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Family Ties Stay Close to Our Hearts

For many of the entries in Main Street Connect’s Close to My Heart contest, it’s all relative – as in siblings, parents and in-laws, who figure prominently in several of the heartfelt stories.

Irene Pozoukidis nominated her sister, Sofia , who, at the age of 13 donated bone marrow to Irene to help her survive childhood leukemia. “It was, indeed, her selfless love that gave me a second chance at life,” Irene wrote. “I wanted to inspire others with this story of the unconditional love between sisters. My sister didn't think twice about being there for me when I needed her and now I want to be there for her.” Her charity beneficiary is the Slant of Light Theater Company . “I am a strong believer in the arts as a venue for inspiration and hope,” she wrote.

Christine Rysz saw the contest on Facebook as she was looking at photos of her late brother-in-law, Paul. “Maybe it was a sign he was sending me to help keep his memory alive and to ensure he is not forgotten,” she wrote. Her charity of choice is the Jan Rysz Scholarship Fund, which was formed in memory of Paul’s aunt, a teacher who died at the age of 27.

Mary Ellen Busillo entered in honor of her parents , who live in Milford. Her 83-year-old father takes care of his wife, who has dementia and difficulty walking. Since the two are essentially homebound, they depend on Busillo’s frequent trips from Fairfield to get out for shopping and other errands. Her 1996 Dodge Caravan is on its last legs, and her half of the $10,000 first prize would go toward a newer vehicle. The other half would go to the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County , an organization Busillo feels is extremely important in these tough economic times.

Showing the power of family, the entries might best be summed up by Pozoukidis, who wrote, “I believe that the stories submitted capture the resilience of the human spirit and the undeniable power of love.”

Close to My Heart celebrates Valentine's Day by asking participants to share stories about someone who has touched their lives. Now through Feb. 13, readers can submit their stories. On Valentine's Day, a panel of three judges will choose 10 finalists. The grand prize winner will receive $10,000, half of which goes to a local nonprofit of their choice. The other nine finalists will receive $500 each, with half of that also shared with a nonprofit of their choice.

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