Jonathan Winn Takes the 2018 Spelling Bee Sash

It was a Winn-win at RVNA’s 7th Annual Spelling Bee when the final word went to Jonathan Winn, founder and co-artistic director of Ridgefield’s Thrown Stone Theatre Company. After a fun-filled evening of orthographic sparring, intense concentration, best guesses, Lifeline rescues, and audience buy-backs, Winn emerged victorious. So, what was the last word? Dormition, or “death resembling falling asleep.”

From the likes of contemporaneous and gibbon to salinity and burglarious, contestants and their Lifelines went round for round, while audience members leaned over and whispered to each other, “I’ve never even heard that word before.”

Words — misspelled or not — cannot express RVNA’s gratitude to the 13 contestants (see list below) who took to the stage, put their skills to the test, and maintained their senses of humor to make the event a tremendous success. This year’s Bee raised nearly $13,000 — through ticket sales, donations and event sponsorships — to support RVNA’s Nursing Education programs.

“Once again, we owe a debt of gratitude to our contestants and their Lifelines, our moderator, judges, and audience members who gave their support to this important tradition,” said Theresa Santoro, RVNAhealth President and CEO. “Together with our sponsors, they made an invaluable contribution to our Nursing Education program, allowing our clinical staff to continue to offer the best possible care to our community.”

Stay tuned for next year when the 8th Annual RVNAhealth Spelling Bee returns with a new crop of spellers and a whole new set of formidable words.

2018 RVNAhealth Spelling Bee Contestants:

  • John Apinis, RN, BSN, RVNA  & Lifeline, Leslie Chiaramonte, RVNA
  • Chris Augustine, Ridgefield Fire Department & Lifeline, Paris McAdam
  • Deirdre Basile, Ph.D., Ridgefield Council of PTAs & Lifeline, Barb Jennes   2018 Runner Up!
  • Lyndsay Clark, KickFit CT & Lifeline, Christopher Clark
  • John Dunleavy, MD, OrthoConnecticut & Lifeline, Bridget Dunleavy
  • Kate Fitzpatrick, Kate Fitzpatrick Consulting & Lifeline, Paul Fitzpatrick
  • Carol Gardell, Ridgefield Thrift Shop & Lifeline, Barbara Hillery
  • Amy Piantaggini, Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance & Lifeline, Jane Turner
  • Steve Scalzo, Ridgefield Little League & Lifeline, Maureen Scalzo
  • Matt Stamatis, Ridgefield High School student & Lifeline, Anne Driscoll
  • Kate Tinsley, Ridgefield Police Department & Lifeline, Bill Tinsley
  • Tim Washer, Comedian and former Saturday Night Live writer & Lifeline, Danielle Foley
  • Jonathan Winn, Thrown Stone Theatre Company & Lifeline, Amanda Curtin

Thank You To Our Generous Sponsors!

AR Kids
Audrey Road
BMW of Ridgefield
Dr. Blaine Langberg
Casey Energy
Cathie Bonner, Professional Skating Instructor
Cramer & Anderson Law Firm
Dr. Dana C. Jones
Fairfield County Bank
Fairfield County Financial Services
Hamlet Hub
Maida Design
Reynolds & Rowella, LLP
Ridgefield Academy
Ridgefield Fire Department
Ridgefield PBA
The Ridgefield Press
Ross Bread Shoppe & Coffee House
Study Works – Janie Larson
Tiger Sports
Turner Mechanical, Inc.
We Do Lines
Young’s of Ridgefield

Go Further with Food

The foods you choose can make a difference in starting your day off right, fueling you for an athletic event, or keeping weight or a medical condition in check.  March is National Nutrition Month, and it is worth taking stock of how you and your family eat.  Many families have active and fast paced lives, making eating healthfully a challenge.  Revamp your family’s eating habits by prioritizing good nutrition. Here are some tips from our Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Educator, Meg Whitbeck:

Start each morning with a healthy breakfast.  This simple act provides a good start to the day, fueling you and your family for whatever lies ahead at work or in school.  In between meals, enjoy snacks like fruits and vegetables with plant-based protein like hummus, nuts and seeds to help maintain energy levels until your next meal time.  Plan regular family meals throughout the week.  Family meals can be any time of the day! Breakfast is often a meal where everyone can be together, eating healthfully. Modeling healthy habits will set your kids up for success in both dietary and emotional health. A few meals a week where kids can be involved in meal planning and prep is a plus!

When planning meals, keep the following in mind:  Half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, which can be fresh or frozen.  Fiber from fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains helps you feel full longer and can reduce the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  If you’re working to maintain a healthy weight, be aware of portion size as well as food choices, and know when you’ve had enough to eat.  Reduce your consumption of food and drinks containing added sugars, which provide little or no nutritive value.  Even when dining out, make smart food choices.  Look for healthier options that are grilled, baked, broiled or steamed instead of fried, buttered, creamed or breaded.  In general, try to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and drink more water.  If you need guidance in creating a healthy meal plan or diet for your situation, RVNA’s Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Educator, Meg Whitbeck, can help.  Call her at 203.438.5555 for more information.  Meg also runs classes and workshops on a variety of topics which you can learn about by checking the RVNAhealth website,

About RVNA

Founded in 1914, RVNAhealth provides home and community health care services, supports public health and safety and promotes the highest quality of life in Western Connecticut 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. RVNAhealth has developed a patient-centered model of services in which individuals and communities are educated in health and wellness practices, patients with acute and chronic conditions are provided vital care in their homes and community outreach programs are in place to help individuals remain healthy over the long term. Services include home health care, senior care solutions, disease management, an “aging-in-place” program called “Quality Living at Home”, maternal and child health care, immunization and vaccination clinics as well as educational and wellness programs.

Becoming BIG and LOUD

RVNAhealth Offers Unique Therapy Programs for Patients with Parkinson’s Disease

RVNAhealth has introduced two new therapy offerings —
LSVT* LOUD (*Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) and LSVT BIG. Both are geared toward improving function in those with Parkinson’s disease.

Often referred to as “the incredible shrinking disease,” Parkinson’s is a degenerative condition characterized by a progressive loss of motor function, impacting both speech and movement. Parkinson’s affects nearly a million Americans today.

The LSVT LOUD and LSVT BIG programs are designed to improve patients’ quality of life and confidence by addressing their diminishing vocal and physical capabilities. As Parkinson’s progresses, a patient’s voice becomes quieter and movement becomes smaller, although the patient does not necessarily recognize these changes. “There is a disconnect in how a patient perceives his or her voice,” says RVNAhealth speech pathologist Cheryl Rafferty, MS CCC-SLP and LSVT LOUD therapist. “They hear it as louder than it is.” The same is true of movement.

LSVT LOUD and LSVT BIG address this disconnect through structured activities that re-train patients’ brains to amplify their vocal range and exaggerate their movements.

Both programs follow follow the same essential model and both require a strong commitment from the patient.  Therapists describe it as a “lifetime commitment,” though the program itself lasts for just four weeks.  “When patients commit to the program and see an improvement in their ability, it’s a big motivating factor,” says RVNA’s Casey Sarmiere, PT and LSVT BIG therapist. “Often, friends or family see the improvement first and comment on how much better the patient is moving or how much louder his voice sounds. It really makes the patient want to put in the time to keep up the work.”

Each program involves one hour of therapy four times a week for four consecutive weeks. During these weeks, the patient also has daily homework exercises. At the conclusion of the program, the patient is given a maintenance plan of exercises to complete every day in order to maintain their function. The ultimate goal behind both programs is for patients to make enough progress during the four weeks of therapy that they continue the work on their own.

In order for LSVT LOUD and LSVT BIG to be truly successful, early intervention is key. Ideally, patients will begin therapy before symptoms even emerge so function is not yet diminished.

“Part of our job is to educate patients so they know to ask their doctors to refer them for BIG and LOUD sooner rather than later,” adds Sarmiere.  “The sooner a patient begins therapy, the better the outcome.”

RVNAhealth currently offers both LSVT BIG and LSVT LOUD in the homecare setting. Rehab by RVNA also offers LSVT BIG in our facility at 27 Governor Street in Ridgefield, and plans to offer LSVT LOUD on site in the future as well.  Please check with your insurance provider to determine your coverage for these programs.  For more information, call 203-438-5555

The Specifics: How BIG and LOUD Really Work


Common speech problems that Parkinson’s patients experience include a soft voice, mumbled speech, monotone speech, and a hoarse voice. LOUD tackles these issues with structured activities that work the patients’ vocal range and teach them to increase volume without straining their voices.  In each session, the therapist takes the patient through a series of rigorous vocal exercises that alternate between loud and soft.

The patient brings his or her voice to a high/loud level 15 times, followed by 15 vocal “lows.” The patient also holds a vocal “ahhh” at each level, and repeats 10 specifically-designed sentences. The ultimate goal is to improve loudness, improve speech intelligibility, increase facial expression, and improve confidence.


Developed under the same principles and used in conjunction with LOUD, the LSVT BIG program addresses the issues that Parkinson’s patients experience relative to movement. As with their vocal ability, patients’ movements become smaller and more tentative as their disease progresses.  Here again, their perception of their movement is vastly different from reality. Often, a patient needs to be shown a video of their movement in order to understand how limited it has become.

As with the LOUD program, LSVT BIG aims to retrain a patient’s brain so their perception of their movement is more accurate and so they become able to move with more amplitude. In each session, the therapist takes the patient through a series of seven whole-body exercises that involve reaching up and down, and moving side to side or back and forth. Basic walking with big steps is also a component. Exercises are all exaggerated to reinforce that the patient needs to make his or her movements bigger.

LSVT BIG also incorporates training in any daily task that causes the patient difficulty. This can be something as simple as picking up a hairbrush or buttoning a shirt to more involved tasks such as doing laundry or getting in and out of a car. Therapists can also simulate complex scenarios, like shopping in a busy store, by placing obstacles in the patient’s way and working on how to navigate around them.

Hospice by RVNA: A New Layer of Care for the Community

RVNAhealth Hires Director for New Offering

RVNAhealth is pleased to announce that Leslie Chiaramonte, MSN, BS, RN, CHPN, has joined the staff as director of the agency’s newly developing service to the community – Hospice by RVNA. In that role, she will lead a team of specialists certified in hospice and palliative care. A certified trainer for the End of Life Nursing Education Consortium, Chiaramonte will guide her staff through the education and certification process, ensuring the highest quality outcome. The addition of Hospice by RVNA means that RVNAhealth will soon offer the complete continuum of care – providing for patients of all ages, from birth to end of life.

Chiaramonte’s early experiences caring for patients with cancer have given her a unique perspective not only on curative patient care, but also on end-of-life care. She sees hospice – the care of patients in their last stages of a terminal illness – as a natural and potentially beautiful part of the life cycle. Those are not often words associated with dying, but Chiaramonte describes hospice care as a way to bring dignity and compassion to patients and their families during a difficult time. The focus then becomes offering care and comfort for the patient, plus education and support for the family who are helping to provide that care.

“What will set RVNAhealth apart from other hospice providers is that all of our nurses will be certified specialists in the field,” says Chiaramonte. “What’s more, RVNAhealth believes in an interdisciplinary approach, bringing our hospice nurses together with staff physicians and social workers, as well as chaplains in the community to offer complete care.”

Hospice by RVNA will also provide families with 13 months of bereavement support after their loved one has passed on. Studies have shown that families often experience the most difficulty on or just after the one-year anniversary. Hospice by RVNA will also be dedicated to supporting the family through this difficult time.

Chiaramonte was first exposed to hospice early in her nursing tenure while working in an oncology unit. She began to see it as an indispensable part of the cycle of care, and soon went on manage two hospice units in assisted living and senior residence communities in the Bronx, NY. A move to Florida to run two hospice units added to her experience, but also made her realize that the New York area was further along in its acceptance and development of the specialty. She returned to the New York metropolitan area to be closer to family and join RVNAhealth to develop and launch Hospice by RVNA in Connecticut.

“Hospice care enables a patient to live life to the fullest for as long as he or she lives,” says Chiaramonte. “RVNAhealth is gratified to be able to expand our services and meet that need in our community.”

For more information about RVNA, call 203-248-5555

BEE Part of the Fun

Snow Date: Monday, March 19*

The winter Olympics may be over, but the competition in Ridgefield is about to heat up at RVNA’s 7th Annual Spelling Bee on Wednesday, March 7, at the Ridgefield Playhouse.  While most of the town sleeps, 26 among us — 13 Spelling Bee contestants and their respective off-stage Lifelines — will, no doubt, be burning the midnight oil in a last-ditch effort to hone their skills and vocabularies before the big night.

In addition to the brave contestants who put themselves on the line in the name of fun and philanthropy, the unsung heroes behind the Spelling Bee are the local sponsors whose generous contributions make the event possible. Ticket sales to attendees make up the last critical component of the Bee’s success, making it a true community-wide effort.

Proceeds from the event support RVNA’s Nursing Education program. Each year, the organization spends roughly $40,000 on education and in-service training for its more than 80 nurses, therapists and home health aides who served 1,500 patients last year and made more than 48,000 home care visits.

The RVNAhealth Spelling Bee is a fun, family tradition for a great cause.  Join in the camaraderie, enjoy the competition, and help RVNAhealth continue to support our community. See the full list of contestants and sponsors, or to buy tickets.

* Please Note: The snow date for the event is Monday, March 19. Rvna will make an announcement on Tuesday afternoon as to whether or not the Bee will be postponed. Check back for further information.

Medicare Scam to Watch Out For

Beginning in April, Medicare will start a year-long program to replace all current Medicare cards and issue new ID numbers. The new ID number will no longer be a beneficiary’s social security number. This change is part of an effort to better protect seniors from identity theft. Ironically, scammers are taking advantage of the situation to do just that.  Here’s what to watch out for:  Scammers call seniors posing as Medicare representatives and tell the seniors that they’ll be getting new Medicare cards. The scammer then says that a temporary card will be issued, and asks for personal information such as bank account numbers, social security numbers, or credit card information in order to process the temporary card. Callers may also ask for payment for the new card.

To protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming a victim, remember the following points:

  • Medicare does all communication by mail unless you request otherwise. A representative will never call or visit you unless you have made prior arrangements.
  • New Medicare cards will be sent automatically to all Medicare recipients. You do not have to do anything (make a request, pay, provide information) to receive the new card. Never agree to pay a fee or provide personal information in order to get your card.
  • The process of issuing new cards is a lengthy one, so not everyone will receive the new card at the same time. There is no need to pay a “rush charge” or any other fee associated with getting a new card. Simply use your current card until your new one arrives.
  • DO NOT share your Medicare number with anyone other than your doctor, pharmacist, other healthcare providers, and your supplemental insurance company.
  • If someone asks you for your information, for money, or threatens to cancel your health benefits if you don’t share your personal information, hang up and call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

For more information on Medicare, visit the government’s official Medicare site.

Feed Your Heart Right

RVNA’s New Nutrition Class Can Show You How

Did you know that making a few diet and lifestyle changes might radically improve your heart health? What’s more, those healthy adjustments can have a trickle-down effect and improve wellness throughout your body. While it might be hard to believe that small improvements can have a big impact, it’s true.

Knowing that you should make healthy changes to your diet is one thing.  Knowing what those changes should be is another.  That’s where RVNAhealth comes in! Beginning on Tuesday, March 6, RVNA’s Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Educator, Meg Whitbeck, MS, RDN, will host “Feed Your Heart,” a 4-week nutrition class devoted to eating for a healthy heart.

“Many people don’t realize that a few diet and lifestyle changes can significantly improve their heart health and boost their overall wellness,” says Whitbeck.

“Feed Your Heart” will allow participants to explore different diet strategies that are used to treat or prevent heart disease, and determine which approach is best for them. The program combines food demonstrations, tastings, recipes, and additional resources so attendees will be armed with the tools they need to succeed at home.

“Participants should come ready to get pumped about feeding their hearts – and their whole body – right,” says Whitbeck.

“Feed Your Heart” will be held on Tuesdays, March 6 through March 27, from 11:30 am to 1 pm, in the RVNAhealth teaching kitchen, 27 Governor Street, Ridgefield.  The program costs $109 for all four classes, and includes all recipes, tastings, and additional resources. Pre-registration and payment are required. For more information, call 203-438-5555.

Protect Your Heart

February is American Heart Month, and we’ll use this opportunity to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease and what a person can do to make healthy life choices to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. We all know someone who had been affected by heart related illness. It remains the leading cause of death globally and takes the life of 2,300 Americans daily. While family history and age cannot be changed, individuals can take steps to lower their risk of heart disease by as much as 80 percent. It means making choices to live in a healthier way through diet and exercise. The American Heart Association has identified seven ways to help control the risk of heart disease:

  1. Get active and stay active by exercising daily, or for 30 minutes at least five times a week.
  2. Control cholesterol to help arteries remain clear and prevent blockages that can lead to heart disease and stroke.
  3. Eat better by increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and by reducing added sugars and saturated fats.
  4. Manage high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.  Reducing sodium intake, getting regular exercise and managing stress can all help.
  5. Lose weight, especially if much of it sits at your waist.  Even a 5 to 10 pound reduction can make a difference. Determine your body mass index to understand if you’re in the healthy range.
  6. Reduce blood sugar to avoid developing diabetes, which often increases cardiovascular risk. Avoid simple sugars found in soda, candy and sugary desserts and take appropriate medication, such as insulin, if prescribed.
  7. Stop smoking, which improves health in every way. Smoking damages the entire circulatory system and increases the risk for the full range of cardiovascular diseases.

About RVNA

Founded in 1914, RVNAhealth provides home and community health care services, supports public health and safety and promotes the highest quality of life in Western Connecticut 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. RVNAhealth has developed a patient-centered model of services in which individuals and communities are educated in health and wellness practices, patients with acute and chronic conditions are provided vital care in their homes and community outreach programs are in place to help individuals remain healthy over the long term. Services include home health care, senior care solutions, disease management, an “aging-in-place” program called “Quality Living at Home”, maternal and child health care, immunization and vaccination clinics as well as educational and wellness programs.

Great Workouts for Body and Mind

While the gym scene can be intimidating, there are plenty of activities you can do outside the gym to keep yourself healthy and fit.  Regular exercise helps you feel better and live longer.  The Harvard Medical School recommends five activities to get or keep you in shape and lower your risk for disease.  Swimming is considered by some to be the perfect workout.  The buoyancy of water takes the strain off joints while still providing great exercise and improved mental state.  Water aerobics is another option.  Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that combines movement and relaxation which benefits the body and mind.  A series of graceful movements are done which can help with balance and mood.  Another beneficial workout is strength training.

Comfortably lifting weights keeps muscles strong and burns calories.  It can also help preserve brain function in later years.  Start light with just a pound or two and slowly increase weights over time.  Walking is a simple but powerful form of exercise.  Not only can it help you to stay trim, but it can improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels, strengthen bones and lower your risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease.  It can also lift your mood and help with memory loss.  Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and can go a long way toward preventing incontinence.  While many women are familiar with these exercises, men can also benefit.  Lots of other activities that are part of our normal day count as exercise such as raking, vacuuming and playing with kids or grandkids.  The goal is to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day and to do strength training twice a week.  If you do, you can consider yourself an “active” person!

RVNA’s 7th Annual Spelling Bee is I-M-M-I-N-E-N-T

What do a Ridgefield High School student, a social media consultant, an orthopedic surgeon, a comedian, and a police officer have in common? No, this isn’t the start of a bad joke. It’s a list of just some of the contestants vying for bragging rights in RVNA’s 7th Annual Spelling Bee.  Scheduled for Wednesday, March 7, at 7 p.m., at the Ridgefield Playhouse, the event brings together members of the community for a fun evening of friendly competition to benefit a great cause – RVNAhealth Nursing Education.

Think of it as the traditional Scripps National Spelling Bee meets “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” In a fun twist on official spelling bee rules, contestants are allowed a “lifeline” in the audience to help them out with difficult words. If eliminated, they can “buy” themselves back into the competition for a donation. Audience members can also donate to get their favorite contestant back in the mix.

Judges for this year’s fundraiser are: Geoffrey Morris, editor-in-chief and publisher of TownVibe Media publications, including Ridgefield Magazine; Dean Miller, chair of the boards of Meals on Wheels of Ridgefield and the Ridgefield Library; and Vicki Mueller, retirement strategist at Charter Research & Investment Group, and chair of the board of RVNA.

Contestants from the community are:

  • John Apinis, RN, BSN, RVNAhealth Director of Nursing Services
  • Chris Augustine, Ridgefield Fire Department
  • Deirdre Basile, Ph.D., Ridgefield Council of PTAs
  • Lyndsay Clark, Kickfit CT
  • Dr. John Dunleavy, OrthoConnecticut
  • Kate Fitzpatrick, Kate Fitzpatrick Consulting
  • Carol Gardell, Ridgefield Thrift Shop
  • Amy Piantaggini, Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance
  • Steve Scalzo, Ridgefield Little League
  • Matt Stamatis, Ridgefield High School student
  • Kate Tinsley, Ridgefield police officer
  • Tim Washer, comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” writer
  • Jonathan Winn, Thrown Stone Theater Company

This year’s Bee sponsors include: AR Kids; Audrey Road; BMW of Ridgefield; Dr. Blaine Langberg; Casey Energy; Cathie Bonner, Professional Skating Instructor; Cramer & Anderson Law Firm; Dr. Dana C. Jones; Fairfield County Bank; Fairfield County Financial Services; Hamlet Hub; Maida Design; Reynolds & Rowella, LLP; Ridgefield Academy; Ridgefield Fire Department; Ridgefield PBA; The Ridgefield Press; Ross Bread Shoppe & Coffee House; Study Works – Janie Larson; Tiger Sports; Turner Mechanical, Inc.; We Do Lines; and Young’s of Ridgefield.

Who will be the winner? It’s anyone’s game, but the real winner is RVNA’s Nursing Education program.  Funds raised through the Spelling Bee support RVNAhealth Nursing Education.  RVNAhealth spends approximately $40,000 per year on education and in-service training for its more than 80 nurses, therapists, and home health aides.  Last year, the agency served more than 1,500 patients, making well over 48,000 home care visits in 28 western Connecticut towns.

The RVNAhealth Spelling Bee promises to be fun for the whole family, while supporting an organization that serves so many in our own community and beyond.