By Bridget Kennedy, Business Development Liaison

We can all agree that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on us all. Like many of us, participants in Wildwood’s vocational and residential services suddenly had to shift their lives from being out in the community to staying at home. This created the need for new ways to connect with others, and interact with places that no longer could be safely accessed. It made us wonder: how would Wildwood fulfill a vision for community inclusion during a global pandemic? 

A message from Robin Hickey, President of the Wildwood Programs Board of Directors and Lisa Clifford, President of the Wildwood Foundation Board of Directors:

The Wildwood Programs Board of Directors and the Wildwood Foundation Board of Directors have announced the appointment of Lou Deepe to the position of Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director of Wildwood Programs, effective January 1, 2021. Lou will succeed Mary Ann Allen, who has held the position since 2001 and who announced earlier this year her intention to retire on December 31, 2020.

Lou is well known to the Wildwood family, as he has served the organization for 12 years. He has been the Chief Operational Officer since 2016; the Director of Strategic Development from 2012 to 2016; and the Director of Transitional Day Services from 2008 to 2012. He began his career supporting people with disabilities in 1993 as a Direct Support Professional at the Warren, Washington & Albany Counties ARC - WWAARC. From there, in 1996, he continued his career at Community, Work & Independence, Inc. in Queensbury, New York, in a direct support role within a day hab setting, and went on to serve in many roles during his time with the organization, including positions within employment, day and school transitional services. He received his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh in Psychology and his master’s degree in Non-Profit Management from Northeastern University with a concentration in Leadership.

The task of finding a successor for Mary Ann Allen, whose commitment and devotion to the organization has helped position Wildwood as a leader in the field of disability supports, has not been easy. We are confident that we have found in Lou an individual with the expertise, skillset and knowledge for the position. In addition, and perhaps most of all, his love for the Wildwood culture will bring this strong and vibrant organization into the future.

As we always do at Wildwood, we took a thoughtful and comprehensive approach in the design of the search, hiring and interviewing process. A search committee was formed consisting of 13 individuals, including eight board members (four of which were also family members), two staff members, two advisory council members, and one former staff. Over an eight-month period, the committee met weekly, formulated the job description and mapped out the interview process. Seventy applicants were screened, seven candidates were interviewed and the ones who made it to the final round were asked nearly 100 questions. It was a very thorough process.

We thank Mary Ann for her years of devoted service and we congratulate Lou on his appointment to the position of Chief Executive Officer of Wildwood Programs!


Albany Business Review recently published an article on this transition:

By Jill Rafferty-Weinisch, Strategic Director of Vocational, Day, and Community Supports

 In 2019 and 2020, the leases on all three of Wildwood’s Day Program facility buildings were coming due. There were many ways in which the spaces in Clifton Park and Albany were not ideal, and after 20 years in the same location, the New Karner space was in need of a facelift.

Walk for Wildwood Information and FAQ

Friday, September 25 - Wednesday, September 30
The 2020 Walk for Wildwood might look a little different this year, but the difference your support will make in our community remains the same! 
How does it work? Walk one day or all six! Go to a local park, walk down your street, or use a treadmill. Walk for 30 minutes or 30 miles -- just get active, celebrate Wildwood, and stay safe while social distancing and using a mask when necessary. See the Frequently Asked Questions/FAQ below the page break for more information!
Participate in this annual fundraising event at your own pace and connect with the Wildwood community virtually! Thanks to the generosity of people like you, Wildwood can turn the dreams of the people we support into reality. Create a personal fundraising page or start a team! Participate in this year's new initiatives, like the "Walk A Mile in My Shoes" Art Contest, and the Community Scavenger Hunt. 
*Register by Sunday, September 13th to guarantee your 2020 Walk t-shirt (and mask) at pickup.
*Registratnts after September 13th will still receive a tshirt, but they may not be available for pickup. 
Join our Facebook Event to participate in fun giveaways, and learn more about this year's new activities! Stay up to date on all the details and to share why you #WalkForWildwood!

The History and Current Offerings of Adult Education at Wildwood


The Adult Education program at Wildwood offers a wide range of educational and career-based support for people with disabilities. For over two decades, Wildwood has committed to providing this unique service and working with individuals and community partners throughout the Capital Region to provide learning opportunities in literacy, work-related, financial, interpersonal, and wellness skills in order for adults with disabilities to gain greater self-satisfaction and an enhanced quality of life.

A generous donation from Elizabeth H. Rally helped Adult Education get its start at Wildwood in 1999. Since its inception, Adult Ed has focused on two components: The Academy for Lifelong Learning (Adult Education), and Farming and Outdoor Projects. The Adult Education curriculum works alongside all other programs at Wildwood to build upon and enhance individuals’ skills and knowledge so that they are better equipped to participate in an ever-changing world. 

Over 40 courses are divided into Fall and Spring Semesters. Approximately 120 students participate in at least one course offering per year. Students have the opportunity to select the courses they are interested in, and provide their own input in the creation of new ones. All courses fall into five categories: Visual and Performing Arts; Physical Well-Being; Mental Well-Being; Emotional Well-Being; and Financial Well-Being – popular offerings include choir, cooking, self-defense, health advocacy, high school equivalency, computer skills, transition support, and budgeting, among others. 

Students who participate in Adult Education often have a wide range of disabilities, diagnosed or not. These can include complex learning disabilities, mental health conditions, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Compared to other programs at Wildwood, Adult Education is not funded by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) Medicaid Waiver or the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Approximately 50% of the students that attend classes do not qualify for any of the typical financial supports and services. Wildwood has been able to sustain Adult Education for its entire duration thanks to donations, scholarships, private pay, Wildwood Foundation supports, CSEA Tuition Vouchers, and grants.

Adult Education at Wildwood continues to expand and grow. Capital Region collegiate interns and community volunteers help provide new course offerings; support staff and family members have been welcomed to participate in classes alongside registered students. The new, virtual class format that will be offered in Fall 2020 will open up accessibility and course availability to those who may have transportation or time conflicts, while still providing individualized support and in addition to adhering to the pandemic-imposed social distancing regulations.

The classes offered by Adult Education have played an important role in helping foster independence, friendships, and personal development. For over 20 years, individuals have received education and support through major life events, such as home-buying, debt reduction, and career advancement. Through the wide range of community funding and outside support, as well as the ongoing dedication of staff and participants, Adult Education at Wildwood has withstood the tests of time to remain an important, innovative opportunity for all involved.

If you are interested in learning more or have questions about the Adult Education program, please contact Melinda Burns at The Fall Semester course brochure is now available. Registration forms are due by September 10. If you would like to sign up for a course and/or see which courses are available, please fill out the following form:


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