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The 2023 Young Adult Program graduation was held on June 25th at the Italian American Community Center. Eighteen graduates received their diplomas and celebrated all of their amazing accomplishments.
This year's graduating class was dedicated to helping their community by volunteering at multiple locations such as Meals on Wheels, the Homeless and Travelers Aid Society and cleaning up the Albany Pinebush. By working alongside community members, our students developed new skills, built social connections and fostered a more inclusive relationship within the community.
Looking towards the future, quite a few of our graduates have been accepted into Wildwood’s own Day Hab program, while others plan to explore day hab options a bit closer to home within their community. Some graduates even look to use their volunteer skills to attain a job!
Graduation ceremonies foster a sense of pride, accomplishment, and belonging among individuals who may have faced unique challenges. Let us celebrate their milestones, honoring the journeys they have undertaken and the bright futures that lie ahead. Congratulations to the Wildwood School Class of 2023!
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5,423 people participated in the Workforce Challenge in person and 349 people participated virtually.
Wildwood had 10 team members this year. Nicole Vandenburgh from the Communications Department came in first on the team for the women with a time of 29 mins and 41 secs. She was 778 overall in the race!
CEO Lou Deepe came in first for the men.
Wildwood also had 21 people participate virtually. Lauren Roecker, from the Wildwood Foundation, came in first for Wildwood with a time of 29mins and 42 secs. She was 27th overall for virtual runners and #1 in her age bracket (which we will not disclose.) Kelly Sagan, from Wildwood School, was a close second with a time of 32mins and 10secs, placing her at 38th overall.
Thank you to everyone who participated or cheered us on from the sidelines. We look forward to doing this again next year and hope to have an even bigger turnout in person.
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Summer has finally arrived and many of us are looking for ways to make the most of it! If you are in need of some inspiration as to how to fill the days, we’ve compiled a sampling of local opportunities that may provide you with just the summer experience you’re seeking.
Disclaimer: These links are being provided for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement by Wildwood, nor do we acknowledge this is an exhaustive list of summer activities in the Capital Region.
Arts are for everyone! From larger community spaces, to more private and intimate settings, there are many opportunities within the Capital District to discover new passions and untapped talents and interests.
* Scholarships available
Recreational sports provide a multitude of benefits to athletes. Maybe this is the summer for you or your family member to try a new sport! There are a number of adaptive sports programs available in the capital region offering a variety of activities.
Summer camp opportunities:
Camp might be a perfect fit for a loved one, as there are both overnight and day possibilities within our region and slightly beyond. Some of the offerings listed here are fully integrated opportunities and some are specifically designed for people with special needs.
Summer is a perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors and we’re fortunate to have so many places to get outside in the Capital Region. Many of our local parks and wildlife preserves offer ongoing or special programs to the public at little or no cost. Check out the Upcoming Events section or Public Programs on their website.
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Wildwood helped the Homeless and Travellers Aid Society (HATAS) School Backpack Program deliver 2,220 bags of food through the City of Albany School District! Wildwood also helped provide milk and eggs to 650 students throughout the year. HATAS says "We would not have been as successful as we were this year, without all of their help."
Broken down by program, here is how our teams impacted HATAS for the 2022-2023 school year.
- Stapling/Volunteering: New Karner:
- 18 volunteers in total, with 8 people who had never volunteered with HATAS before this year!
- Total number of cards stapled: 650
- New Karner: delivered 783 meals to Pine Hills Elementary School (roughly 30 a week)
- Pinecrest: delivered 1,115 meals to Giffen Memorial School (roughly 42.5 a week)
- Riverside: delivered 322 meals to Delaware Community School (roughly 14 a week)
A tremendous thank you to all of our dedicated DSPs who lead this charge every single week and program managers/supervisors who prioritize your volunteer commitments. Their efforts & dedication are seen, appreciated & valued in our community. Stay tuned for signing up again this fall.
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Spring of 2023 was busy With Wildwood Events. Here’s a rundown in case you missed them…
After a COVID induced hiatus, Wildwood’s Staff Day returned on June 4th. Staff Day has been an integral part of the Wildwood culture, fostering a sense of togetherness, building teams and a day to honor and celebrate the staff that carries out the organization’s mission.
This year’s staff day featured live music from Dave Graham, cornhole games, and a Rock ‘N Roll dress up theme. A delicious lunch was served and the indoor soccer fields at Afrim’s made for a unique and ideal setting.
It is a time to recognize staff and their length of service to the organization. The annual Values in Action Awards are presented to staff who demonstrate and live out Wildwood’s values of Respect, Integrity, Creativity and Holism. This year the award winners were Cailin Tozier and Ricardo Barney for Respect, Jolene Lyng and Rafael Gonzalez for Integrity, Matt McMorris and Nicole Ayotte for Creativity and Maggie Pascucci and Briana Macaione for Holism.
The Legacy Awards honoring our founders Ginny Rossuck and Maxine George and our most recent executive Director, the late Mary Ann Allen, were presented for the first time. The awards are given to long term staff who have served the organization in the same spirit and with the same energy as our founders and leaders.
This year’s Legacy Award were presented to Mark Ahola, music therapist and Luz Ramos, DSP.
The Spring Gala
This year’s Wildwood annual spring gala was held at Loft 433, the exciting new rooftop venue at Hedley’s Park Place in Troy with the breathtaking views of the Collar City and Albany. Wildwood, founded in 1967, provides supports for people with autism and other disabilities.
Loft 433 is a one of a kind venue for the region with its post-industrial interior and 180 degree balconies lit by fire tables, moonlight and the Troy cityscape below. At Wildwood’s gala, held April 21, party goers were gifted with a majestic sunset as the party kicked off.
Wildwood chose to honor the Spectrum News 1 team. It is a bit unusual for a non-profit to make a media outlet the focus of a gala but Wildwood Foundation Executive Director, Lauren Roecker, saw them as the perfect honorees.
“Spectrum has covered several features on our organization in the last year. Their coverage is informative and sensitive and they strive to get the human side of each story,” Roecker said.
The news team broadcast pieces on Wildwood’s music therapy program, their speech therapists, sex and relationships program, their trauma informed counseling initiative, their summer school extension program at Camp Wildwood and their legislative advocacy efforts, among others.
The gala raised $230,000.
The 2023 Collaborative Art Showcase
Wildwood teamed up with the Albany Barn, the Capital Region’s community's sustainable art incubator, to produce this year’s showcase. Artists from the Wildwood School and Wildwood adult artists teamed up with professional artists to develop works for this presentation held at the Albany Barn on May 25.
After months of work together the show featured art in various media including oil paint, sculpture, weaving and photography. The work of all the artists were displayed side by side and many of the pieces were for sale.
Spectrum News did a feature story on the showcase. This annual event is a great way to celebrate art and the community artists at both the Albany Barn and at Wildwood.
The Undisputed Champions and the 1,000 Punch Challenge
The Undisputed Champions Program, now in its 10th year held its 1,000 Punch Challenge June 15 at Schott’s Boxing.
The program is part of Wildwood School’s adapted physical education program. Head Coach, Javier Martinez, a retired undefeated professional fighter and a police detective with the Colonie Police Department, volunteers and leads the class students along with Tom Schreck, director of communications and a professional boxing official. A team of volunteer coaches works side by side with the students.
“When you get labeled with a disability it can become defining, if you let it. People around you often lower expectations and that becomes a way of life. That doesn’t happen here. The Undisputed Champions program is about going beyond,” Tom Schreck, the co-founder of the program said.
The program was designed by Martinez and Schreck and with certified adapted physical education instructor, Rachel McDermott, who made sure the program fit within the students’ PE goals. Safety is paramount…but so is hard work.
“When you drop in you can see the group doing burpees, mountain climbers, pushups, pistons—you name it. If need be, the exercises can be adapted to a person’s level. Doing their best and pushing to their limit is what is important,” Javy Martinez, co-founder, says.
The program also teaches the principles of “Relax, Focus and Adjust” as a way to be prepared in the ring, but more importantly, in life. Though the program does no sparring for safety reasons, the fighting metaphor is used as a teaching tool. The students train for eight weeks building up to this showcase where they will throw 1,000 punches to earn their “Undisputed Champion” title and their t-shirt. There’s a brief ceremony to close the training camp and salute the new champions.
The team decided to fight for a cause bigger than themselves. They have dedicated their 1,000 Punch Challenge to people facing cancer and raising funds for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. In the last five years the program has raised just under $10,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
The International Boxing Federation, Everlast and Schott’s Boxing have all lent their support to the Undisputed Champions program.