By Eric C. Sharer, MPH, RD, CDN Wildwood Dietitian & HEAL Committee Co-Chair

HEAL started in 2014 as an initiative to improve nutritional habits and increase physical activity for the students at the Wildwood School. Some of the HEAL accomplishments included creating a greenhouse at the school, starting a weekly running/walking club, and instilling a healthier culture within the school. 

In 2019, HEAL was able to expand its reach to all adults at Wildwood – including individuals that receive support as well as staff – thanks to a grant from CDPHP. The purpose of HEAL is to empower the Wildwood community to make choices and promote changes in their physical and social environment to improve nutrition and physical activity.

By Melinda Burns

 The dog days of summer were upon us: we were in the middle of summer, it was hot, we were keeping our social distance away from others – when…wow! Wildwood’s Health Eating, Active Living (HEAL) Committee gave us a unique opportunity: The Wildwood Walking Challenge. For the challenge, staff could walk individually or reach out to others to make up a team, set individual walking goals for the month, and find a destination based on the total mileage. It was perfect timing!   

In an effort to keep people as safe and healthy as possible, the Walk for Wildwood is making the move to being a virtual event in 2020. While the format has changed, the cause remains the same – people will be able to participate in this annual fundraising event at their own pace, and connect with the Wildwood community online.

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:


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