all make a difference.”

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Robert H. Steele to Speak to Ridgefield Rotary Club

Having Fun

By Tamra Evans


Image from Mr. Steele’s website shows the author and his wife, Betsy, with the Connecticut River in the background.

Robert H. Steele, a businessman and former Congressman (2nd District CT) will  speak at at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Ridgefield on September 17.   Mr. Steele is the author of a novel, The Curse.  In it he tells  a story that connects an Indian massacre in 1637 with  a political and cultural battle in the 1990′s over the building of a casino in Southeastern Connecticut.

Mr. Steele’s website introduces us the book and Mr. Steele’s background  as follows:

With meticulous research concerning both Connecticut history and the impact of gambling, Mr. Steele wields historical details with firsthand knowledge of the 1990s gambling expansion to weave a tale of greed, politics and town and tribal conflict set in the fictional town of Sheffield, Connecticut.

Mr. Steele ‘s years as a public official and civic leader, as well as his deep roots in Connecticut—including two decades living on the edge of the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation—made him uniquely qualified to write this epic story.  A graduate of Amherst College and Columbia University, he served in the CIA and Congress (2nd District, CT) and was a nominee for governor of Connecticut.


The Rotary Club of Ridgefield meets every Wednesday at 6:30 PM at Bartolo Restaurant.  Rotary meetings are open to Rotarians from anywhere in the world and their guests.

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$12,000 Raised for Gift of Life

Helping Others

Update: For the Ridgefield Press’ coverage of this story click here.

By Kathleen Graham

026-gift of life-081014On Wednesday, July 9th,  Dan Berta, President of Fairfield County Bank, presented a check for $3,000 to Rich Vazzana, President of the Rotary Club of Ridgefield, for their Gift of Life challenge.

Gift of Life International, a Rotarian sponsored organization, provides children all over the world, who are suffering from congenital heart disease, a chance to receive a lifesaving procedure that is performed at a discounted rate of approximately $6,000. This implausible price is because of the generosity of many hospitals and pediatric surgeons.  More than 16,000 children’s lives have been saved by this program.

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