Smart Walk for Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities fosters community and a worthy cause

The fourth annual Smart Walk for Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities took place Oct. 1 at Sherwood Island State Park Westport, Connecticut. Children with learning and attention differences, caregivers and supporters of the cause came to trek the two mile loop, displaying community and inciting empowerment. The event fundraised for critical education programs, youth mentoring and other resources to support those with learning disabilities.

At the walk's entrance, along with many booths, there were tables of t-shirts for walkers and volunteers to change into. They displayed the letters Smart Walk for Smart KIDS with LD on the front, and proved beneficial later during the walk when things got messy.
Held at Sherwood Island State Park, the two mile loop started at the entrance, snaked all the way around to Old Mill Pond Beach and then back to the park for the finish line. As it was a beautiful, warm and sunny day, beachgoers and other walkers were also nearby.
Volunteers and members of the foundation manned the check-in tables at the walk's entrance. Member of the professional advisory board of Smart Kids is featured on the left.
Jane Ross (left), the founder of the Smart Kids organization kept busy at the walk making sure everything was running smoothly.
School psychologist Dave Sylvestro was on microphone duty, announcing all the booths and speakers throughout the day. "It's so great to see so many young people get involved in activism and help out today," he said. "The amount of volunteers is inspiring."
Staples High School Orphenians showed up to sing the National Anthem before the start of the walk. Alyssa Lee '24 was the student conductor of the chorus at the event, taking over for their teacher.
The start of the walk took place around 1 p.m. as children and adult participators excitedly marched through the entrance flags. A bubble machine added to the enthusiasm as some children stopped to chase the floating bubbles.
Volunteers were set up at various checkpoints in the walk with bottles of cornstarch and food dye that created a colored pigment to cover walkers with their consent. The man pictured here told his son he would go first getting color sprayed, encouraging his child to agree to it afterwards.
Many walkers embraced the fun pigment and felt the excitement of the walk from the joy that the simple colors brought them. Graysen Peters '26 (left), volunteering with Staples High School Service League of Girls, enjoyed the small happiness she could bring everyone who passed by. "Volunteering has been a lot of unexpected fun," she said. "It definitely feels good to get involved and help out like this."
Featured are representatives from Sasco River Center, a mental health clinic in Darien, Stamford, and Wilton, Connecticut.
Christine Kurpiel, the nonprofit manager and educator, was thrilled to see this community building event pan out. "It is a great way to bring everyone together to celebrate the talents of kids with learning disabilities," she said. "We want to spread awareness about their talents rather than the view of these differences being a deficit."
Featured is the booth of Sweet P Bakery, a nonprofit with a mission to train and hire adults with developmental and learning disabilities. They were invited to the event and were seated next to many other food booths such as Trader Joes and Stew Leonards, both of which donated food for the event.
At the finish line volunteers were waiting with bags full of red wristbands to give to each walker. By the end of the race, most shirts were covered in different colored powder.

All photos taken by Anna Kercher '25