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Samson the Dood catching rays. Photo by Mindy Briar

Featured Article

Kids Who Kick it Up a Notch

And a Photogenic Dog

Article by Robin Moyer Chung

Photography by Mindy Briar & John Videler

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

Jaden Waldman, 9

Despite his tender age, Jaden plays Peter in PBS’ Pinkalicious & Peteriffic. He’s been in the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular for an unprecedented two years in a row and is featured in national commercials. You’ll soon spot him in episodes of upcoming shows on HBO, Amazon Studios, and Showtime, and in the Indie film Give or Take. His favorite food is grilled cheese.

Of the Rockettes show:

“Their cores are super strong.”

“People are so nice! I got to shadow one of [the stage managers] and that was very, very fun. I’m so into the behind-the-scenes, if there’s magic in a show I want to figure it out."

“The first show is always pretty nerve-racking, your feet feel like jello and your heart feels like it’s going to fly away. Once you get to the second show you’re fine, you get the hang of it."

On being home-schooled during the Rockettes show:

“My mom made it the opposite of a drag. We went to all these crazy museums.”

About recording shows for PBS:

“PBS is great about making sure I don’t miss a lot of school.”

Chad Knight, 18

Remember the 2013 Little League World Series? Chad’s team is still together, mostly, and they won the Class LL CIAC state championship this June. He’s the 2019 Gatorade State Player of the Year and 31st round pick for the Yankees. For which he’s thankful, but he’ll be too busy attending Duke University to play next year.

About practices with his Dad:

“We’d go out every day, since kindergarten, and throw 100 catches. The distance got further as I got older.”

“When I was 8 I hit one back and it hit him in the face and knocked him down. I was shaking his arm ‘Dad, Dad are you dead?’ Then we went out and bought a pitching machine.”

On meeting his favorite player, Mariana Rivera:

“My big takeaway was learning about his life and his hardships. He went from playing baseball in Panama with rocks and sticks to being the first unanimous choice for baseball hall of fame.”

His not-so-great experience:

“I threw up on a mound and that was really embarrassing.”

If he weren’t in baseball he’d…

“Maybe I would have played a little more piano. I haven’t really thought about it. I’m guess I’m lucky I found baseball.”

Clara Holleman, 16

Clara plays piano, cello, guitar, and bass, though she still prefers to crush the keys when performing. Which she’ll be doing a lot of this summer as one of eight musicians selected nationwide for the prestigious Allstar School of Rock [SOR] House Band or with her own two bands, Mr. Pink and Helix. She won a scholarship for the summer program at Berklee School of Music, where she’ll study music theory and play with an all-female rock ensemble. @MrPinkMusic @Helix.Band

On her inspiration to play music:

"My parents wanted me to play an instrument. So I chose piano.”

About being a female musician:

“I’m the only girl in my bands. I’m looking forward to representing the girls in SOR. A lot of the girls drop out.”

Why she’s her bands’ self-appointed manager:

“I like leading and telling everyone what to do.”

Her favorite gig:

“At the Little Barn in April because we had the biggest crowd and they [Little Barn] made the most money than ever before. It was standing room only. Even the lunch ladies at school came!”

Karalyn Hood, 16

Karalyn’s life is part entertainment, part reality. She’s stage manager for the Staples Players, enabling them to create shows which inform and delight thousands of audience members. She’s also President of Teen Awareness Group (TAG) and is determined to help de-stigmatize addiction and its auxiliary casualties.

What a stage manager is:

“Quite literally the person who manages the stage, from all of the rehearsal spaces, who’s going to be aware of the times, who’s building and painting, keeping track of the people in the organization including both tech and actors. This position has forced me to grow a lot as a person.”

Why she does it:

“I’m a thinker and a problem solver. I get to be in and around this art form that I love.”

Why she became President of TAG:

“My brother was 20 when he overdosed on heroin. He started drinking at 14, then it progressed to other drugs… I joined TAG to learn how to use my voice and my story. Health classes in schools… tell you what certain drugs do and that you should stay away from them, but no one tells you about the emotional trauma of having your life ravaged by addiction.”

What she hopes to accomplish with TAG:

“I don’t think that three years ago I could sit here talking to you about my brother without breaking down. If I can help anybody to know that this is something that happens to a lot of people, then that makes me feel better.”

Zac Mathias, 16

With the flair and marketing savvy of an entrepreneur twice his age, Zac is building his Classic Chic business that’s nothing short of fabulous. Zac became interested in design at 5. By 11 he was decorating homes professionally and now, as a sophomore, is concurrently decorating three homes top-to-bottom in Westport and Weston. @Zac.Mathias

How he learned about his profession:

“Designers opened up to me, told me about the design industry, taught me what they could. I go to all the house tours: Rooms with a View, Near & Far Aid. I had to miss one this week because I had school.”

What he wears to school:

“Jeans, chic belt, simple sweatshirt. I never do anything with a hood. I push the sleeves up and I always wear bracelets.”

One of his designs tenets:

“I am known to say it like it is, it’s my job to give my honest opinion. But if they’re your grandmother’s dining room chairs and you insist on having them, I figure out how to make it work.”

“When you use color for every step it wraps you like a hug.”

Of his upcoming product lines:

“They’re off the record which is a bummer because they’re so cool.”

Samson the Dood, 5 (people years)

He vibrates like an electric toothbrush when he meets new people. So you’d never know he’s the chill, pliable golden doodle that throws Instagram into a tizzy when his mom, Jessica, dolls him up for photo shoots. Since 2014, he’s garnered millions of views and over 250K followers from around the world, making him an international sensation. (Quotes are Jessica’s, because Samson is a dog.) @SamsonTheDood

His first posed photo:

“I posted a photo of him on the sofa with a shirt, a remote control and a beer. He was definitely a chill dog.”

About adopting Samson’s son:

“Samson studded 10 puppies. We chose the doodle for him to stud. I could stud Samson out like crazy but I didn’t wanted to do that. We want another puppy and wanted his son.”

Future plans for the Dood:

“Samson was trained to do therapy dog work with the ‘Good Dog Foundation’ in NYC. Now we’d like to find an organization in CT! Doodles make great therapy dogs because of their temperament & fluffiness.”

  • Jaden Waldman recording "Pinkalicious and Peterrific."
  • Jaden Waldman behind stage with Rockettes.
  • Samson the Dood relaxing with an issue of Westport Lifestyle. Photo by Mindy Briar
  • Karalyn Hood
  • Karalyn Hood
  • Karalyn Hood
  • Samson the Dood catching rays. Photo by Mindy Briar
  • Zac Mathias (handbag courtesy of Hat Attack). Photo by Mindy Briar
  • Zac Mathias (handbag courtesy of Hat Attack). Photo by Mindy Briar
  • Zac Mathias (handbag courtesy of Hat Attack). Photo by Mindy Briar
  • Samson the Dood catching rays. Photo by Mindy Briar
  • Clara Holleman in the Blues, Views, & BBQ Festival at the Levitt Pavilion (Photo: Evan Rapp)
  • Chad Knight before practice. Photo by John Videler