Wilton Teens Mobilize To Support Causes

As if distance learning and the chaos created by COVID-19 were not enough to occupy their thoughts, Wilton teens have rallied to support a number of great causes that desperately need help during these challenging times. GOOD Morning Wilton would like to highlight just a few of those amazing teens here.

Alessia Cawley and Maddy Wecker

When Wilton High School juniors Alessia Cawley and Maddy Wecker learned that local food pantries were struggling to keep up with the sudden and increasing demand caused by the pandemic, they took action.

By creating an online fundraising page called “Warriors Helping Connecticut,” the girls set out to support the Connecticut Food Bank. As the largest food bank in the state and an affiliate of Feeding America, Connecticut Food Bank partners with retailers, growers, donors, and volunteers to source food and distribute it to local food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other programs.

Cawley explained why they were driven to get involved. “As students, I think it is our responsibility to give back to the community that has provided us with so many meaningful opportunities. I have learned how one small action can make a profound impact on our community.”

Beyond providing desperately needed food, Cawley and Wecker believe their virtual food drive fulfills another need:  fighting isolation. On their fundraising page, the team said, “[We want] to remind those struggling that they are not alone, and even in isolation, our CT community remains united… In times like these, we’re reminded of the interconnectedness of our community.”

For more information, email the team or visit their fundraising page. (Note: an earlier technical glitch on the fundraising site has been resolved.)

The WHS Circle of Care Club Board of Directors

Brynn Burke, Amy Malburg and Suzy Malburg are co-presidents of the Circle of Care Club at Wilton High School. Now seniors in the class of 2020, the trio founded the club in the fall of 2018 to support Wilton’s Circle of Care charity.   

Together with fellow club officers Patrick Burke as treasurer and Bianca Reuter as secretary, the group’s leaders will be participating in this weekend’s Circle of Care 5K Walk/Run event. 

The annual Circle of Care 5K normally assembles scores of runners and walkers on a course through Wilton center. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s event will be a “virtual” race.  Beginning today, May 1, through Sunday, May 3, participants may choose to run or walk the roughly 3.2-mile distance through their neighborhood, on a treadmill or a trail.  

Brynn Burke pointed out how the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting Circle of Care’s fundraising efforts. “This time right now is really hard for fundraising. The 5K had been planned for a long time,” she said. Other Circle of Care fundraising events have been canceled or postponed, according to the organization’s website.

Burke, who plans to become a nurse, feels strongly about the work Circle of Care does to support children with cancer and their families. “It’s important to raise awareness about this organization,” she said. Children with cancer, and especially those currently in treatment with compromised immune systems, are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

All five Circle of Care Club board members plan to run or walk during the virtual event. They encourage others to register for the event online and join in.

Billy Bonnist

Billy Bonnist attended Wilton elementary and middle schools and is now a sophomore at Fairfield Prep. He launched the “Wilton STRONG” car magnet fundraiser earlier this week to benefit the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps.  

Bonnist decided to go with the phrase “Wilton STRONG” because it reflects the deep sense of community he has always felt here. “Even though I don’t go to school here anymore, Wilton is my hometown, my friends and family are here. I love Wilton,” said Bonnist. 

Bonnist felt car magnets would be an easy way for Wilton residents to show their Wilton pride, with a message that affirms a positive outlook. “I think it says ‘we got this’,” Bonnist said.

The car magnets, priced at $12 each, have been selling quickly since the fundraising effort launched earlier this week. Most importantly, 100% of all profits will be donated to WVAC. The purchase process was designed to be contactless, with magnets delivered to buyers’ mailboxes beginning on or about May 8, 2020.

Ordering information and fundraiser updates can be found online.

Aislynn and Fiona Conway

Aislynn Conway, a WHS sophomore, and Fiona Conway, a freshman, are sisters endeavoring to provide much-needed protective masks to healthcare workers and other vulnerable individuals.

Side note:  The girls’ mother, Tamara Conway, (pictured with her daughters in the main image, above) was instrumental in the formation of the Warrior Helpers group, an organizational tour de force providing a forum (on Facebook and with a dedicated website) and a structure for matching volunteers with COVID-19 needs. Providing masks, face shields and meals to frontline workers are a big focus of their efforts.

But even before the Warrior Helpers group was formed, Aislynn was already learning to sew, with a goal to make 100 masks for healthcare workers needing PPE. (She expects to hit that goal this weekend.)

Just a few of the masks made by Aislynn and Fiona Conway

Younger sister Fiona, who is interested in fashion design, quickly got on board to contribute to the effort. The girls developed ways to modify and improve the designs they initially used for the masks.

Not content to simply make masks, the girls have also assisted in projects to create and distribute 3-D printed face shields.

To further their impact, Aislynn contacted WHS Key Club faculty advisor, Linda Ciliberti, in the hopes of reaching out to more students. “There are lots of things that high school students can do to help, including making masks and face shields from kits, collecting materials [and more],” she said.

Little did she know, that email would be shared with other WHS faculty and other Wilton schools, and several other students were inspired to join in similar efforts. Aislynn is gratified to know that so many teachers and fellow students support her. “It can be difficult to feel connected with our school… because things like sports and other school gatherings have been canceled,” she said. “So getting involved [this way] is a great way to try and feel less distanced while also doing helpful things for essential workers.”

Piper Chase, Maddie Pfeiffer, Maggie Rowe and Libby Connolly

These four WHS juniors organized “Warrior Helping Hands” almost immediately upon COVID-19’s outbreak in Wilton. They provide grocery, medication and household supply shopping services, free of charge, to Wilton residents who are unable to (or would prefer not to) go to stores themselves.

WHS juniors (L-R) Piper Chase, Maggie Rowe and Maddie Pfeiffer in the early days of their Warrior Helping Hands campaign. (Missing from photo: Libby Connolly)

Piper Chase, whose idea originally inspired the project, reported that the group continues to be very active. They have several “regular” deliveries to Wilton individuals and families, each averaging once or twice weekly. The Village Market has also been giving the group’s contact information to elderly shoppers picking up groceries during special shopping hours dedicated to that at-risk group.

Chase says the experience has been very personally rewarding. “It’s been incredible to meet people. Even from a distance, you get to know them. One family [I deliver to] I haven’t even actually met [in person], but I feel like I know them. We talk on the phone and text back and forth.” She feels a strong connection to one customer in particular. “She’s so great, and so grateful [for the deliveries]. She has rescue dogs, and I do, too. She gave me a book which was really sweet.”

Chase invites anyone in need of shopping assistance to reach out to the group via email.

Know other teens taking the lead on service projects or fundraising for local causes during COVID-19? Tell us about them so we can add them to our list!