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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Webster House gets ready for its Super Raffle

March 31. 2013 8:54PM

It might be April Fools Day, but it is no joke there are many kids in our community who have benefited from the Webster House. Formerly Manchester Children's Home, the building on Webster Street and its caring staff have provided a haven for more than 125 years to children in need.

Today, its primary mission is to be a safe place for children, ages 8 to 18, who cannot live at home for some period of time. Longtime Director Lou Catano and his staff care for up to 19 children at once, giving them the counseling they need to reunite with their families and/or transition into adulthood.

Board member Maureen Cronin told me about the Webster House's upcoming Super Raffle to raise desperately needed money for the organization. Only 200 tickets will be sold for the drawing to be held May 1 at the Puritan Back Room. In addition to the $8,000 in cash prizes up for grabs, the evening will have great auction items and food.

Tickets are $100. It may seem like a lot, but not when you split it with three or more of your friends. To purchase your ticket and help this important community resource, call the Webster House at 622-8013.

Safe Sports

Last week I gave the wrong Vailas brother credit for starting the Safe Sports Network. It was Nick Vailas, not Dr. Jim Vailas, who founded the non-profit that provides free sports physicals, injury prevention clinics and athletic trainers for Queen City high schools. But Dr. Vailas has been by his brother's side since the early days of the organization. He serves as its medical director, supervising the Safe Sports Network's team of athletic trainers who take care of the city's high school athletes.

I finally got my Vailas brothers straight at last Wednesday's Safe Sports Social, the inaugural fundraiser for the non-profit that has been funded primarily by the two Manchester natives and their network of friends for the last two decades.

The Derryfield function room was packed with many longtime Manchester residents, including Billy and Toni Pappas, Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, Mayor Ted Gatsas and my former Central High School track coach, Mr. O'Neil. He said I am old enough to call him "Joe" now, but that just doesn't feel right.

The short program took a serious and emotional look at the importance of having certified athletic trainers available to our high school athletes. A trainer can recognize a potentially serious injury or ailment that a coach, parent or athlete might miss. The Safe Sports Network provides these trainers to high schools in Manchester and other cities and towns in Southern New Hampshire. Some schools pay a stipend, but most get the annual $60,000 to $70,000 worth of services free of charge.

Much of what the Safe Sports Network does has been a secret to most, but the Vailas brothers, Executive Director Laura Decoster, and others involved are passionate about spreading the word to ensure their work continues after the founders are benched, so to speak.

As any room packed with a bunch of Manchester natives would, the evening had many lighter moments. I cannot repeat Nick Vailas' description of high school sports physicals in his day, but if a group of athletes was stripped down and lined up that way these days, it would be grounds for some kind of lawsuit.

And there was definitely no concussion care in his day. "Some of us are still suffering from that ignorance," he said.

We didn't have the benefit of athletic trainers during my track days either. Fortunately for me, Mr. O'Neil's years of experience with teams of dramatic girls gave him a keen sense of when I was really hurt, or just trying to get out of a speed workout.

Downtown dining deals

Dining out is expensive. So when I do have the rare meal away from home, I tend to go back to the same handful of restaurants. I have a fear of spending my carefully budgeted money on a meal that could disappoint me.

Eats Week, an annual downtown dining extravaganza organized by Intown Manchester, could be a cure for my neophobia concerning restaurants.

From Monday, April 8, through Sunday, April 14, you and I can find discounted dining deals from an array of eateries. The list includes some restaurants I have tried, like 900 Degrees, and some I have not, like The Farm.

Regardless of where I choose to eat, I won't be too disappointed if the meal isn't up to my expectations because I will be getting it at a bargain price. Like most people, I like getting deals and telling people about them. In fact, the bargain food somehow tastes better than food I eat at regular prices. And if I am disappointed with my Eats Week choices, don't expect to read about it here. I wouldn't want anyone to know I got a bad deal.

For a full list of Eats Week details, visit

NH365.ORG Event of the Week

One of my favorite annual events is at the Radisson this weekend. It's the Made in NH "Try It & Buy It" Expo. The expo features local retailers and service providers from across the state. It's the perfect time to stock up on some nice, locally made gifts so you don't get stuck buying some plastic overseas garbage for your mom's birthday.

You can have a great time and help support New Hampshire businesses Friday from 1 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and $3 for children.

Visit for more information on this and other fun things to do around Manchester and the rest of the state this weekend.

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