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Norwalk Daily Voice serves Norwalk & Rowayton

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On Your Mark...

We'll soon be playing a new kind of game on your digital town green.

We play games for a couple of reasons. First, we want you to have fun on your digital town green, to visit if you've got a free moment and to check out what's going on.

Second, we want to celebrate something good in the community and to remind ourselves how much goodness goes on here every day beneath the predictable swirl of sobering news. Our newspapers and TV newscasts are full of alarming events. We hear so much bad news or vacuous celebrity chatter that it's easy to overlook stories about the pretty, the happy, the encouraging and the kind. On our digital town green, we want to do justice to the whole community. We don't ignore crime, dissension or death, but we also want to honor neighbors, kids, schools, athletic achievements and good works.

Last fall, our Better Schools Bonanza focused on the good work done by the parents of elementary school students. Truly, these hard-working moms (and some dads) are among the unsung heroes of our towns. When we awarded the $10,000 winning check to Brookside Elementary School in Norwalk, the principal, Mayor Richard Moccia, Sen. Bob Duff and hundreds of schoolchildren and parents made the roof shake with their shouts, "WE LOVE THE DAILY NORWALK!!!" For a community news editor, there is no higher high than knowing you've made a positive difference in your neighbors' lives. Thank you, Brookside, you gave me a day I will never forget.

Almost as lavish was the welcome we received from Jefferson Magnet School in Norwalk when we awarded them the second prize of $5,000. These pictures recall that wonderful afternoon.

Our most recent game, Santa's Wish List, celebrated countless philanthropists in our midst that work hard for little to no compensation to improve their neighbors' lives. From almost 200 organizations that were nominated by their fans, Stamford's Curtain Call won the $10,000 Grand Prize and the Norwalk High School Marching Bears won the second prize of $5,000. Congratulations to both terrific organizations – and thanks to all of the groups that participated in Santa's Wish List.

Our next game, beginning this month, is "Close to My Heart." It's an opportunity for any neighbor, young or old, to send us a picture and tell us a little love story. The story lets you share why you love your mom or sister or grandmother or teacher or president or spouse or lover or pet.... You can write about any person or creature who's brightened your life.

Readers will comment on which stories they like best. The more comments your story receives, the better your chance to win the $10,000 Grand Prize. Half of the Grand Prize -- $5,000 – will go to the author of the submission. The other half will go a local not-for-profit organization you recommend. During the last two weeks, we will winnow the field down to 10 finalists – and then the contest gets exciting. The winner will be decided on Valentine's Day.

The pieces cannot be longer than 300 words and must be accompanied by photographs of you and the person/animal/friend whom you've chosen to honor. If I were entering this contest (but I'm not allowed), I'd write about my dog Paddle, whose picture appears with this article. It's not that I don't love my wife or mom or kids or the folks I work with. I do. It's just that Paddle will always have a special place in my heart.

So, on your mark, get ready... Think: whose story would you like to share and why? Thinking about the loves in your life will remind you how lucky you are. You're already a winner.

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