Health & Safety fair brings attention to abuse, smoking, more
One black lung and one pink lung — those who were at the Community Health & Safety Fair/Family Fun Day at Hindley Elementary School in Darien on Saturday, Oct. 5, may have noticed the two large, wet lungs hanging off poles and dripping into a container.
They’re organ donor lungs. The black one is from a chronic lifelong smoker and the pink is from a nonsmoker, said Lachlan McClerin, a Darien High School student who is co-president of the student governing board at the Darien Youth Center.
The free fair and family fun event, which accepted donations, was hosted by the Darien Domestic Abuse Council and the Darien Youth Center.
There were over a dozen information tables on health and safety initiatives including Respect Works, a Depot club mentored by the Darien Domestic Abuse Council; YWCA Parent Awareness; Kids in Crisis; Liberation Programs; and others.
There was also a bouncy house, face and pumpkin painting, a caricature artist, and a touch-a-truck.
Donations from the event support awareness, educational, and prevention initiatives in Darien, victim assistance, and the Wings of Hope fund for Darien victims of domestic violence.
Depression, anxiety, abuse, addiction
Sage Gupta, a 17-year-old Darien High School student and president of the Darien chapter of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), said a goal of the event is to eliminate the stigma associated with depression, anxiety, drug abuse, and addiction.
Depression and anxiety start “from such an early age, so we think it’s important for families to hear it in general, and that’s why we have family events like these,” she added.
Those who are suffering should confide in others, she said.
“Guidance counselors, teachers, friends — anyone who would be able to help you make you feel less alone,” she said.
State Rep. Terrie Wood said anxiety and depression are “something that you can get help from quite easily. You want kids to know that they shouldn’t feel alone.”
Wood added that she “really applauds Sage [Gupta] and SADD and everything they are doing here.”
Teen dating violence/abuse
Rita Bailey, executive director of the Darien Domestic Abuse Council, Inc., said it’s important to bring education and awareness about issues such as teen dating violence, college campus violence, domestic violence, and intimate partner violence.
She added that in Respect Works, teens are trained on teen dating violence and the difference between what’s love and what’s abuse.
“The teens take the information to their peers,” Bailey said. “Many of them take it on to college, to start college programs.”
Teen domestic violence and domestic abuse “are more prevalent in our town than many people realize,” said Darien High School junior Charlotte Sulger, co-president of Respect Works.
“Now, we are trying to recruit people and educate them in our club, and, hopefully, they’ll tell other people about how to help people,” Charlotte said.
Dangers of smoking, vaping
The black and pink lungs were donated through SADD and intended to being attention the dangers of smoking and vaping.
“You can say a million times ‘Don’t smoke,’ but it helps if you can actually see what’s happening,” Lachlan said.
At the event, there was also an information table from Waveny LifeCare Network in New Canaan, which offers health care to seniors.
Stella Clarke, director of volunteers at Waveny, said she hopes to recruit volunteers.
Waveny has a huge volunteer program with over 600 volunteers. It supports the community by providing opportunities to volunteer, according to Clarke.
“It’s an intergenerational benefit both ways,” Clarke said. “People come and go but we have some that have been here for decades.”
Substance abuse prevention
Substance Abuse Specialist Dennis Bludnicki, from Liberation Programs at Greenwich High School, said he works every day with counselors, social workers, and resource officers.
He gives prevention presentations and interventions, as well as treatment and drug testing, for 13- to 18-year-olds. He’s now going into middle schools to do presentations on vaping, marijuana, and alcohol.
Parents need to find out and be educated about what their children are doing, Bludnicki said.
“They need to do that by either working with agencies like us, attending fairs like this, or talking to other parents who may be more informed,” he said. “They need to go to good sources online so that there’s not fake news that the kids are getting.”
Communication is key to establishing good relationships between parents and children, Bludnicki said.
“It’s very important for parents to have good conversations with their children, no matter what age they are,” said Bludnicki, “especially as they go from middle school into high school.”
“Eighth through ninth grade is a very important time,” he added. “They need to adjust to that.”
Since it’s a “new territory,” he said they need their parents to help them.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said, “It’s a wonderful day and what I’m struck with today is the collaboration between all of the agencies here who are the support network for our community. I’m hoping that the public comes out and learns a little bit about each of these awesome organizations.”