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From the Editor: Giving Back

photo by bob capazzo

“My mother told me there are two meaningful things you can do in life: become a priest or a doctor. I chose the latter because I like women too much.”

Those are the playful words of Dr. Thomas Flynn, a New Canaan resident whose decision to pursue the medical profession turned out to be a blessing for many people. Among them are his wife, Betty, their nine children and twenty-two grandchildren, and the hundreds of local residents who became his loyal patients.

Dr. Flynn, a pediatrician, was so well loved just prior to his retirement that he was treating the children of children he had cared for earlier in his career. The doctor’s dedication to his profession is flat-out inspiring, but what some people don’t know about him is that after he retired, he went on to devote his time and talents to transforming a very small clinic in Haiti into a large hospital that now treats 50,000 patients a year and serves as a beacon of hope for Haitians who wish for a healthier future. For his outstanding volunteer work, Dr. Flynn has been chosen as a recipient of our annual Light a Fire award.

These philanthropic awards celebrate the special people in our communities who give back in a big, even over-the-top, way. They believe in taking a stand, making a difference and helping others, particularly the most vulnerable among us. This year’s Light a Fire nominations came from readers and the advisory board of this magazine. I’d like to thank each of you for taking the time to tell us about these twelve incredible individuals who are featured on page 56.

Also among them are James Cole and Nancy Upton, a couple who left their high-profile careers on Wall Street to get more involved in their town. They have selflessly dedicated countless volunteer hours, first to create New Canaan’s community emergency response team, and then to spearhead an emergency preparedness plan that ties together all of New Canaan’s services, including the police and fire departments. That plan was put into play when Hurricane Irene slowly ground its way through the area, tearing down trees and flooding roads.

I met Cole and Upton a few days after the storm struck. They were hard-pressed for time because the town was still dealing with the aftermath, but I learned their sixteenth wedding anniversary was just twenty-four hours away. When I asked them what they were planning to do to celebrate, Jim shrugged and said, “Save lives.”

Nonprofit work requires devotion and creativity, yet our Light a Fire honorees speak exclusively of the joy they derive from helping others. That’s a great message to pay forward as we look to the start of the holiday season.