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Journal Inquirer
March 2, 2002

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Saturday, March 2, 2002 / JOURNAL INQUIRER
Tolland mom takes her job onto public-access cable

Journal Inquirer - News ReportBy Emily Severson

TOLLAND- When Robyn Surdel was a new mom in 1996, she was often frustrated in her efforts to find useful parenting information - and she turned the problem into a business.

Photo by Jennifer Lynn Page

Surdel began a web site called Robyn's Nest as a resource for finding parenting information on the Web.

In 1999, Surdel brought her business to television. She began a public-access television show with the same name.

Her show is available on cable systems in Connecticut and Massachusetts. In April, it will begin showing in Manhattan.

Surdel and her husband, Joseph P. Surdel, moved to Tolland in 1999 from Cooper City, Fla., with their sons Joey, 9, and Nicholas, 5.

For the family, the move was like returning home. Joseph grew up in Ellington, and the house they bought on Buff Cap Road is next to land that once belonged to his mother.

Surdel said some of her shows are based on topics she has encountered as a parent, and some are on more serious issues, such as postpartum depression and teen-age pregnancy.

Surdel invites experts to appear on her show to talk about parenting issues.

"I am a self-motivator," Robyn Surdel says. "I learn a lot from my shows too."

Surdel describes herself as an average mom, who was frustrated in trying to find information about her parenting concerns.

"I am an average person, so I think many of the problems or concerns I have, other parents have," Surdel says.

She began Robyn's Nest Web site in 1996, while living in Florida. It includes information on topics ranging from how a woman's sexuality may be affected by pregnancy to safe children's toys.

Surdel says her cable-television show tries to provide unbiased information about parenting to a wide audience.

She has taken one issue personally, however.

Surdel recently aired a show about "safe haven laws," which allow parents to leave an unwanted baby in a safe place without the threat of prosecution.

"Choosing a safe haven should be the absolute last resort, but safe haven laws are instrumental in saving the innocent lives of unwanted newborns," Surdel says.

In 1991, there were 65 documented cases of infant abandonment in the United States. The number rose to 105 in 1998, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Connecticut's legislature enacted a safe haven law in 2000. All but 15 states have such laws.

Surdel has begun campaigning for a safe haven bill in Massachusetts. She attended a press conference to promote the bill in Boston on Thursday with State Rep. Benjamin Swan, D-Springfield, one of its sponsors.

"If these laws save one baby, they are worth it," Surdel says. "It is horrible to lose an infant because the parents are scared that they will get in trouble if they take the baby to a hospital."

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