Bethel is a tight-knit community, where people are welcomed with opened arms and unconditional friendships. This small town cares for its citizens and is willing to offer a hand in any time of trouble. If Katie and Chris Ciparelli have not discovered the unique nature of Bethel citizens yet, they soon will.
Mr. Ciparelli is one of Bethel High School’s most beloved teachers. Teaching history for eight years, he has made a lasting impression on countless students who have passed through his door. As head coach for the girls’ spring track team and assistant coach for the school’s winter track team, Mr. Ciparelli influences students both in and out of the classroom.
Outside of school, Mr. Ciparelli and his wife, Katie, a teacher at New Milford’s John Pettibone Elementary School, care for their two-year-old son, Oliver. Recently, the family has had to face a parent’s worse nightmare.
In April of 2012, the Ciparellis were met with difficult news: Oliver, was diagnosed with leukodystrophy, a fatal disease that, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is the “progressive degeneration of the white matter of the brain due to imperfect growth or development of the myelin sheath.” It was a grim diagnosis.
The Ciparellis have put their lives on hold. Student papers, faculty meetings and track meets have taken a backseat to attending to Oliver. In light of the heartbreaking diagnosis, the Ciparelli family has chosen to live life by a new motto: make each moment count.
According to the Ciparelli’s blog, Oliver’s health has regressed since April. He has lost the ability to walk, speak and eat on his own.
Upon hearing about the Ciparelli’s situation, people and organizations have been doing what they can to help.
This summer, the family was able to make some lasting memories with a trip to Disney World through Give Kids the World. Oliver got to spend time with Mickey Mouse while Mr. and Mrs. Ciparelli were able to watch their son smile constantly.
Several local organizations have also stepped up. The Scotty Fund, a local organization run by Linda Anderson, the director of student internships at Bethel High School, has been helping the Ciparellis for several months with mortgage payments and gas cards, as well as offering emotional support. Mrs. Anderson says she has been emailing the family every week. “It’s a difficult situation, but they are trying to stay on the bright side,” she says. “They are taking time for their family, which is important. They are doing the best they can.”
Several school events have also been scheduled with the purpose of raising funds and awareness for the Ciparellis. The first takes place this Saturday, September 22nd; a family track meet is going to be held at the Bethel track. This event is all too fitting for the family because of Mr. Ciparelli’s love for the sport. “A lot of people think that it’s a great idea,” says Julianna Suske (‘13), who is a track athlete and one of the event organizers. “His life is about track, and his track team likes him a lot.”
With the help of the All Sports Booster Club, several track athletes are organizing the meet. Events such as a family mile, the javelin throw, and 100 meter will all take place on Saturday afternoon. The money made from registration fees and the snack shed will be donated to the Ciparelli family to aid in Oliver’s care.
In addition, Mr. Chris Troetti, Bethel High School’s principal, is currently planning an adult dinner dance with BHS staff to take place on Thursday, October 4th at the Amber Room. “There is going to be an adult dinner dance and all the proceeds, anything that we are able to get from it, will be given to the Ciparellis,” Mr. Troetti states.
The dinner dance will include a silent auction. Sports teams, school departments, and friends of the school are all donating prizes to raise money for the Ciparellis. Items to be auctioned include a kindle fire, Patriot’s themed basket, and movie nights. One outstanding item is a condo in Florida for a week, graciously donated by the beloved Dr. Pat Cosentino.
Both events are bound to be extremely successful because of the amount of people planning to participate and support the Ciparelli family.
Suske eloquently acknowledges that these events are not only meant to assist the Ciparellis, but they are “for everyone to have fun and to be together and be with their family because life is so short that you can lose anyone in a moment. Like the Ciparelli family says, make every moment count. I just want everyone to really make Saturday count for them.”
For more information and current updates on the Ciparelli family, please visit their blog:
The Ciparelli Track Meets will begin at 12:30 p.m., with registration at 12:00. The cost to participate is $5 for children in first to sixth grade, $10 for seventh to twelfth grade, and $10 per family for the family mile.