Letter: Inclusivity Has Always Been a Wilton Value

To the Editor:

It was heartening to read last week’s article, “Something to Cheer About: Athleticism, Teamwork—and Inclusion.”

My daughter, Melissa McFadden, was a trailblazer in many ways. She was a receptionist at the Wilton YMCA and her pink granite bench in the front still welcomes everyone to the wonderfully renovated Riverbrook YMCA. She was an honors student in her Wilton High School classes, and she was a 1998 varsity basketball cheerleader. Also, by the way, she had Down Syndrome. Melissa was in the first wave of people with disabilities to be mainstreamed in the Wilton school system.

Melissa was an amazing cheerleader. Her moves may have been a nano-second behind the rest of the squad, but they were perfect. Struck down by leukemia at the beginning of her senior year, her funeral service was attended by two busloads of Wilton students and approaching 1,000 friends and family to celebrate her all-too-short but magnificent life. The picture of her with the cheerleading team shows her in a split right up front. An official at Wilton High School commented at the service that the photo was featured in high school materials because it said more than anything else about the values that Wilton stands for.

Melissa’s memory is kept alive through a scholarship given annually by her beloved YMCA to the high school senior who best demonstrates compassion and care for those with disabilities.

Living in Wilton has given us all a lot to cheer about.

Jack McFadden