Wingman program to turn Green blue

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City Hill Middle School student Vicki Weng paints a puzzle piece sponsored by St. Francis of Assisi Church in Naugatuck while fellow student Mia Grella paints in the background. Money raised through the puzzle piece fundraiser, which attempts to raise awareness for Autism Awareness Month, will benefit City Hill’s Wingman program. -CONTRIBUTED BY PAUL SINGLEY

NAUGATUCK — The Wingman program at City Hill Middle School will kick off autism awareness month Thursday with a program called “Light Up the Green Blue.”

The event, which is intended to enlighten people about autism and its effects, will begin at 5 p.m. at the gazebo on the Town Green at the corner of Church and Division streets.

Student-leaders involved in the Wingman program at CMHS have organized the event along with faculty advisers Carolyn Laurentus and Christina Rinaldi. They sold several sponsorships for wooden puzzle pieces roughly the size of sandwich board advertising signs to area businesses and organizations.

Students from Rinaldi’s art classes volunteered after school to paint murals with the business’ or organization’s logos. They will be unveiled Thursday night and will be on display at various locations around downtown Naugatuck over the next month.

The puzzle pieces are significant to Autism Awareness because they reflect the complexity of the autism spectrum, according to the nonprofit organization Autism Speaks.

“The beautiful puzzle pieces will be available for public viewing thanks to the kindness of our town workers who will be laying them throughout town,” Laurentus said in a press release. “Motorists and pedestrians can gaze upon them in awe of the talent of our students at City Hill Middle School.”

City Hill Middle School students Kelly Tran, left, and Tiffany Nguyen paint a puzzle piece sign for Naugatuck Youth Services. Money raised through the puzzle piece fundraiser, which attempts to raise awareness for Autism Awareness Month, will benefit City Hill’s Wingman program. -CONTRIBUTED BY PAUL SINGLEY

Money raised from the sale of puzzle pieces will be put toward the Wingman program. The program is a part of Dylan’s Wings of Change, a foundation established in memory of Dylan Hockley, a student killed during the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators.

The foundation’s mission is to help children with autism and other related conditions achieve their full potential. Hockley’s father, Ian, helped start the Wingman program and launched it in three schools across the state in 2015. City Hill was one of those schools, and the program is now in 18 schools in the state.

The goal of the program is to help students learn positive behaviors through a variety of activities throughout the school year.

Ian Hockley will speak at Thursday’s event, as will CHMS student leaders and Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess.