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'Homeless To Harvard' Author Connects At STAR Event In Darien

Grace Bennett (left) with Wolf Grace, 2, and mom Kate Bagnati, meet with author Liz Murray (right). Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Liz Murray and Executive Director Katie Banzhaf (left) chat at Thursday's benefit for STAR, Lighting the Way. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Mary Ingriselli (left) author Liz Murray and Jane Pelletier. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Author Liz Murray chats with a client at the STAR benefit Thursday. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Author Liz Murray with clients at Thursday's benefit. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman

DARIEN, Conn. -- Supporters of Norwalk-based STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way enjoyed a recent fundraising luncheon that featured a speech by the author of a bestselling memoir on her journey as a homeless teen to a Harvard student.

Liz Murray is the author of "Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard." She spoke at the event was at the Woodway Country Club in Darien last week.

The programs and services at STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way help those with developmental disabilities and their families in Norwalk, New Canaan, Wilton, Weston, Westport and Darien. STAR is a not–for-profit organization serving individuals of all ages.

It creates opportunities for individuals to live full lives with independence, freedom of choice and personal growth by providing support, services and advocacy.

Murray tells a motivational story about turning her life around after growing up the neglected child of drug addicts. When she was born in 1980, her former beatnik father was in jail for illegally trafficking in prescription painkillers, and her mother, a cocaine addict since age 13, had just barely missed losing custody of their year-old daughter, Lisa.

Murray and her sister grew up in a Bronx apartment that gradually went to seed, living off government programs and whatever was left after the parents indulged their drug binges.

By age 15, with the help of her best friend Sam and an elusive hustler, Carlos, she took permanently to the streets, relying on friends for shelter. With the death of her mother, her runaway world came to an end, and she began her step-by-step plan to attend an alternative high school, which eventually led to a New York Times scholarship and acceptance to Harvard.

In this incredible story of true grit, Murray went from feeling like "the world was filled with people who were repulsed by me" to learning to receive the bountiful generosity of strangers who truly cared.

STAR was established in 1952 by parents who believed that children with developmental disabilities were entitled to the same basic opportunities in their home community as other children and as an alternative to institutionalization. Today the organization has grown to include a full array of services for over 500 individuals with disabilities and their families, from birth to their senior years.

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