Saturday, July 1, 2023


Graduations most often happen in the month of June, usually celebrating the end of a certain level of formal schooling. They are milestones in one’s life. How often, later in life, do we identify ourselves as part of “the Class of 1972” or “the Class of 2007?”

Other milestones might be considered a kind of graduation, too, like two of the entities I want to talk about here, because they are significant events.


LABBB Collaborative

The LABBB Collaborative is a special-education program founded in 1974 for special-needs students in Massachusetts. One of my fife-and-drum friends is a teacher at LABBB. Some years ago, he asked our group to perform at the graduation ceremony. This event has now become a regular event on our calendar, one that we can’t wait to attend.


Gan Jing World

Gan Jing World is a new social media platform committed to a clean online presence, free from violent, pornographic, criminal, and harmful content. Established just one year ago, it celebrated its grand opening (including a ribbon-cutting) at its new corporate headquarters in Middletown, NY, on June 22. I was among the guests. This, too, felt like a kind of graduation, from the corrupt to the clean.


Trooper Black Foundation

The Trooper Black Foundation, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to providing support for first-responder families in crisis. The organization acquired non-profit status in December 2019, only weeks before the virus shut-down in 2020, so little was accomplished over the following two years. In August 2022, however, the board of directors resumed active duty. In the past six months, TBF has gained momentum as we have taken concrete steps in the spirit of our mission. This is, in a sense, a graduation from “baby steps” to the “big time.”

Exciting times!


Sally M. Chetwynd
Brass Castle Arts
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To Tease Your Mind

 I believe that everything happens for a reason.
People change so that you can learn to let go,
things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right,
you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself,
and sometimes good things fall apart
so better things can fall together. 

Marilyn Monroe
American actress, model, and singer

What strikes me most is Monroe’s idea that “sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together,” especially as it relates to “things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right.”

We would never appreciate the mildness of summer if we didn’t endure winter storms. Without the contrast, we wouldn’t know any different. My analogy is much less profound, but you understand the similarity of the concept.


What’s in Common

LABBB Collaborative

So, what’s so great about the LABBB Collaborative? The fact that it exists, for one thing. There were no such programs for special-needs students when I was in school. One of my friends in junior high school (that’s what we called “middle school” back in the 1960s) had a physical disability that made walking and talking awkward; she would have benefited greatly from a program like this one.

LABBB was conceived in 1972 by a small group of parents whose children needed this kind of service. With guidance from local directors of special education, they developed a program for their youngsters, reviewed and approved by the Mass. Dept. of Education, the aim of which was to prepare these students for the adult work world. In 1974, they hired a teacher to conduct the first sessions.

It didn’t take long for neighboring school systems to recognize the program’s high quality, and other towns joined the collaborative. Although only five towns are represented in the collaborative’s name (Lexington, Arlington, Burlington, Bedford, and Belmont), LABBB now serves over 350 special needs students in over 65 school districts. The programs are situated in those public schools, which enhances the inclusiveness for these students with the rest of the student populations.

The mission statement reads: “We design and deliver special education services that promote academic, social, and career independence in the most inclusive settings possible.” And indeed, they achieve that.

When my fife-and-drum corps was first invited to perform for graduation some years ago, my eyes were opened about this organization. This was not your average graduation ceremony! These kids were cheering and having the grandest time. They were full of themselves, full of the day, and fully deserving of the attention, for they had worked hard to earn their diplomas. We all couldn’t help but have great fun with them, to share in their joy.

Part of the schooling includes on-the-job training, so they graduate with work experience and a resume. Three years ago, one graduate was already running his own business, a comic-book store, where he employed some of his classmates after school. Another year, a speaker explained how four LABBB students had interned the previous summer at the Massachusetts Archives. The department had a huge backlog of documents to catalogue and index. Not only did these students reduce the pile considerably, they improved some of the methods, and the staff at the Archives didn’t want them to leave.

This year, when I chatted with James Kelly, LABBB Program Director, he pointed out the fact that graduation may be the single most significant event of these graduates’ lives: Most are unlikely to become married or homeowners or experience other typical milestones – a sobering thought about the importance of this ceremonial recognition.

This event has become one of the highlights of my year. I wouldn’t miss it for the world! Check out LABBB for more information here:


Gan Jing World

How on earth did I end up at the grand opening of a social media platform? I usually avoid social media like the plague!

On Saturday, June 10, my town held its annual Festival by the Lake, where hundreds of vendors and craftspeople and artisans set up their booths on the lower common and promote their wares and services. I always wander up and down all the rows and check out everyone and everything. I hobnob with old friends who show up every year.

I noticed a young Chinese woman in a booth, with two Chinese string instruments displayed on her table, along with brochures about Gan Jing World, which she was representing. She and I got to talking and discovered that our values are very much in line. She asked if she could video me for this new social media platform. Sure! Why not? I expounded on my values for five minutes, and Joy Z., the young woman, posted the video on Gan Jing World, then sent me the link on Monday, June 12.

Here is the video:

A few hours after Joy sent the link, an email arrived from Yan L., the Senior Director of Public Relations at Gan Jing World, who had seen the video. She invited me to attend the grand opening of Gan Jing World in Middletown, NY, on June 22, and included details about the event.

Two hours after that, another email arrived, this time from Terri W., a correspondent at The Epoch Times (a conservative newspaper) in their Washington DC office. She was working on a story about Gan Jing World, and she had seen the video, too. She wanted permission to use my quotations from the video for her article.

Wow! This was rather astonishing. I needed to think deeply on all this. It was a long drive to New York – 240 miles, one way – but easy interstates all the way. I could do it in a day. If the mission of Gan Jing World was honest, this could be the beginning of something big. If I went and nothing came of it, I’d lose one day of work, a tank and a half of gas, and a few dollars for meals – not a huge investment. But if I didn’t go, I could miss out on potentially sizable prospects. It seemed that a great opportunity had been dropped into my lap.

I did some homework. Gan Jing World is “dedicated to revitalizing traditional connections, fostering a culture of care, kindness, mutual respect, and trust among individuals, within families, and throughout society,” to reconnect to morals and traditions. It was founded in 2022 by Americans (many of Chinese descent) with Silicon Valley tech expertise and Chinese immigrants who have fled communist persecution. In Chinese, “gan jing” means “clean.”

So, I went. (A business networking friend, Giovanna Sidoti, who lives in Pine Bush, about 15 miles north of Middletown, met me there and attended as my guest. It was great to meet her in person!) It was quite a gala affair, attended by notables in government, science and technology, entertainment, Fortune 100 businesses, and many others. The food was provided by Mike Chen, a businessman popular for his videos about Chinese food and culture on his Youtube channel, “Strictly Dumpling,” among others.

It was definitely worth the trip. I made friends with a number of people, and I’ll be interested to see what develops. I plan to learn more about Gan Jing World. It’s arranged much like Youtube, with tabs that filter your specific interests – news, science & tech, lifestyle, etc. Most likely I’ll create a channel of my own there (once I overcome my own digital dolt-hood). Check out the platform at

Also, at the link below you can watch an in-depth interview with Nick Janicki, Gan Jing World’s Director of Media Relations, which reveals the depth of commitment that the new corporation has to its mission. (After entering your email, you can choose to log in without a password, and NTDTV will send you a log-in link.)

“The Dark Side of Social Media Use and How to Protect Children – and Yourself: Nick Janicki,”
an Epoch Times story posted on NTDTV. (It runs about 30 minutes.)

All because of a 5-minute video at a local fair!


Trooper Black Foundation

Trooper Charles Clinton Black was a Maine State Trooper, killed in the line of duty on July 9, 1964, while responding to a bank robbery in my home town of South Berwick, Maine, when I was ten years old. I never knew the man, but it was a big enough event to infiltrate my mind deeply. (AP coverage of it crossed the whole country in less than 24 hours.)

Trooper Black came top-of-mind in 2018 when I was tying up loose ends before publication of my second novel, and I was compelled to write a dedication of the book to Trooper Black. Within a few weeks, I met Trooper Black’s widow Mary and youngest son Charlie, and became fast friends with them. Their story of endurance made me realize the depth and extent of the long-term effects that this kind of trauma has on surviving families and friends.

A new business-networking friend of mine, who has similar interests, pointed out recently that the tragic death of a family member (in particular from homicide and suicide) creates repercussions among up to 400 other persons – family members, friends, business associates, colleagues – including those whose connection is second- or third-hand, or even more distant. (For example, my connection to Trooper Black is second-hand, at best.) That’s a profound thought!

The 2019 controversy over the diverse meanings of the Thin Blue Line Flag to different groups prompted Mary and Charlie to create the Trooper Black Foundation, to benefit first-responder families in crisis. Other local civic and business leaders joined them to form its board of directors. They received federal 501.c.3 non-profit status in December 2019.

In March 2020, the virus lockdowns were implemented, shutting down activities of every kind – BUT not before two local groups had held fundraisers to benefit TBF, which established a bank account. The bolstered treasury lay as dormant as the board of directors until August 2022, when the board resumed regular meetings. Since then, activities and events have taken on a life of their own. We’ve scheduled a certified 5K road race in York, Maine, for October 21st. Smaller events are in the works, too.

In the past six months, the Trooper Black Foundation has made two donations of $1000 each to first-responder families in need. One was to Tunnels To Towers, who collected donations to pay off the mortgage for the California family of Deputy Sheriff Darnell Calhoun of Riverside County. He was killed in mid-January this year, while responding to a domestic dispute, leaving behind two little boys and a young wife pregnant with a third son. This struck Mary especially hard, for it exactly matched her situation in 1964.

The second donation was made directly to the family of Fire Captain Michael Folsom, who suffered cardiac arrest on May 10 while driving to address a problem with the municipal fire alarm system in Waterville, Maine. He remained in critical condition for some time. A month later, he was discharged from the hospital and has since taken up physical therapy to achieve full recovery. We are very happy that he survived and is doing well, but situations like this create a huge drain on a family, more than just financial. A TBF raffle at a local brewery, held on the same day as Captain Folsom’s return home, raised another $800 for his family.

It feels great to be meeting our mission at so “young” an age! Check us out at  This is a beautiful website, created by Ryan Avery of York, Maine, who does creative marketing and community engagement. (LinkedIn:

Referring back to Monroe’s quote about good things falling apart, Charlie Black II recently posted on Facebook a tribute to his wife, Stephanie – how they wouldn’t have met if his father had not been killed. Steph’s father was a Maine State trooper stationed in northern Maine. He was re-assigned to replace Trooper Black, whose troop was in southern Maine. As the old adage says: “It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good.” Sometimes it’s hard to perceive that good, but it’s usually there.


A Book Worth Checking Out

You’re A Beautiful MESSterpiece: A Guide To Prioritizing The God-Given Dream You’ve Been Entrusted To Pursue & Share

Deana Farrell of Prioritizing Focus

Deana Farrell’s You’re a Beautiful MESSterpiece is a brilliant work for anyone seeking to escape the pitfall mindset. Farrell’s tone is gentle, conversational, and compassionate. (You can’t argue with “been there, done that” testimony.) She shares her messes with us so we can relate to her: Willingness to expose our vulnerability draws others to us, because they can relate. (We all have our messes, whether or not we want to recognize or deal with them.) In doing so, we serve as models of humility. Only through humility can we emerge from the messes that we complicate our lives with.

 With concrete examples of how to shift our stubborn mindsets, Farrell provides a roadmap to healing and spiritual fulfillment that will resonate through every aspect of life, personal and professional. Although aimed at women in business, men may well find useful guidance in this work, too. MESSterpiece is a masterpiece!

Deana asked me to join her launch team, quite an honor. The past month has been exciting to watch where and how she is guiding this book toward publication. Her ideas for marketing and creating reach are expansive and comprehensive. (She knows what she’s doing!)

The official launch date is July 18, but it went live on Amazon yesterday!



Do you have comments or questions about this post? I’d love to hear them. Let’s talk!
Happy reading! Happy writing!



Image: Marilyn Monroe

Image: Graduate, LABBB Collaborative, Class of 2023, with Program Director James Kelly
photo per Dr. Julie Hackett, Lexington Superintendent of Lexington [MA] Public Schools

Image: The Music of Prescott’s Battalion, marching in for graduation ceremony opening
Photo courtesy of LABBB’s official photographer

Image: Wakefield’s Festival by the Lake, courtesy of Wakefield Center Neighborhood Association

Image: Ribbon-cutting / Sally Chetwynd & Giovanna Sidoti
photos by Jasmine, official photographer of Gan Jing World

Image: Maine State Trooper Charles Clinton Black, EOW July 9, 1964
Maine State Police archives

Image: “More than a badge …”
Trooper Black Foundation, bottom banner, designed by Ryan Avery

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