Meet Lori Berisford

Lori with husband John and daughters Lane and Liza

Lori Berisford is a true Ridgefielder. She has lived in town for almost 20 years and, in that time, she has demonstrated an unwavering passion for helping others in her community. She is the Chairman of the Board for SPHERE, a beloved local organization that “creates a world of possibility” for individuals with developmental disabilities.

In fact, Lori’s dedication to SPHERE and other vital organizations led her to be awarded The Spirit of Dr. King Community Service Award in 2018. We’re excited to share her story.

What brought you to Ridgefield?

My husband and I moved to Ridgefield in 1999. At the time, we were working for PepsiCo and he was transferred to their corporate headquarters in Somers, NY. We were living in Cleveland, so we had to make the move back to the East Coast and find a place that would be ideal to raise our family. We had a 9 month old at the time and I was expecting, so we were definitely looking to live somewhere that was welcoming to young families!

Ridgefield wasn’t unfamiliar to us when we started to look for places to live convenient to PepsiCo headquarters. My husband and I lived in New Milford in the past and I grew up in Westchester. There were many PepsiCo execs living in Ridgefield at the time and we heard so many great things about the town from them. After researching, we just fell in love with Ridgefield. From the terrific school system to all of the arts and cultural offerings, my husband and I knew that Ridgefield would be a wonderful environment for our family.

How did you start getting involved with local nonprofits?

My community involvement really began when my kids attended the Ridgefield Academy. I was on the Parents’ Association there and served as its president for a few years. While I was in that position, I became very active in the Ridgefield community and started organizing toy drives, clothing drives, and other fundraisers to benefit the local organizations in town. In fact, my time on the Parents’ Association introduced me to Kids in Crisis, with whom I have done a lot of work for over the years. Currently, I am the Chairman of the Board for SPHERE and I sit on the board for the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury and Founder’s Hall. So, I would say my community involvement really snowballed from my time at the Ridgefield Academy.

The cast of Mamma Mia! at rehearsals

How did you get involved with SPHERE?

I met Valerie Jensen, former Chairman of the Board for SPHERE, through the Ridgefield Academy. Our children studied there, but actually it was a personal experience that led me to get involved with SPHERE. When my older daughter was in the 6th grade, we were eating at Dimitri’s Diner and a group of SPHERE members walked in to grab something to eat as well. My daughter had an uneasy reaction. At first, I did not know what to make of what happened, but then I realized that she never had any interaction with a disabled individual before. It was an aha moment. I realized I had to do something.

I related the story to Val and asked for guidance as to what I could do for my daughter to help her understand. Val was so kind and she offered to take my daughter to SPHERE. She ended up falling in love with SPHERE’s programming and became a regular volunteer. She was a dancer and even helped to choreograph routines for a few of SPHERE’s performances. When my daughter left for boarding school, Val encouraged me to take her place and I started volunteering.

We’re all very excited about SPHERE’s upcoming Mamma Mia! performance. Tell us about it.

On Sunday, October 14th, our members will be putting on their own interpretation of the hit musical Mamma Mia! at The Ridgefield Playhouse. We are so very excited about it! The production has really been a community effort. Our music director, Kim Pereira, is organizing the entire performance and our art class actually made a lot of the costumes for the show. The Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra and the Ridgefield Chorale are helping with the music and singing. Both will have members performing live on stage with us during the show. The Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, who we have been working with for the past couple of years, is helping with the choreography. We have some general volunteers from the National Charity League, the Girl Scouts, and Ridgefield High School, who are helping with staging and scenery.

We have already pre-sold over 270 tickets! Tickets will also be available at the door on October 14th, so we invite everyone to come a see this unique performance.

You can purchase tickets for Mamma Mia! on SPHERE’s website

Lori revving up for Mamma Mia! with philanthropist Elaine Cox
Rehearsals for Mamma Mia!

What makes Ridgefield so special?

Ridgefield is truly a community that cares. I think it is very unique to find a town where everyone truly wants to help and support one another. The nonprofits are always willing to help the other nonprofits in town and the businesses and residents are always very generous to these organizations as well. I try to help out in any capacity that I can and this is something I tried to teach my girls when they were growing up. Living in Ridgefield made it a lot easier for me to show my girls that it is important to be active members of your community and try to give back in anyway that you can.

Ridgefield is truly home. It has such a great small-town vibe and we are very comfortable here. There are so many fantastic things to do in town. I love going to shows at The Ridgefield Playhouse, enjoying our many cultural organizations, and being able to walk our quaint Main Street and visit all of the great shops and restaurants. This town has such a unique character and I just can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Learn more about SPHERE

Founded in 1987, SPHERE’s mission is to enrich the lives of adults with disabilities through education, entertainment, recreation, and the arts. Their diverse programming operates in a manner that is adapted to their members’ needs and engages them with the community which allows them to develop social skills, provides them with relief from isolation, and connects them with friends. SPHERE’s members come from Ridgefield as well as the surrounding CT and NY areas.

SPHERE is always looking for volunteers to help fulfill their mission. To learn about how to get involved, please visit SPHERE’s website.

Ridgefield is truly a community that cares. I think it is very unique to find a town where everyone truly wants to help and support one another.

Lori Berisford
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