Neighbors: Local Special Olympians come home with gold

Hello neighbor.

I got a call recently from Alan Laffin of Greenfield, who coaches the Franklin County bocce ball Special Olympics team Franklin Jazz.

The team competed in the statewide championship held in Nonotuck Park in Easthampton earlier this month and took home three gold medals, six silver, one bronze and had one fourth-place finish.

We are so proud of all of you amazing athletes!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with bocce, it is an Italian game with the basic principle of rolling a bocce ball closest to a target ball, which is called a pallina.

According to Special Olympics, next to soccer and golf, bocce is the third-most played sport in the world.

I used to play with my kids all the time. We still play on occasion — when we aren’t all running around crazy busy.

So first, I’d like to congratulate the 20 athletes, all from Franklin County, who range in ages from 12 to adult. You all did a great job.

Second, I’d like to thank Al for all of his hard work. He practices with his team every week beginning in the spring. Practices end at the end of May and the team attends tournaments to prepare for the statewide tournament in August. Some teams travel back and forth to Easthampton and others stay in a dorm at UMass Amherst.

Al’s team practices in Bernardston, where parents of one of the athletes built a bocce court at their home.

I’m told that earlier this year, a Special Olympics bocce tournament was held at Greenfield High School.

I have a special place in my heart for our local Special Olympics bocce team, because a little over a decade ago, I coached it. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life to date. We had the best time ever and took home some gold and silver ourselves.

These athletes work hard and take competition very seriously. They deserve all of the support we can give.

OUR NEIGHBORS AT SWIFT RIVER Valley Historical Society will host local author J.R. Greene on Wednesday at 7 p.m. when he presents “The Valley Before the Quabbin.” Sounds interesting to me.

The talk is free and open to the public. It will be held on the Swift River Valley Historical Society campus at 40 Elm St. in New Salem.

SUZANNE FLYNT will give a presentation on her recently published book, “Poetry to the Earth: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Deerfield,” as well as the exhibit, “Skilled Hands and High Ideals.”

The presentation will be at Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield. The exhibit will be open Sept. 12 from 6:30 to 7 p.m., when the presentation begins. There is no charge and the event is open to the public.

For more information about the museum and it hours, as well as admission prices, visit:

THE FRANKLIN COUNTY FAIR is looking for volunteers age 18 and up to staff the children’s tent on Sept. 5 through 8. If you or anyone you know is looking for a fun way to volunteer, here it is. Call Linda at 413-774-4282 or email: Thanks in advance.

VOLUNTEERS ARE ALSO NEEDED for the fair’s Recycle-Compost Program. During the fair, volunteers will collect recyclables and compostables from designated bins around the fairgrounds. Volunteers work four-hour shifts and enter the fair for free the day they volunteer. So, you can have some fun for free while you’re at it.

For information, please contact Amy Donovan as soon as possible at 413-772-2438 or email: She also needs help before and after the fair on Sept. 4 and 5, and Sept. 9 through 11.

IF YOU’VE EVER GOTTEN a letter or card in the mail and wondered about the stamp that was attached, you might want to consider joining the Franklin County Stamp Club, which will hold its first meeting since taking a summer hiatus on Monday at 7 p.m. in 75A South End in the Mill House on Wells Street in Greenfield.

Stan Abrahamson, a longtime member of the club and its current president, said he’d love to welcome new members this fall, especially young members.

Parking is across the street from the south end entrance to the Mill House.

GREENFIELD COMMUNITY COLLEGE’S VETNET has raised almost $5,000 to help Home Sweet Home buy the lumber and other materials it needs to build ramps for disabled veterans and other disabled county residents, and thanks to the help of VetNet volunteers and the Stavros Home Sweet Home program, help is on the way this week to Ann Ketzenger of Montague, who can get out of her home, but not back into it because it is too difficult to get her wheelchair up her steps.

Ann says she really misses being outside in her garden.

“A great group of dedicated student veterans was looking for a way to make meaningful change in their communities,” said Diane O’Hearn, academic coordinator for veterans services at GCC. “Helping Stavros build wheelchair ramps so people can stay independent in their own homes was a natural.”

Ann should be back in her garden by the weekend.

Happy gardening Ann!

For more information about Stavros, which is a member agency of the United Way of Franklin County and is located at 55 Federal St. in Greenfield, visit: or contact Angelina Ramirez at 413-781-5555, ext. 315 or

A REMINDER THAT THE MUSEUM OF OUR INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE in Greenfield will close its doors for the season this weekend, but will open through the fall and winter by appointment. Individuals, groups and schools may make special arrangements to visit.

Marty Maloney wanted me to send out a “thank you” to all who supported the museum during its Summer Celebration.

For more information, visit:

To contact Anita Fritz, a staff reporter at The Recorder, send an email to: or call 413-772-0261, ext. 280. You can also reach Anita on Facebook at Anita’s Neighbors. Information to be included in Neighbors may also be sent to: up to noon two days before you want it to run.

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