Thursday, January 21, 2021

Person of the Week

Love is Louder: Corrine Panagos Shares a Passion for Supporting Smile Anyway’s Mission


As a retired R.N. and praticing holistic nurse, Corrine Panagos instantly connected with non-profit Smile Anyway’s mission to assist young adults, and their families, battling addiction. As a volunteer board member of the Branford-based non-profit, she invites the community to come to out to the second annual Love is Louder music festival on Saturday, Aug. 31 on the Branford Green from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound

As a retired R.N. and praticing holistic nurse, Corrine Panagos instantly connected with non-profit Smile Anyway’s mission to assist young adults, and their families, battling addiction. As a volunteer board member of the Branford-based non-profit, she invites the community to come to out to the second annual Love is Louder music festival on Saturday, Aug. 31 on the Branford Green from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)

Corrine Panagos hadn’t set foot in Toad’s Place for more than 40 years, but if getting on the floor in a crowd of youthful reggae/folk/blues/rock fusion devotees would help the cause of Smile Anyway, this retired R.N.-turned-holistic nurse was all in.

“I hadn’t been to a show like that since the ’60s. I loved it! And, it was on my bucket list to go back to Toad’s Place,” says Corrine, who attended the June benefit show as a board member of the night’s beneficiary, non-profit Smile Anyway of Branford.

The Toad’s show featured Max Creek, a legendary rock band that’s been playing together for more than 40 years. Corrine says being in the crowd with Smile Anyway Founder/president Amy Johansson kickstarted their excitement for the second annual Love is Louder music festival to benefit Smile Anyway, coming to the Branford Town Green on Saturday, Aug. 31, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Established in 2018, Smile Anyway hopes to develop a resource recovery community center where young adult shoreline residents and families facing addiction issues can participate in programs and receive training and help. Right now, Smile Anyway is assisting many families and individuals undergoing addiction and recovery efforts.

Smile Anyway sponsors events such as Narcan training and offers information sharing on a one-to-one basis from its small office on Montowese Street. The office was opened in March with the help of local attorney Robin Sandler.

All proceeds from Love is Louder (suggested entry donation, $10) will help Smile Anyway to continue its mission, Corrine notes. This year’s Love is Louder is also a registered National Overdose Awareness Day (NOAD) program. The first 100 entrants will receive a free NOAD “Time to Remember, Time to Act” bracelet.

As a family event, Love is Louder will mingle kids’ activities (Curious Creatures, Hypnotic Hoopla, ZFace and Body Art, and CT Party Booth) with offerings from seven food trucks, 12 hours of live music, raffles, educational and information sharing stations, and tables filled with local artists’ offerings. Through Smile Anyway’s newly constructed mobile Memorial Wall, the event will also help pay tribute to those who lost their battle with the disease of addiction. Festival attendees are encouraged to bring a photo of a loved one or friend, as well as some candid photos, to leave on the wall, which will travel to future Smile Anyway events.

Love is Louder’s music festival features nine live bands. Festival headliner Hayley Jane will follow Creamery Station, Shake Down, Jen Durkin’s Steal Your Funk, Delusions of Grandeur, John Spignesi Band, Jordan Meyer & KC Makes Music, Nunz n Pepin, and Tim Palmieri.

Moments between the music will be punctuated by raffle drawings, including a two-hour private party ride donated by Shoreline Trolley Museum, and chances to win prizes including signed albums from national act Simply Stoopid and rising star Citizen Cope. Johansson, who will emcee, plans to share the poem “We Remember Them” and a moment of silence at 8:15 p.m. And, as a dazzling, lighter moment, the festival’s fire spinner, LB SpinnerZ, will take the stage as darkness falls and live music plays.

Smile Anyway thanks the Town of Branford and especially First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove for supporting the festival, notes Corrine, a Branford resident of 20 years.

In addition, the non-profit thanks State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98) for his work to bring the state laws and forums to help battle opiate addiction and for planning to attend Love is Louder on Aug. 31.

A Full Day

Corrine says about 20 educational stations will be set up on the green from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., including participation from Branford Police and Fire departments, Branford Counseling Center, East Shore District Health Department, GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing), Bridges from Milford/the MAT Van, Shoreline Recovery Sober Living, BHcare, and Love Tribe-Community Center for Healing Arts and Movements, to name a few.

Smile Anyway will have an interactive exhibit, Hidden in Plain Sight, featuring a mock-up of a bedroom where drug paraphernalia blends in as what appear to be common items. Licensed service experts in areas such as addiction, recovery and psychiatric services will also be on-hand.

“I don’t think there’s any other event like this going on in the state,” says Corrine.

With so much to offer, and especially through its live music, Love is Louder hopes to draw attendees from the shoreline and across Connecticut. It’s sure to bring fans of bands playing the type of music that Johansson and her son, Eric, shared as a passion. Sadly, in 2013, Eric died at 24 due to substance abuse. His mom, a Branford resident, left her career as a psychiatric nurse to found Smile Anyway and provide others with the support that did not exist, at the time, to help her son: transitional post-rehabilitation assistance for young adults (and their families) after they leave rehabilitation, to help them succeed in their new, sober lifestyle.

As a holistic nurse, Corrine will be offering a service at Love is Louder that she says is helping many of her clients at her East Haven office, including those working to remain in recovery after leaving rehabilitation programs: ear acupuncture.

The East Haven native is a certified acupuncture detoxification specialist. She also holds a master’s degree as a registered nurse, with a career spanning 30 years in nursing (including 10 years as a nursing instructor). Corrine’s now in her 15th year of practice as a holistic nurse, for which she also became a certified hypnotherapist, certified in mindfulness-based stress reduction, and earned an energy medicine practitioner degree from the Institute of Healing Arts and Sciences in Bloomfield.

“I work with an APRN nurse practitioner specializing in addiction and mental health, and also see my own, private clients,” says Corrine. “In January, I met another APRN, who works for the State of Connecticut, and she said ear acupuncture is offered at state rehab facilities, but it’s needed in the communities, because when clients leave the [state] rehab facilities, they come to communities, and then what can they do?”

Offered as a holistic alternative treatment to aid recovery, “they’ve been using [ear acupuncture] for years in other countries,” says Corrine. “In this country, it started in New York in the 1970s, where it was being used in conjunction with methadone programs and other medications.”

Last year, Corrine was attending a Shoreline Chamber of Commerce event, talking about her work to help those suffering from addiction, when friend and co-chamber member John Saville suggested she reach out to Johansson.

“He said, ‘You have got to meet Amy,’” Corrine recalls. “And it was like synchronicity, the minute I met her. We were like soulmates! I thought, ‘I have to work with this woman.’ I love the philosophy and the mission statement of the organization. It’s all about the whole person, the whole community—it’s full circle. And that’s what holistic nursing is about, too. It’s about helping people, to empower them to go on with their lives.”

Just days before Love is Louder, Corrine will join Johansson in the crowd at another Branford music event that will benefit Smile Anyway: two nights of performances by the band Twiddle at Stony Creek Brewery on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 29 and 30. Twiddle’s partner non-profit, White Light Foundation, will donate $1 of every ticket sold to Smile Anyway. The band will also contribute proceeds from its collectible pin sales as well as some other merchandise proceed sales. Tickets and more information can be found online at

Johansson says she can’t think of a better friend to share the Twiddle show with than Corrine. She adds she can’t thank Corrine and all of Smile Anyway’s volunteer board enough for their help and support.

“It’s not just me. It can’t be just me. It’s people like Corrine who are coming together with me to help,” says Johansson. “And she’s always there for people who need her help. She’s always saying, ‘If you need my help, I’ll be there.’ I’m just proud to have people like her on my board, helping and supporting me, and the community, to make a difference.”

“That’s the only way we’re going to get things done,” says Corrine. “We have to start at the grass roots, and go up.”

Smile Anyway presents the second annual Love is Louder music festival Saturday, Aug. 31 on the Branford Green from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Suggested entry donation, $10. For more information or to donate to non-profit Smile Anyway online, visit

Pam Johnson covers news for Branford and North Branford for Zip06. Email Pam at

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