[Photo by Lori Mahan]
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The YMCA “is a lot more than just a gym. It encompasses everything. If there is anything someone is looking for, we probably offer it. Whether it’s childcare, aquatics, gymnastics, tennis. Even if we don’t have it at a specific branch, it is probably offered at one of our other Y’s,” said Mike Miakisz, marketing director of all Saratoga Regional YMCA branches.
Whether you are going to the YMCA to work out or participate in one of their many fitness classes offered, or take a dip in the pool, you will be greeted warmly by every employee you pass, and probably every member you see as well.
The Saratoga Springs YMCA (SRYMCA) is much more than a gym to its’ members, it is a place to gather and socialize, too. Allison St. Pierre, executive director, knows every member and employee by name and greets them without hesitation.
Their most popular employee seems to be Connor McEvoy, a young man who has been working in the custodial department for the last three months.
“When I first moved up here, which was in June of last year, I had no job and my mom, and my support team wanted me to get a job. I became a member here and then we talked to my now-boss, Chris Schumacher, and he got me a job as a custodian,” McEvoy explained.
“Connor is always in the fitness area lifting weights,” Miakisz said, “or he’s walking around the track listening to his music and singing. When he works, he always interacts with the members and it’s just fun to see them interacting. He’s smiling, they’re smiling. He always puts a smile on people’s faces.”
“He’s the best, period,” said Lou Gregory, affectionately called Mayor Lou by fellow members.
Gregory has been working out at the SRYMCA since 2009.
“This is a really great place, it truly is. Connor makes it a little better. I come in sometimes, you know I’m older, I get a little grumpy, but then I see him, and I cheer right up. He’s always in a good mood, he’s a good man,” Gregory said affectionately.
“I don’t want it to go to your head though,” he said to McEvoy, “because you do cause trouble sometimes.”
“I do not!” McEvoy laughs.
It’s clear the two men have a wonderful friendship, all because of the SRYMCA bringing them together.
Matt Murray, an employee, started off as a member, too.
“I was having problems with my hip, so my doctor said, ‘we’re going to replace the first hip, but you need to lose 30 pounds before we do the other hip.’”
Murray decided to follow his wife’s lead and join the SRYMCA and began to work with a personal trainer. He lost the necessary weight, had the surgery, and after having such a positive experience with the staff and other members, he retired from his job at the state where he had worked for the last 35-years and decided to work at the Y. He has been an employee for the last year.
“I feel wonderful, it keeps me young. Working here has been a great experience,” Murray said sincerely.
“We’re really unlike any other gym because of the relationships that people form here. These guys on our senior league basketball team will probably stay here for a half an hour to an hour in the café just sitting and socializing and having a coffee. It’s a really neat thing to see. It’s more of a community,” Miakisz said.
Financial assistance is provided to whoever needs it, no one is ever turned away from a membership.
“I think we gave over $500,000 in financial assistance last year,” Miakisz explained, “we’re always giving back to our community and that’s a big perk of us being a 501(c)(3) charity.”
Aside from all the fitness classes, childcare, and sports teams offered, SRYMCA also has a LiveStrong program which is open to anyone who has battled any illness, whether in the past or presently. It is a free program for people to get back on their feet with their fitness.
“It isn’t set up as a support group, but it forms into one,” St. Pierre explained.
Membership applications, pricing, and class schedules can be found at www.srymca.org. The SRYMCA is located at 290 West Avenue, with other branches located in Battenkill, Corinth, Malta, and Wilton.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has announced their 2018 racing schedule, which will be 229 days of live thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course.
Saratoga Race Course will have a 40-day summer meet. The meet will feature the 91st running of the Grade 1 Whitney and the 149th edition of the Grade 1 Travers. The Saratoga season begins on Friday, July 20 and will have its last day on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 3. Races will take place six days a week, with Tuesday being the dark day. The race course will offer plenty of other non-race activities throughout the week. Some family friendly, some brewery and winery tastings, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.
The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival takes place on Thursday, June 7, featuring the 150th Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 9. After the Saratoga season, racing returns to Belmont for a 36-day Fall Championship meet that begins on Friday, Sept. 7 and concludes Sunday, Oct. 28.
Racing at Aqueduct continues through April 22, 2018 and is held four days a week during January and February and three days a week in March.
NYRA has announced that the popular, promotional 2018 Racing Calendar will be offered through a special three-day sale Dec. 30, 2017 through Jan. 1, 2018 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The full 2018 racing schedule can be found at www.nyra.com.
[Photo by Nate Smith]
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Ice hockey is known to be a sport where the crowd is just as riled up as the players. Whether it’s their team shooting the puck into the goal or a fight breaking out between the two teams on the ice, hockey is a fun sport to watch. Robert Hutchison, Skidmore College hockey coach, has started his third season with the Skidmore Thoroughbreds.
The Thoroughbreds have had their fair share of injuries this season, but nothing too severe. Pre-season began in September and on-ice training with the coaching staff started in October, per NCAA regulations.
The team is experiencing the typical challenges of a new season, such as team and personnel turnover, they remain focused on the goal at hand: “for us, the focus is consistently on maintaining a high compete level, being a great communicator, and being a great teammate regardless of role within the team on any given day,” Hutchison explained.
This seasons’ captains are Luke Alletzhauser, class of 2018, and Adam Moodie, class of 2019.
“Both [captains] bring different strengths to the table but are very well suited to lead this group. With such an inexperienced group, it will take some time for our key players to emerge, but Moodie is coming off a solid sophomore campaign as is fellow junior defenseman Corey Morgan and goaltender Brandon Kasel,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison describes the team as “young, but very talented,” he has the group working consistently to improv on a weekly basis.
“We’ve had our very good days and some moments of adversity in the first five weeks of the season. The New England Hockey Conference is an uber-competitive league with at least three to five of our eight teams consistently in the top 15 of the National Rankings. Consequently, every game is a highly anticipated contest and we’re always working to focus on the next opponent and not look beyond each individual matchup,” he explained.
While the team is matching up well against the top 15 opponents, the inexperience late in games “has been evident. This group has responded well to learning on the fly in the early going, but will only continue to improve with increased games under their belts,” Hutchison said.
“We’re fortunate to have a great group of young men who work hard, share a common goal, and genuinely care about being high quality student-athletes,” Hutchison said proudly.
The Skidmore Thoroughbreds will be playing Fredonia at 2 p.m. and at 5 p.m. against Hamilton vs. Canton on Nov. 25 in Saratoga Springs. All game information can be found at www.skidmoreathletics.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – At its Nov. 14 school board meeting, the Saratoga Springs City School District Board of Education voted to adopt a resolution for the Alternative Veterans’ Tax Exemption at Level C and a 10 percent Cold War Veterans’ Tax Exemption at Level C.
According to a statement from Maura Manny, director of community outreach and communication at the school district, “the Alternative Veterans’ Exemption (AVE) was established in 1984 for municipalities…and the Cold War Exemption (CWE) in 2007. Beginning in 2014 (AVE) and in 2016 (CWE), school districts were given the option to adopt these exemptions, which would exempt a portion of an eligible veteran’s assessed property value from real property taxes. The exemptions are only available to veterans who served during a designated time of war, and only applicable to primary residential properties.”
The tax levy (total amount of taxes) collected from all residents does not change but rather causes a shift in taxes, allowing qualifying veterans to apply to have their school taxes lowered. Non-qualifying taxpayers would experience an increase.
According to Lew Benton, a veteran and representative of an ad-hoc group of veterans who have been advocating for this tax break since last summer, members of the veteran community went to the board of education several months ago and asked what exemptions, if any, were offered.
Prior to the school board making their final decision on Nov. 14, the exemption was included on many board-meeting agendas, there was an online survey, and a public hearing was held to gather feedback from the community members.
Benton and his fellow veterans reviewed all of the board meeting minutes, for language suggesting a misunderstanding on the board’s part.
“There was a disconnect between the board about what a veteran really means,” Benton said.
The ad-hoc group then decided to take the board minutes and craft a memo regarding any misconceptions, providing clarification and appended anything that seemed to need highlighting and explanation. The group presented the memo in June to the board.
Following that, more meetings were held and the veterans’ group encouraged the board of education to “review, discuss and put it back on the table to draw a conclusion,” Benton said.
“While this is not the level we sought, it is a first step and will benefit many, particularly those of modest means and younger veterans attempting to become home owners,” said Benton.
Both exemptions will go into effect for the 2018-19 school year budget.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Jill Ramos, program coordinator of Saratoga Springs Recreation Department (Rec Center), and John Hirliman, director, have a busy season at the Saratoga Springs Recreation Department. Right now, they are in the middle of their fall intro to ice skating program, which is designed for ages three to adult. The program is to learn the basics of ice skating. It continues in January for eight weeks. There is also a family skate session for parents and children 12 and under, open public skate sessions which is for all ages.
“Introduction to ice skating has been around in various forms for 20 years, we’ve been running these sessions since the rink opened over 20 years ago. They were a part of our old rink also, which was built in the 1970’s,” Ramos said.
The Rec also has adult hockey sessions, which are “open stick sessions” that give participants the ability to work on drills and shooting on goals. Also open figure skating sessions, which are geared toward figure skaters, giving them the ability to work on their jumps, spins, and dances. Coaches can attend both. They will also be expanding their skating schedule during the holiday season. The rink also offers skate rentals. Prices vary for everything offered at the Rec, on and off the rink.
“City residents who have a Rec card receive a discount on all of our programs,” Hirliman said.
All program and pricing information is available on their website, www.saratogarec.com, the public skating schedule is online as well.
“Saturday is opening day for our basketball program, which has also been going on for 20 plus year. We have close to 400 players and 70 volunteer coaches,” Hirliman said.
The basketball program is open to ages 3-18 and games take place during the week and on Saturdays from November through February.
“Right now, we are registering for our winter programs, which includes the introduction lessons and volleyball programs that start in January. We also have a partnership with the youth boxing program,” Hirliman explained.
“Our most popular programming is the intro to skating, basketball, soccer, and our summer camp,” Ramos added.
Their summer camp is for ages 5-15 and it is an 8-week day camp that goes on a variety of field trips, at least three per week, arts and crafts, and sport activities. Approximately 150 kids attend.
“We have volunteer applications for camp counselors on our website that can be submitted through email. Or someone can stop by the rec center and fill out an application and go from there. They are mostly all paid positions. Our biggest volunteer opportunity is through coaching basketball and soccer though,” Hirliman said.
Another popular program is their adult basketball program which has drop-in sessions weekly.
“Some nights you’ll have up to 60 people playing, it’s very popular,” Hirliman explained.
Every day after school is open gym, which is free to attend with a Rec card and you do not have to be a city resident to partake. Kids have the opportunity to throw around the ball, run the track, and enjoy the facilities. This is free until 5 p.m. every day with varying times on the weekends, depending on what other events are scheduled.
As far as donating to the Rec Center goes, “a lot of people ask how they can donate or provide us with items. We have a non-profit group called Saratoga Springs Friends of Recreation, they have a Facebook page. They’re the organization that if someone is looking to donate anything, they’re the outlet for being able to do that,” Hirliman said.
Saratoga Springs Friends of Recreation can be found at www. facebook.com/SSFriendsofRec. All program and pricing information is available on their website, www.saratogarec.com, the public skating schedule is online as well.
SARATOGA COUNTY — On Thursday, Nov. 9 two local gentlemen were inducted in the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame. Paul Mound, Union College baseball coach and creator of Saratoga Stampede, and John DeGregory, Schuylerville, a wellknown baseball player during his high school and college years at Sienna College. With over 400 people in attendance, MC Rodger Wyland, Sports Director for NewsChannel 13, spoke of Mound and DeGregory’s achievements in baseball, along with the other 14 members of the 2017 inductee class: Buffalo Bisons, Minor League Blue Jays Affiliate; Andy Van Slyke, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates; Paul O’Neill, New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds; BJ Surhoff, Milwaukee Brewers and Baltimore Orioles; Shawon Dunston, Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants; Marty Appel, New York Yankees Media, author; John Sterling, YES Network Announcer; Carl Yastrzemski, Boston Red Sox, Cooperstown Hall of Fame; Sandy Koufax, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers; CB Bucknor, Major League Umpire; Phil Schoff, Syracuse, St. Johnsville; Walt Weiss, Oakland Athletics, Colorado Rockies; Omar Minaya, New York Mets, MLB Players Association; and Andy Yager, upstate umpire.
“When you’re getting inducted side by side with all those Major League Baseball guys, it’s very humbling. It was professional all around, a very special night,” Mound said of the evening.
Mound has been coaching Union College baseball since 2011 and has led the Dutchmen to their fifth consecutive 20-win season, the longest active streak in the Liberty League. He is the third coach in the program history to reach the 150-career win mark.
“As I’m sitting there looking at the names of the people that are up on the podium in front of me, I’m sitting there going ‘what am I doing here?’” Mound laughed.
“I never got into doing all of this stuff to get recognized. I got into it simply because I love the game and I always wanted to give kids an opportunity like I had as a kid. When you start reflecting back on it, you think, ‘holy cow, I guess I did do more than I even realized I did,’” Mound said.
Mound’s high school baseball coach is also in the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame, along with three other people from his baseball organization, Saratoga Stampede.
DeGregory had a self-described, “very long and very productive career as a baseball player at whatever level I played at. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given the opportunity to play at the pro level but I played in Sienna, I played in Connecticut in the Norwich City League for two years, and in the Albany Twilight League,” DeGregory said.
DeGregory is no longer active in baseball, he is currently working at Newport News and has done so for the last 30 years. In his early adulthood, he tried out for the Houston Astros and was offered a playing contract with them that he turned down.
“There were some circumstances that I decided not to pursue the contract, I thought I would be given more opportunities and it just never happened that way but I was able to adjust and I have a great career in the naval nuclear program that I’ve been a part of for almost 35 years. I am really happy that although it didn’t work out for me in a baseball sense, I do have a very successful career outside of baseball,” DeGregory said.
“I was very honored to be a part of that ceremony and I am proud to be a part of that group of inductees and all of the other inductees over the years,” DeGregory stated.
“I would relive the night 100 times if I could,” Mound laughed.
“The event was fantastic, we were sold out. John DeGregory and Paul Mound were all well deserved, all gentlemen. They are well-respected within the local community. Paul is a tremendous success with Stampede and has done a remarkable job building Union baseball into a powerhouse. Degregory is the best hitter I ever saw, played with, or played against,” said Rene LeRoux, Executive Director of New York State Baseball Hall of Fame.
[Photos by www.PhotoAndGraphic.com]
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Renee Banagan is a senior at Saratoga Springs High School who has been playing field hockey for the Blue Streaks since seventh grade modified. She is the team goalie.
“I actually didn’t play field hockey last year, I took a break for the Robotics Team but I have been on the team since modified. I’ve just been with it ever since then and this year we actually ended up winning the Section II championship in the Class A division, which is really awesome. We made it to regionals and ended up losing to Baldwinsville, but that’s okay. We all just really wanted to win sectionals this year and we did that. We became a really strong family through this past month of field hockey and that was really cool. Field hockey is by no means an individual sport,” Banagan said.
Banagan had nothing but praise for her coach, Joanne Hostig, “playing for her is a lot of fun. She really cares about us and how we play on the field. She gives us every resource that we could really need to be at our best for every game. We’ve had personal trainers come in, we’ve had a lot of new equipment this year, and since Saratoga doesn’t have turf space, we’ve been able to rent out a lot of turf spaces thanks to our awesome Booster Club. So she really just tries to provide us with anything that we need to be the best that we can be.”
Banagan is also on the school’s Robotics Team and has been active since eighth grade.
“Way back in eighth grade, Mr. Sweeney, a technology teacher at Maple Ave Middle School had heard about this robotics program called VEX Robotics and he bought a starter kit and he told any kids that wanted to come in after school and help build a robot for a competition could drop by and help out. So me and ten other kids went and did that. I fell in love with it. The next year we bought a few more robot kits and grew into a couple separate teams and ended up competing all around NYS,” she explained.
This year, the Robotics Team was a state finalist, earning them a spot in the world competition in Kentucky. Banagan is in the TECHSMART Program, and through that she is earning a year’s worth of college credits and with a grant that they provide her, she is able to go to Hudson Valley Community College for a year free of cost.
“I think I might take advantage of that,” she laughed, “I’ll finish my associates degree in mechatronics, which is what I’m currently working towards, and then hopefully I’ll transfer to a four-year school like RIT and finish with a mechanical engineering degree.”
On top of robotics and field hockey, Banagan has been to Uganda twice, with a third trip this upcoming February, through AOET (AIDS Orphans Education Trust Fund).
“My neighbor is part of the New England Presbyterian Church and through that church there has been a lot of people who have gone to Uganda with this organization. My neighbor knew that I’d always wanted to travel so they informed me about this and I went for the first time in 2016. It was a two week medical mission trip. We were bringing over medical and school supplies for local schools over there. We performed somewhere around 600 physicals on children,” Banagan said.
Travel expenses for AOET are out of pocket. The money they fundraise goes into the organization, which has two schools in Uganda, a primary and a secondary school, and a medical clinic. The program also has a sponsorship aspect where people from around the world can sponsor a kid for $38 a month. This money provides them with schooling, access to the medical clinic, and at least one meal a day. Banagan’s trips typically line up with school breaks, resulting in her only missing one week of school instead of the full two that she’s gone.
“I always try to go in ahead of time and get my work. I always talk to my teachers, just to make sure they know what’s going on. They’re so great about helping me stay on track with what I need to know,” she said.
This year, her favorite teacher is Ms. Narkiewicz, her physics teacher.
“She’s a really great teacher. She really cares about her job and her students and she wants to build basically a class that’s going to help benefit us the best it can,” Banagan said of Narkiewicz.
Banagan said that the best part of her senior year is, “the freedom I have. It’s really awesome just to be able to do things with my friends after school.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — On Saturday, Nov. 10 more than 60 Skidmore athletes raked leaves for senior citizens throughout Saratoga Springs. The volunteers split into five different groups, conquering more than a dozen yards.
In how the idea came to be, volleyball player Bailey Hutchins, a junior at Skidmore College, decided to combine her honors forum position and SAAC (student-athlete advisory committee) position to create a citizenship project, which is required for her to complete her minor.
A citizenship project is required of all honors students and is described as, “students should use their talents to contribute to campus and/or community life. A Citizenship Project will give [the student] the opportunity to develop a creative endeavor outside of the classroom or as an extension of a classroom experience.”
“I began thinking of ideas this summer when I was interning at the senior center on what I could do within the community that could be practical and meaningful. With the help of Lois, the executive director of Saratoga Senior Center, we determined an unmet need of the senior population was raking leaves in the fall,” Hutchins explained.
A total of 40 rakes were donated by Allerdice Hardware, Skidmore Facilities, and Skidmore Community Service.
“It was a chance to help seniors, even on a small scale, to live independently and age in place. We received a lot of positive feedback and gratitude. Even enjoying snacks seniors provided,” said Hutchins.
[All photos by Lori Mahan]
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Katie Ploss has been the troop leader of Troop # 3087 for the past three years. Her troop consists of 15 third graders who decided they wanted to build a Buddy Bench for their Greenfield Elementary School.
Lucy Ploss, one of the Girl Scouts, described the Buddy Bench as, “something that people can use to go to when they are lonely.”
The bench will be displayed on the playground for years to come. It is a place for any kid who is feeling lonely or left out to sit on and find a friend.
“The bench means that if someone is friendless they can go and somebody might sit down with them,” said Maya Balouskas, Girl Scout.
Ploss said that they started raising money for the bench in August; the girls decided a garage sale would be the best option for money raising and they all contributed items to sell in the Greenfield Town Wide Sale. By the end of the weekend, they had more than met their goal of $350. Once the bench was bought, the girls brought it to the school.
“We had every student in the entire school do a thumbprint in the shape of a rainbow on the back of the bench. We had a plaque made and then we put the school name on the back of the bench as well. Now the girls will implement how to use the bench. The principal has brought attention to the bench being outside and what it’s meant for, being kind and being there for people who are lonely,” Ploss explained.
“The Buddy Bench means kindness to me. Kids can have someone to play with and not be left out for the whole recess,” said Girl Scout Eliza Watson.
“The girls are doing a great job explaining to people what it’s used for and so for years to come it’ll be used by all the students in the school. We just really look forward to seeing it bring kindness. It’s really just about keeping the Girl Scout promise of being courageous, strong, friendly, and helpful, and the girls are doing a great job of showing how to carry that out,” Ploss commended.
In total, the bench cost approximately $350. The Buddy Bench can be found at the Greenfield Elementary School.
[All photos by www.PhotoAndGraphic.com]
SCHUYLERVILLE — From noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12 four troops in the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York (GSNENY) chapter worked on achieving their First Aid badge or pin by learning about 911, the basics of first aid, such as using household items in a first aid situation and identifying cardiac and stroke symptoms, and meeting with local fire and EMS personnel from the General Schuylerville Emergency Squad and the Saratoga Hose Company, along with LifeNet paramedics. Coordinator Kim Austin has been Troop #3085 Leader for three years and was given this idea by other troop leader Lana Cawrse.
“We were lucky because one of the other troop leaders, Lana Cawrse, has a brother-in-law who is a paramedic for LifeNet, Andrew Cawrse. They had basically initiated this over a family dinner and when we talked about it and decided to open it up to all of the Schuylerville troops, a lot of that fell into my hands. LifeNet generously donated their helicopter and Hudson Crossing donated the location,” Austin explained.
Along with a helicopter for the girls to explore and learn about, two fire engines were present and the girls got a thorough tour of the compartments in both engines and a lesson on evacuating from a home in the event of a fire with their families and pets.
“I think the most exciting part of the day was being able to explore the helicopter and try on the gear and participate in a mock rescue. They also learned from the paramedics, Andrew and his partner Brian, about splinting broken limbs with household items like bags of peas and chopsticks. They also learned stroke awareness, identifying the signs of a stroke,” Austin said.
Though it was only 40 degrees that day, Austin said they were lucky that it was a “warm 40 degrees,” so the girls and their leaders could comfortably learn what was being offered to them.
“Every year the GSNENY allows them to earn another 1st aid badge or pin so they continue to increase their skills through the curriculum and they build confidence by seeing people participate in these things. The best thing is they were interacting with real personnel who do these things every day and who they might encounter in these situations. It may make them want to be involved in this type of occupation in the future,” Austin said.
The girls’ parents were excited about what was being offered to their daughters. “From the parents I talked to, they were very excited the girls were having such a rich experience and got to have 20 minutes with each station. They were excited to see the girls learn that much at such a young age,” Austin explained.
“It’s great when we can bring all the troops together for a really great learning experience that is memorable for the girls and continue to build community support for Girl Scouts. We’re not just about cookies and crafts. Our goal is to build the next generation of leaders, which I feel is certainly true in this situation,” Austin vocalized.