Tickets for YWCA Darien/Norwalk Women of Distinction Awards & Luncheon are now on sale through ywcadariennorwalk.org on PayPal or via mailed invitation.
Tickets can be purchased until May 1st.
About the honorees:
Kate Larson’s leadership of numerous organizations that have positively impacted Darien demonstrates her lifelong commitment to learning, understanding, and sharing. She has held the top positions in The Darien Community Association (Past President, three years and currently serving as Co-President), The League of Women Voters of Darien (Past President, two years, LWV of Darien Volunteer Award and currently VP of Programs) and The Council of Darien School Parents (Past Co-Chairman, two years). She has also served on several allocation committees at The Community Fund of Darien, was an early officer of The Darien Technology Foundation, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Aging in Place+Gallivant. More notable than her impressive volunteer resume is Kate’s ability to lead with a quiet confidence and natural empathy for others; she inspires those who she leads. Longtime Darien resident Gene Coyle said of Kate, “My dear friend Kate Larson has epitomized the essence of volunteerism in venues ranging from President of the DCA, President of the LWV of Darien, youth sports, Co-Chair Council of Darien School Parents, The Community Fund and so many more. She is in pure fact a “Woman of Distinction.”
Woman of Distinction honoree Betty Jewett has spent over 40 years leading efforts to increase and improve Darien’s open space and encourage the appreciation of nature. She has been involved in nearly every environmental group in Darien, often as the founder. Betty demonstrated her concern for the environment early on as a member of the Darien Beautification Commission in the 1970’s and she then helped to establish the community gardens at Cherry Lawn Park in 1975. She is one of the visionaries that made Tilley Pond Park a reality and is one of the founders of the Darien Nature Center. She has served as a board member for the Darien Audobon Society and was twenty-plus year member of the Darien Parks & Recreation Commission. She has also been a board member of the Darien Land Trust and served on the Friends of Woodland Park board when Turtle Pond and the dam were restored. In 1986, Betty was awarded a Garden Club of America medal for continuing efforts in Tilley and Woodland parks. Dot Kelly speaks highly of Betty, “Betty is wonderful. She’s an encouraging but determined leader and a very hard worker as well. Her tremendous efforts over the past 40+ years to protect and preserve our parks make her absolutely deserving of this award!”
Gina Zangrillo is probably best known as the President of Darien Sport Shop which was founded in 1946 by her father. While this prominent establishment has always been a successful cornerstone of Darien retail, the business has grown by leaps and bounds under her leadership despite one of the worst economic environments since the Great Depression and in an increasingly competitive industry. Gina’s philanthropic efforts have also helped the town of Darien by committing the Darien Sport Shop to title sponsorship for a number of local events including the Darien Fireworks, the ITP Triathalon, the July 4th Push n Pull Parade, the NFL Charity Golf Classic and the Tokeneke Pumpkin Carnival. Gina, a New Canaan resident, also developed a fundraising event at the store in honor of Mikey Czech, a young man in New Canaan who died suddenly of a very rare form of brain cancer in 2008. The funds this event has raised during the past 4 years have contributed to making significant strides in pediatric brain tumor research. Gina has also been involved in many other initiatives in her professional and personal life, as indicated by her being named “Volunteer of the Year” by the Darien Chamber of Commerce. Darien resident Susan Daly said of Gina, “It says something special about Gina that the Darien Sport Shop, even in these tough economic times, is the title sponsor for so many town events.”
Debi Boccanfuso, PhD
Woman of Distinction honoree Debi Boccanfuso, PhD, is celebrating her 26th year as an educator in the Darien school district. She is in her 8th year as the principal of Middlesex Middle School which earned a Blue Ribbon accolade in 2008 and serves as a testament to the exceptional work of Dr. Boccanfuso and her colleagues. “Dr. Bo” as her students call her, has the unique ability to understand kids in their adolescent years and has created a school culture that is simultaneously nurturing while reinforcing the values of respect, responsibility, and independence. She gets to know her students both personally and academically and develops programs to benefit them which have included an after school program that provides reading, writing and mathematics support. She’s also known for being a tremendous resource, advisor and friend to many Darien parents and has even authored a book for parents. YWCA Parent Awareness co-Director Patty McCormick said of Dr. Boccanfuso, “We live in a culture and time where parents are extraordinarily focused on school rankings and test scores whereas Dr. Debi Boccanfuso supports the growth and learning of the whole child everyday. To call what she does daily within those walls of Middlesex Middle School anything less than magic would not do her talent and skill sufficient justice.” A Norwalk resident, it’s hard to believe this dedicated educator has found the time to raise four children, teach a course at the Special Education Masters program at Fairfield University, and volunteer at her church and causes dear to her.
A Darien resident for the past 43 years, Susan Warren has consistently served the Town in many volunteer roles and has served as a role model for countless young people. Susan is known for her long-time service at Darien EMS-Post 53 which began in 1985. She was an active volunteer EMT and Crew Chief for 20 years and became the Director of the program and Director of Ambulance Operations for the town from 2004-2009. Building strong, committed and competent young citizens was her focus (her staff consisted of 60 high school students, 25 college reserves, and 25 adults). In addition, Susan taught and mentored over 5,000 young ballerinas to dance during the 43 years she directed Ballet with Susan Warren at the YWCA Darien/Norwalk. She also has volunteered for Children’s Aid Society and St. Luke’s Church. Presently, she serves as Co-Chair of the Darien Domestic Abuse Partnership. The Life Solution Center of Darien’s Executive Director Maud Purcell can’t say enough about Susan, “I first knew Susan in her role as Director of Post 53 and more recently we have co-chaired the Darien Domestic Abuse Partnership. Susan is a dedicated, organized, and creative leader who will master any task put in front of her. Best of all she approaches even the toughest situations with a fabulous sense of humor. In short, I simply love her!”
Niya Wright, Young Woman of Distinction Honoree
This year’s Young Woman of Distinction is Darien High School Senior Niya Wright. Niya is a New Jersey resident who came to Darien through the A Better Chance in Darien program and demonstrated her leadership qualities from the beginning. After her arrival at DHS in her freshman year, she read a speech to the entire school about her experiences being bullied and since then has served as a facilitator in the anti-bullying program. An active member of the Dance Team since freshman year, she proposed, organized and led a successful fundraising event, “Dancing with the Teachers” that raised nearly $5,000 last year. Last year Niya also placed 5th in Fairfield County for shot-put. Niya’s DHS peers like and respect her, as evidenced by her being elected DHS Student Body President this year. DHS guidance counselor Corrine Caridi said, “DHS students and faculty alike enjoy Niya’s friendly and bubbly personality. She’s made the most of her time at Darien High School through her involvement and leadership of many activities that she’s passionate about. “Her teachers comment that she’s a excellent student who is proactive in learning. “We enthusiastically agree that this award is much deserved!”
Please join us in honoring today's women for tomorrow's future!