‘He Is Like Sunshine’: At a Time of Need, New Canaanites Rally Around Popular Crossing Guard


When Carolyn Vermeer Ditlevsen walks to South School to pick up her son, a second-grader there, she—like scores of others—often finds herself chatting with Terry Darden, the smiling crossing guard at South Avenue and Gower Road who has earned the respect and affection of New Canaanites for the way he carries himself, treats others and goes about his job.

Terry Darden. Credit: Michael Dinan

Terry Darden. Credit: Michael Dinan

Last week, Ditlevsen noticed that Darden’s usual car wasn’t the one parked off to the side of Gower near his post, and she asked him about it.

“He told me that his car broke down and he’d taken it to the mechanic but didn’t have an estimate yet,” Ditlevsen recalled.

So when she saw Darden again on Monday and asked about the car situation—and learned that it was a major job that could have far-reaching personal consequences for this man she holds in high regard—Ditlevsen decided to start an online fundraising campaign.

Terry Darden at his post on South Ave. Credit: Contributed

Terry Darden at his post on South Ave. Credit: Contributed

Launched around 3 p.m. on GoFundMe, the campaign saw some 70 well-wishing New Canaanites contribute to the cause, approaching an initial goal of $3,000 before the day was out.

“It speaks volumes to what a great guy he is and how many people value the kind of person that he is,” Ditlevsen told NewCanaanite.com late Monday when asked about the effort.

Here’s what Ditlevsen wrote on the GoFundMe page:

For those of you who have kids in town that walk to and from school, you probably know Terry the crossing guard. He is so sweet and completely dedicated to our kids’ safety. He never misses a day because he wants to be there for our kids. Last week, Terry’s car broke down. He needs to get his transmission repaired at the cost of $3,000! He has been borrowing his sister’s car just so he can keep coming to work to keep our kids safe. He has a mother in her 90s in Florida who he tries to visit every year for Christmas, and might not be able to go because he has to pay for his car. Let’s show Terry how grateful we are for his dedication by pulling together as a community and helping him out this holiday season. Some of you might have given him a card and little gift, but this is the gift he really needs. Thanks for your help!”

New Canaan High School Class of ’92 graduate and South School parent Susan Gelvin is one of those who contributed to the campaign on behalf of her family. Mom to a daughter in fourth grade and son in second at South, Gelvin noted when asked about why she decided to help out that Darden shows up to his job at Gower and South and performs his duty with care in freezing temperatures, rain, snow and other difficult conditions.

“I notice him all the time,” Gelvin said. “He has an ever-present smile on his face—he is like sunshine—he puts a smile on your face going by him.”

She added: “When I heard about this [car situation and fundraising campaign], I had to jump on top of it and piggyback on all the good feelings, because this guy just has made everybody feel so good about being around him.”

Here are some of the comments posted on the GoFundMe page from well-wishers contributing to the campaign:

  • We love you Terry!
  • Such a wonderful man who is well deserving of such a wonderful campaign. Merry Christmas Terry! Warmest wishes
  • Very happy to help, Terry always has a smile for everyone and dog bones for the dogs…he makes New Canaan a better place!
  • I have to pay for three college educations, so I am sorry I can’t give more to someone who gives so much!
  • Thanks for all you do. Hope this helps. Happy holidays.
  • Wishing Terry all the best this holiday season.
  • Bless you Terry for all the good you do for our children…and dogs too!
  • Thank you Terry for shining your light each day. This community values you and your kind spirit!
  • Terry is the best! Happy to help.
  • With thanks and gratitude for Terry!
  • What a sweetheart of a man! He is always smiling.
  • Happy to help Terry! He brightens up our day with a friendly wave and smile as we drive by each morning!
  • Merry Christmas Terry! Thanks for all you do to keep our kids safe!
  • I love this community and you are part of it Terry! Merry Christmas!
  • Thank you for making everyone’s day a little brighter.
  • Thank you for everything you do Terry! Happy Holidays!!
L-R: New Canaan Police Capt. VIncent DeMaio, honoree Terry Darden, Chief Leon Krolikowski and Capt. John DiFederico during an Awards ceremony on Dec. 15, 2014. Credit: Michael Dinan

L-R: New Canaan Police Capt. VIncent DeMaio, honoree Terry Darden, Chief Leon Krolikowski and Capt. John DiFederico during an Awards ceremony on Dec. 15, 2014. Credit: Michael Dinan

Darden—who has worked three separate jobs simultaneously, as a crossing guard, and at Walgreens and Staples, to support his family—made headlines one year ago when the New Canaan Police Department honored him with a Civlian Service Award. Last September, he notified police while working at the Pine Street pharmacy about two men acting suspiciously—a tip that led to the arrests of suspects wanted in separate jurisdictions for multiple fraud and theft charges.

At the time, Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said to Darden during a presentation: “Thank you for being such a hardworking man in our community who is not afraid of getting involved in order to help others.”

Ditlevsen said the strong positive response to her call to help Darden was “pretty overwhelming” and that she’s unsure once the funds are fully in hand of just how to present him with the community’s gift.

She added: “It just makes me so proud the way everyone rallied together to help someone in need.”

4 thoughts on “‘He Is Like Sunshine’: At a Time of Need, New Canaanites Rally Around Popular Crossing Guard

  1. Let’s keep donating in the hope that Terry can get to Florida this holiday season to see his mother! We love you, Terry! Thank you for taking such good care of all of us and always greeting us with a smile – whether you are serving as a crossing guard, working at Walgreen’s or Staples. Happy holidays!

  2. There are many people, some unknown and unsung, who give of themselves to our community. Terry Darden is surely one of them. This is the time of the year for counting our blessings, and having Terry as a school guard on South Avenue to protect our children is surely one of them. I don’t have children in school, but I pass by daily and feel comforted by his ready smile for one and all.

    P.S. Wonderful article, thanks Michael

  3. I have known Terry for at least 25 years When I first met him he was the most conscientious, kind, friendly, and caring custodian in the Norwalk Public School System. I was a social worker in one school during the school year but worked with a special summer program at Terry’s school. He was always so helpful and cheerful. After that summer program was moved, I lost contact with him. Needless to say I was beyond happy to find him at Walgreen’s a couple of years ago and we renewed our acquaintance and I had just retired so I was able to share some NPS stories. Now on my way to the YMCA every AM at 7:00, I beep and wave and that smile and wave come right back. He is such a gentleman and hard worker, I would love to contribute to the fund.

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