Displaying items by tag: saratoga bridges

Thursday, 17 September 2020 14:17

The White Party with a Splash of Color’ goes Virtual

SARATOGA — Saratoga Bridges has been meeting the unprecedented challenges surrounding the COVID-19 crisis.  Due to the mandates on social distancing and limited numbers of people who can gather, Saratoga Bridges will not have their annual White Party ‘in person’ at Saratoga National Golf Club. 

They have re-envisioned their largest fundraiser to assist with the unanticipated expenses incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as generating support for their non-funded or underfunded programs.  The community is invited to join the transformed Facebook Live online event, which includes: an online Silent Auction from Sept. 17-24 featuring: A beautiful new deck; One week stay at Sanibel Island, Florida; Saratoga National Golf Club foursome with cart; Saratoga Mirror Lake package; 2021 Travers Day at the Races table. 

A Live Virtual Celebration will take place 5-7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25. For more details, visit: saratogabridges.ejoinme.org/whiteparty. To support the event, contact Kelly Armer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Entertainment
Thursday, 03 September 2020 11:02

Golf Classic Raises Over $35,000 for Saratoga Bridges

SARATOGA SPRINGS —Over $35,000 NET was raised at Saratoga Bridges’ 17th Annual J. Michael Fitzgibbons Memorial Golf Classic. Held on Monday, Aug. 31, it was a perfect day for the record number of 136 golfers who played at the beautifully designed Edison Club in Rexford. 

A portion of the proceeds raised benefit the J. Michael Fitzgibbons Memorial Scholarship Fund. Annually, one of their staff members is awarded an educational scholarship in Michael’s memory. The scholarship was established to honor their long-time Board Member who passed away unexpectedly in 2005. This year, Assistant Director of Information Systems Edward Hughes Cormie was the recipient. Edward extended his utmost thanks for the financial assistance he is applying towards tuition at SUNY Empire for a Bachelors in Computer Science. 

Prizes were awarded to: 

1st PlaceMandy D’Andrea, Rick Matteson, Brandon Risler, Ann Fostock
2nd PlaceJim Snyder, Jim Cox, Matthew Harrison, Bill Moore
3rd Place: Chris Spratt, Rob Spratt, Stanley Drosky, Randy DeVaney
4th Place: Chad Kiesow, Geof Kelley, John Connally, Ryan Faville
Last Place: Jane Foley, Tricia Morris, Tiffany Foley, Kathleen Kimball

Men’s Closest to The Pin on Hole #5 – Kyle Boland 1’6”
Women’s Closest to The Pin on Hole #23 – Nancy Hyman 8’
Men’s Straightest Drive on Hole #26 – Mark Holiday
Women’s Straightest Drive on Hole #26 – Megan Riley

Published in Sports

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Social distancing and self-isolation have become the norm in today’s world, but what happens when your entire job is based around social contact and stimulation?

Direct support professionals at Saratoga Bridges have been working since COVID-19 has struck the community, working hands-on with individuals living in houses or supportive apartments. Saratoga Bridges provides professional services to people with developmental disabilities. The non-profit ensures individuals are able to realize their goals, hopes and dreams and help accomplish them.

Explaining COVID-19

Sloan Russell is an assistant residential manager at Saratoga Bridges. For Russell’s daily duties, he helps six individuals take care of their daily needs. The needs vary each day and Russell helps with any banking duties, weekly shopping and even administers medication. 

“I help with everything that they need done in order to exist as a regular person in society,” Russell said. “Typically, our jobs are to help them feel more a part of the society that they’re in, but it’s reverse psychology here. Normally we’re trying to bring them into society…to let them feel more a part of daily life and interact with people outside of what they’re used to. Now, we have to keep ourselves distanced.”

DayInTheLife SloanRussellSloan Russell social distancing with Tina.

Russell works in a behavior house, meaning different situations and trigger points can impact one resident differently than others. He works a steady schedule with three women and three men in his house, helping with anything they need. Russell even helps with individual’s meal plans. Some individuals are tube fed, which staff are trained and certified for, while others have special diets including a ground diet and low acid diets.

Despite his daily duties, Russell’s day begins before he steps foot into the house, going through a screening before he enters the home. The screening process includes a check of temperature and heart rate, oxygen status and a standard questionnaire. The goal is to monitor as many things as possible, from vital signs to personal experiences on how they’re feeling for the day.

One of the hardest tasks Russell and other direct support professionals have taken on is explaining the virus. Although he goes through daily screening, not every resident understands what COVID-19 is all about.

 “It takes a lot of explaining and a lot of just careful planning with all the staff on how we handle it. You have to ease everyone into it. Tell them everyone else is doing it and it’s not just them,” Russell said. “Everyone is their own person, so how we explain to them is case by case.”

Direct support professional Dawnmarie Costantino said consistency as well as repetitiveness helps individuals understand the virus. Using the same type of sentence throughout the entire staff can help reinforce proper behavior. 

“It’s interesting because you have different forms of communication with the individuals in one home. Some of them do tactile manual signs, others are completely verbal, and others just do ASL. Then you have folks that are nonverbal who utilize gestures or physical movements for you to understand how they are feeling,” Costantino said. “It’s already a challenge so when we’re in a situation like this, reassuring them, letting them know why we are here and keeping everything consistent and concise will help them stay in a better face and be willing to participate in activities that are being offered at home.”

Russell reflected the same thoughts, adding some individuals are verbal, open to current events and consistently on social media while others are the opposite. He said those individuals that don’t understand what’s going on think they are being kept at home on purpose. 

“It’s tough. You feel for them because you can’t explain everything to them.

They look at you and ask why you’re wearing a mask around them, or constantly washing our hands. They want to know what’s going on with that and why extra activities taking place,” Russell said.

Keeping Consistency

The extra activity Russell is referring to doesn’t only include proper PPE and screening procedures, but the “day-hab” classes as well.  Prior to social restrictions, individuals in Saratoga Bridges would participate in a day program, or day-hab. Pamela Polacsek, assistant director of communications, said the day program has since moved to the individual’s houses or apartments. 

“Because of the virus, all of our day staff are going and working in the houses during the day. The individuals who would normally be in a day program setting or at work are now at home,” Polacsek said. 

The day-hab would normally partake in Wilton, Clifton Park, and off of Exit 13. At those locations, Polascek said an upwards of 450 individuals would get transported to partake in the day-hab. 

Costantino would teach day-hab classes to 13 individuals from different agencies. Now, Costantino teaches a group of five in their own home. Just as Russell goes through the initial screening each morning, Costantino does the same. She now see’s her classroom individuals earlier in the day, allowing her to get a better idea on how everyone is feeling that morning. 

She starts each day with an activity schedule, so the five individuals always know what to expect. They start with daily communication, talking about the day of the week and month.

“We talk about the things are good for them cognitively to remember. It’s very good for people to continue remembering where they are in their day or their months. Everyday we do the same thing to help them with structure and we see end results, helping them with their own cognitive abilities,” Costantino said.

After the daily communication, Costantino will focus on different activates each day. Activities including a math group, music exercise activities and preparing meals are some of the few. In her math class, Costantino teaches the typical school layout but adjusts the level for each individual. 

“Not everyone gets the same thing out of it, but everyone gets something. I try to engage them in a lot of music. It’s really good for you to feel music and move to music. It lets people forget about what’s bothering them and their worries because they’re engaged in something with such a great energy,” Costantino said.

Having a set routine helps some individuals out who prefer having a schedule ahead of time. Costantino said when the individuals have a routine, they know what they’re looking forward to and can help with forgetfulness. She said some individuals may start forgetting earlier than others, but being able to remind them of the daily schedule helps their mental health. Bringing day-hab to their homes is something new to the residents as well, and having a schedule helps them differentiate between class and regular home hours.

Russell said his individuals have responded well since COVID-19 struck. Although they are coping, Russell noticed they missed going outside the most. He said outings with his house have always been a big deal, going to play basketball or to a department store. They are trying to incorporate sensory rides, using a van to keep individuals six-feet apart.

“We go out and do a ride through the neighborhood or go out by lake. We drive around so they can see scenery and look at nature. The biggest thing is trying to keep everyone isolated from outside contact as much as possible right now. It’s a reversal of typically what we do,” Russell said.

#WeAreEssential

Polacsek felt direct support professionals often get overlooked when someone defines an essential worker. In response to that, she created the hash-tag WeAreEssential to call attention to direct support professionals. 

“Our field, a lot of times, gets overlooked as far as the essential work they do to enhance, improve and empower other peoples lives. It’s truly very inspiring…their commitment and devotion and flexibility throughout this whole virus,” Polacsek said. 

Saratoga Bridges supports 132 people in their residential program, having 19 houses and 10 supportive apartments through the county. Of those individuals, Polacsek said 150 work in the community. 

“A lot of our individuals have worked in grocery stores for years, and they’re working hard because the current hours to go into work. They’re providing support to the community as well. They’re certainly able to support the community that’s supporting them,” Polacsek said.

Russell feels that direct support professionals often get forgotten because people don’t understand the way these individuals live and their daily routines. He said the hash-tag wasn’t created for the work they’re doing during COVID-19, but rather the daily routines before and after COVID-19 they will continue to do.

“People don’t think there is actually staff out there helping and aiding. That there are individuals in these homes, where if we don’t come in or are not able to help these guys, they wouldn’t be able to live in these independent homes and enjoy life as it is. Some have no clue, they just think that these guys are autonomous. That they’re just out there living their best life not knowing how they live it,” Russell said. 

Just as he goes through a screening to protect the individuals in his home, he does the same when he goes home to his family. Russell can work a 12 or 16-hour shift and feels at the end of the day, all essential workers are in the same situations. 

“I’m trying to get other people to recognize what exactly a front line worker is, there are so many different aspects of being a front line worker. At the end of the day, all of us essential workers are all in the same boat. We all have to still work, so the chances of cross contamination between your job and your personal life is at an all-time high,” Russell said. 

While Russell hopes to shed some light on his daily job for the community, Costantino said she noticed the work residential staff do. Since stepping outside her classroom, she noticed how careful the staff works with the individuals, ensuring every room in the house is sanitary. She noticed individual’s bedrooms were personalized as well. 

“I have to say I’m really amazed about how much more work my residential coworkers do that I wasn’t aware of before. There are a lot more involved that I didn’t know,” Costantino said. 

Published in News
Wednesday, 03 April 2019 20:00

Raising Awareness; Cecilia’s Story

SARATOGA SPRINGS N.Y. — It’s a Tuesday morning, Cecilia Axe is sitting in a fluorescently lit room at the Saratoga Bridges office with her parents, and Pamela Polacsek discussing the upcoming Autism Expo at the Saratoga City Center. There is a water cooler on the other side of the room, and a man walks in and fills up his cup of water. Everyone in the room is carrying on with their conversation, except Cecilia, who’s attention was derailed by the subtle pitter-patter of water filling up a cup. This is not uncommon for someone who is Autistic.

“That guy filling up water right now,” says Cecilia’s father John Axe.  “That was just as prevalent with her as you and I talking right now, but for us, we just put that in the background.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 59 children are identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which is a pervasive neurological developmental condition. It can often be characterized by apparent deficits in communication skills and behaviors.

“I’m not really quite in tune with trends and social rules. I always offer a unique perspective on things. That can help with a lot of things - I have my own unique voice I guess,” says Cecilia Axe.

Cecilia who is 15-years-old now was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when she was four-years-old. She progressed through pre-school at the ages of three and four, but it wasn’t until she entered kindergarten when Cecilia’s seemingly odd behavior was drawn to her mother’s attention. She would be sent to the principal’s office every day, but she enjoyed being sent to the principal which her teachers told her mother that said behavior was not like most children’s.

Cecilia1Photo by Lindsay Wilson.

“I knew my kid was different,” said Cecelia’s mother Allison Defibaugh. “I couldn’t leave her with other people, and she couldn’t get her needs met; she wouldn’t ask for a drink, she wouldn’t ask for food, she didn’t know how to stand in lines, or what lines were even for. She had behaviors that should not have persisted to the age that she was.”

According to a study done by the American Academy of Pediatrics, autism spectrum disorder shows more to be 3.46 times more prevalent in boys than girls.

For Defibaugh, the most challenging part of this diagnosis was not having answers or guidance as to how to best support her child.

“I didn’t know who to call, or what to do, or where to go. I didn’t know about putting her in special education. I didn’t know about psychologist, I didn’t know about developmental pediatricians…I ended up paying out of pocket to have her evaluated and sort of had to navigate through a very dark maze,” said Defibaugh. “If we could’ve gone to a place like the autism expo - if such a place were at the time I could’ve gone there, and I could’ve had four or five choices on every single point that helped me get Cecelia to where she needed to go to be able to access education.”

Cecilia is a member of her local Triangle organization, which focuses on three pillars; a duty to God, a duty to one’s self and a duty to others. To fulfill her duty to others Cecilia sought out an organization to dedicate her time to volunteer with and selected the Autism Expo, hosted by the Upstate Autism Alliance, Skidmore College Psychology Department and Saratoga Bridges. This expo provides a collective space for individuals who are autistic, and those caring for people who are autistic to find a myriad of information ranging from doctors, schools to autistic friendly travel agencies.

For the past three years, Cecelia has volunteered to greet the attendees, assisting vendors with registration, and has been a comforting peer to those attending the expo who may have a loved one who is autistic, or who may be autistic themselves. She believes this expo is very important for people to know about.

“If you need any help with anything, that there is at least one group there that provides certain help that you need. There is a way to access a lot of different material, and sign up for things like camps,” said Axe.

While the representation of autistic people is becoming more prevalent in mainstream media, many sometimes promote a lot of misconceptions.

“It’s not as bad as it seems. There are certainly some people who think that having it will ruin your life or make everything ten times difficult. I say it’s like anything in life where it has benefits and some drawbacks to it,” said Axe. “I may have some in social situations. But it also helps in let’s say, for animation, I’m going into for my career and my autism helps with attention to detail where I can notice small things in a drawing and help make it better. I can see things in my head. I can use my own imagination as references.”

The 2019 Autism Expo will take place Sunday, April 14, at the Saratoga City Center.

Published in Education
Thursday, 11 October 2018 11:50

Spina Bifida Doesn’t Stop Steve Remis

SARATOGA SPRINGS — From 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 13, Steve Remis will be using his brand-new hand cycle to take on the 18th Annual Great Pumpkin Challenge at Spa State Park. This will be Remis’ second Great Pumpkin Challenge and the first race he’s done with his new handcycle. Remis, 47, began racing via his hand cycle in 2016, the year in which he did a whopping six races.

“I don’t believe in the words ‘can’t or don’t.’ After doing all of the races I’ve done, I don’t feel like anything is impossible.” Remis says, of all components of his life, not just racing.

Paralyzed from the waist down from Spina Bifida, Remis carries on.

“I have an upper body that is like King Kong,” he said.

Remis does 10Ks using a handcycle, which is a humanpowered land vehicle powered by the arms rather than the legs.

“My assistant manager and I, from my group home, would take one of the vans and drive each course, so I would know where the hills were. My old handcycle had no power, just three speeds. It went down to two because I lost second gear. I don’t know how that happened,” he laughed.

Remis’ sister purchased a new handcycle for him this year, “to the tune of four-thousand dollars,” and now he is ready to race again. His new handcycle has five speeds, reverse, a parking brake, and a hand brake.

“I surprise people because they think I’m going to do the 5k and I’m like ‘5k? no, 10k!’ I’ve had people collapse in shock. That was with my old hand cycle which was like 40 years old,” he explained.


Remis’ first handcycle was purchased for him in 1978 by his mother after she saw an ad for one in the newspaper. He had been using a six-wheeled vehicle called a Well-Rider that was as low as a car’s headlights. He used that handcycle until just recently, it lasted 40 years. All of the money raised through The Great Pumpkin Challenge goes back into the programs and services provided by Saratoga Bridges, so Remis and his friends are directly affected by this race.

“[Racing is] very fulfilling, I enjoy it and have enjoyed it for the last few years that I’ve done it. It was a no-brainer, I’m doing The Great Pumpkin Challenge again this year,” Remis said.

He was hesitant about The Great Pumpkin Challenge at first though, because he hasn’t raced at all this year, then when he learned he was getting his new handcycle via
the mail on time, he was ready to go. 

“Back in 2016 I said, ‘I don’t race to win, I race to finish.’ so as long as I get across the finish line,” he said.


All of the money raised through The Great Pumpkin Challenge goes back into programs and services provided by Saratoga Bridges. 

Published in Sports
Thursday, 19 April 2018 12:16

Autism Awareness

SARATOGA SPRINGS – April is Autism Awareness Month, a mental condition which effect countless families. Autism is defined as a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. No real “reason” for the condition has ever been determined.

“I have a lot of different theories as to why autism has had an explosion in the last 20 years. There are many different factors with a constant investigation of food, diet, exercise from being pregnant all the way up to medications and vaccines, which is a hot subject, and it’s all up for negotiation because it all depends on who you talk to,” said Tara Colvin, whose son Phillip is autistic.


The Colvin family, and those like them, have faced many challenges as they go through life with an autistic family member.

“You’re dealing with schools that are not prepared to house and educate children with disabilities. There arise programs like BOCES, and then that program is inundated with an array of disabilities. It essentially becomes a dumping ground for all these kids that society doesn’t know what to do with. So as a parent, you have to be very strong to navigate all of that and to be an advocate for your child,” Colvin explained.

Colvin is trying to get Phillip into college but since his high school career was so detrimental he has no interest in furthering his education.

“Phillip is like no way, I’m tapping out,” she said.

School was a struggle for him, he never felt like he had enough support from the staff or programs.

“Life is very black and white for him, the understanding of grey and sarcasm, that’s very challenging. When he says something inappropriate I’ll say, ‘why don’t you try that again’ and he knows, ‘okay I said something that made somebody uncomfortable.’ The grey area is where most decisions lay and they’re not there so it’s all manufactured and taught behavior, for them it isn’t natural. He doesn’t care how your day is going, they have no empathy. That is the truth of what we’re working with here. He’ll come home every day and ask how my day was, but he doesn’t’ care. It’s a manufactured behavior,” Colvin explained.

Autism Awareness Month is from April 1 through April 30 and features bright royal blue as the awareness color.

Published in Education
Thursday, 19 October 2017 13:37

17th Annual Great Pumpkin Challenge

[Photos provided by Heather Varney.]

SARATOGA SPRINGS – On Saturday, Oct. 14 the 17th Annual Great Pumpkin Challenge took place to benefit Saratoga Bridges. Held in the Saratoga Spa State Park, over 1,300 runners, walkers, volunteers, and spectators partook this year. Over $18,000 was raised for Saratoga Bridges’ programs and services.

Saratoga Bridges is “one of the largest non-profit organizations in Saratoga County. Saratoga Bridges has been provided the highest level of services and programs to over 830 people with developmental disabilities and their families for more than 60 years,” said the official Saratoga Bridges website.

The overall 5K winners this year were Chase Baker from Saratoga Springs and Elizabeth Predmore from Ballston Lake. The overall 10K winners this year were Thijs Kolet from Saratoga Springs and Leigh Parker from Glenmont.

This event also included the popular Kids Fun Run for children 12 and under. Children, and some adults, dressed in costume. The costume contest was won by Scott LeFevre (adult, as the Beast from Beauty and the Beast); Christopher Mason (boys costume winner, Dwarf from Snow White), and Mackenzie LeFevre (girls costume winner, Beauty from Beauty and the Beast).

Published in Sports

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The twins are 13 now, the effort to fulfill their special needs a continuing work-in-progress.  

“I have to say my boys have some difficult challenges, but they’re hard workers and every day they make progress, every day they learn,” explains the boys’ mother, Kristin Howarth. “It’s not a sprint, but a marathon. You just keep pushing and keep teaching and keep helping them make those milestones.”

A little over a decade ago, Howarth and her husband relocated to upstate New York. The twins were about 18 months old when The Howarths noticed the boys seemed delayed in meeting some of their developmental milestones.

“We started a music program with the boys when they were just over a year. We looked around at the group and saw what the other kids were doing and what my kids weren’t,” Howarth recalled. “At around a year old there’s a certain number of words that a typically-developing child will say, that our guys were not saying. It made me ask some questions. It was a significant factor that made us speak out and have discussions with our pediatrician,” Howarth says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for general development using standardized, validated tools at 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months and for autism at 18 and 24 months, or whenever a parent or provider has a concern.  

By their first birthday, a child will typically say “mama” and “dada” and voice exclamations like “uh-oh!” as well as trying to repeat words they hear from their parents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s milestones checklist may downloaded here: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/checklists/all_checklists.pdf.

An early intervention therapist was sent to work with the family, visiting the home four days a week over the next six months, after which Gavin and Noah were diagnosed with autism, also called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

“When you do hear it, it’s a blow and all of these things you picture as a parent come crashing down: Will my children ever play sports? Will they have friends and go to the prom? Will they drive? will they get married?” she wondered. There’s no welcoming committee when your child is diagnosed with autism. No one comes and knocks on your door to say: Here are some things that you can do; Here’s a go-to guide. You basically leave the doctor’s office after that diagnosis and you think: What do I do now?”

The CDC estimates that 1 in 68 children, in multiple communities in the United States, has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD - roughly 30 percent higher than estimates previously reported in 2012. The data also show that ASD is almost five times more common among boys than girls.

Howarth searched the Internet, but answers were hard to come by a decade ago. “They were diagnosed at just over two years of age and it quickly became pretty obvious to us that there weren’t a lot of resources in our area, short of traveling down to Albany,” she says. “It was a challenge because we live up in Queensbury. We figured, why can’t we create it? So, we did.”

Gavin and Noah were the driving force behind the creation of Upstate NY Autism Alliance (UNYAA). The organization provides resources, education, recreation and advocacy services. Howarth provides advocacy, program development, consulting and education through the group. 

“It was a very emotional time and that was also one of the factors in starting the group. We wanted to give children as many opportunities as we could, just like their typically developing peers, because they’re kids first. Autism is secondary.”  

Howarth’s group is comprised of volunteers who help connect parents with children diagnosed with autism, with resources.   “We also provide activities every month so parents can get together with their children and talk to other families and meet other people in their school district - families involved in the group, somebody they can feel comfortable talking with,” says Howarth, who adds that she has also accessed valuable services from Saratoga Bridges. “They have some wonderful things that provide services for families such as ours.”

UNYAA and Saratoga Bridges are teaming up to co-host this weekend’s Autism Expo at the Saratoga Springs City Center. The family event will feature more than 85 vendors and exhibitors, a variety of activities and games, arts and crafts, and sensory toys for kids.  More than 1,000 people are expected to attend Sunday’s expo.

“It’s an amazing event under one roof. We have all these resources for families who can talk to different vendors, providers, and people who offer different services for kids in the spectrum,” Howarth says.

ASD is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

“They have to be taught in a different way and broken down into simple steps. People don’t really understand what autism is, but really, it’s just that their brains are wired differently. They don’t learn the way we do, or they may not interpret things the way we do,” Howarth says.

All of the causes of ASD are not known. There may be many different factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental and genetic factors.

“They look typical, but they don’t process information – both incoming and outgoing – so it can be a challenge for them to just pick up those social cues like another child might.”

The sixth annual Autism Expo will be held noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 23 at the Saratoga Springs City Center. The event is free and features exhibitors from camps, school programs pre-k through college, technological apps for autism, recreation and therapeutic programs, a bounce house and arts and crafts.

Upstate NY Autism Alliance (UNYAA) is a not-for-profit alliance formed by dedicated parents of children experiencing the affects of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). For more information, go to: http://www.upstatenyautism.org/. Saratoga Bridges has provided programs to people with disabilities and their families for more than 60 years. For more information, go to: http://www.saratogabridges.org/

Published in News
Thursday, 30 March 2017 16:35

Busy Couple’s ‘Lazy Dog’

 

[Front image shows Amy and Keith Augustine in their Ford Street warehouse. Gallery photos show (from left) the Augustines' victory table in Florida; Keith and his playful companion Walter]

BALLSTON SPA — Keith Augustine is surprised whenever someone thinks the company his wife Amy started—one that makes popular dog treats sold in local stores and nationwide—is a hobby.

“It’s been a busy few years for us. We’re really kind of maxed out,” Augustine said, during a recent interview inside the Lazy Dog Cookie Company’s 6,500-square-foot warehouse at the end of Ford Street in Ballston Spa.

The wife and husband team, joined by their faithful dog Walter, were watching over a devoted group of staff members they met several years ago through Saratoga Bridges, who were dutifully packaging fresh products.

Keith Augustine and one other employee make the effort to shrink-wrap the boxes of dog treats and stack them on pallets for distribution.

The Augustines were still getting back into the groove after traveling last week to Florida. They had attended the annual Global Pet Expo, a trade show organized by the American Pet Products Association. 

Lazy Dog’s Bake-at-Home Birthday Cake Mix had won First Place in the expo’s Boutique product category. Its ingredients consist of oat and rice flour, rolled oats, vanilla powder, confetti sprinkles, evaporated molasses and whole dried eggs.

At last year’s event, Lazy Dog products won a third place prize, according to Cheryl Clark, a spokeswoman for Saratoga Springs marketing and web design firm Shannon Rose.

“Using only simple beneficial ingredients that are not only delicious, but also naturally nutritious, our products ‘lick’ the competition,” the Augustines boast in their product catalogue. “Our treats are wheat-, corn- and soy-free with grain-free offerings. They are also vegan/vegetarian and we never use any fillers, preservatives or anything artificial. Health benefits paired with unique recipes make them irresistible.”

The Augustines are originally from Pennsylvania, where Amy once worked as a microbiologist and the Heinz Corporation employed Keith. In 2001, Amy started distributing her first dog treats at farmers’ markets.

Then, she says, “I got really competitive.” After spending some time in Chicago, the couple relocated to Ballston Spa to focus on expanding Lazy Dog’s business.

In June, the Augustines will reach their next level of expansion by moving into a brand new warehouse around the corner at 25 Ralph Street. It offers 1,000 more square feet of space, and plenty of room for the couple to purchase pallet racks for storage and even a new forklift.

Also, more employees may be added prior to the move.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Keith Augustine said. “The majority of our space is taken up by pallets and packaging. We’ll stop lugging around everything by hand.”

The Augustines “have expanded the business to international distribution by introducing innovative and enticing new products that charm dog lovers, such as Original Pup-PIEs and Mutt Mallows,” stated Clark at the Shannon Rose firm.

WAM Commercial Associates in Ballston Spa developed both of Lazy Dog’s buildings, which are located within sight of the Kayaderosseras Creek’s rushing waters.

John Bowen, one of the WAM Commercial partners, had to descend from a construction lift to describe how two old houses beyond repair were demolished to put up the all-metal building on Ralph Street. His company had refurbished the Ford Street warehouse, preserving much of its original construction.

Officials in Ballston Spa have proven themselves to be quite “pro-business,” Bowen said, as WAM Commercial went through the process of fixing up three vacant industrial properties in the village and building three new ones—all over the last 19 years.

In addition to his partnerships with local retailers and large national chains like PetSmart and BarkBox, Keith Augustine said he was grateful for the support provided by Bowen and his WAM Commercial partner, Jim Dalpe.

“They’ve been really good to small businesses in the area,” Augustine said. “If we didn’t get hooked up with them, we would’ve had much more of a struggle.” 

 

Lazy Dog Cookie Co. pet treats are available in these local businesses: Benson's Pet Center (6 locations); Agway (Ballston Spa); Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic; Curtis Lumber Company (Ballston Spa); The Pampered Pooch & Pals; The Fresh Market (Saratoga & Latham); Whole Foods Albany; Honest Weight Food Co-Op; Head to Tails Pet Wellness Center; Niskayuna COOP; Fountain Square Outfitters; Four Seasons; Healthy Living Market; Impressions of Saratoga; Mini Me Pups Pet Boutique; Roma Foods; Upstate Animal Hospital; Paradise Pet Salon (Glenville); Four Dog Grooming (Wilton); Sutherland's Pet Works.  

Published in Business

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Erica Morocco sat at the head of the table, her series of paintings sprawled across the tabletop. One featured a jump-roping owl. Another depicted a pink-glazed doughnut that looked good enough to eat. In the third, a cat bowed a violin and a cow leapt over the moon.  

“Be what you are and do what you like to do,” she says with encouragement. “If you like to paint, then paint. If you like music, make music.”

Morocco, who was diagnosed with Williams syndrome, lives by a simple motto. “Everybody is born differently,” she says. “You can’t change it.  My feelings are that people should be who they are.”   

Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. The developmental disorder affects an estimated 1 in 7,500 to 10,000 people, according to The National Library of Medicine - a center of information innovation founded in 1836, and the world’s largest biomedical library.

Morocco grew up in the town of Malta, and in 2009 moved into one of Saratoga Bridges’ community-based homes in Saratoga Springs. 

Saratoga Bridges is responsible for the 24/7 care of over 830 individuals and houses 132 people in its 19 community based homes. The organization, which employs nearly 600 people, is marking this pause in time to take note of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and to bring intellectual and developmental disabilities to the forefront. The group has provided services and programs to people with developmental disabilities and their families for more than 60 years by promoting their abilities and achievements in every aspect of community life.

“I like living on my house because we go out in the community and I have more opportunities to do different activities,” says Morocco. who takes art classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Thursdays are reserved for studies on the art of the collage, and on Fridays Morocco and the group of seven who share the home go out dancing and to sing karaoke. There are weekly trips to the grocery shop, daily house chores and free time spent volunteering for Meals on Wheels. Sports is also a passion.

“I play softball, do the long jump, the 50-meter run. I like to do all of it,“ says the 38-year-old, a pair of medals clinging to her neck chain showcase her abilities in snowshoeing and track and field.

Her art pieces have received awards in juried shows, and she uses the earnings of the pieces she sells to enable her to go traveling. 

“I sell my art work, saved my money and went on a tour. I’ve been to Florida, Chicago, and Boston. I visited museums and saw other artists’ work. I like traveling. I like vacations,” she says. “When I sell a piece of artwork, I feel happy inside because I worked had on it to get it to be good.” 

It is a long time removed from her younger days in school, when she was bullied and caused her to be upset. 

“When I was in school, when I was young, I got picked on,” she says. “You get older and you move on.”

Her advice to the world when meeting people with disabilities? 

“Just treat people they way that you would like to be treated,” she says.   

 

 The 28th Annual Palm Sunday Polka Benefit, with all proceeds to benefit Saratoga Bridges will be held 1 – 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 9 at the Saratoga Springs Knights of Columbus, located at the corner of Rt. 29 and Pine Road in Saratoga Springs. This year’s event will feature a “roasting” of longtime radio Polka personality Ernie Daigle. Seating is limited and advance tickets purchased by April 3 are $13 per person.  Day of tickets are $15 per person.  For reservations, contact Steve or Cathy Coblish at 518-899-3061 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

Published in News
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Blotter

  • COURT Kevin J. Hastings, 30, of Corinth, was sentenced Oct. 8 to 2 years incarceration followed by 1-1/2 years post-release supervision, after pleading to assault in the second-degree.  Jared S. Ellis, 30, of Corinth, was sentenced Oct. 8 to 1 year incarceration, after pleading to aggravated unlicensed operation and DWAI drugs, both felonies, in Milton.  Billy R. Hendrie, 29, of Plattsburg, pleaded Oct. 8 to attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance, a felony, in Wilton. Sentencing Dec. 10.  Conrad M. Howard, Jr., 29, of Brooklyn, was sentenced Oct. 8 to 2 years incarceration, after pleading to criminal possession of…

Property Transactions

  • BALLSTON  Christopher Parks sold property at 60 Lancaster Ct to Mark Ramsey for $360,000. Eastline Holdings LLC sold property at 4 Tamarack St to George Hall for $477,580. Bourdeu Builders Inc sold property at 104 Lancaster Ct to John Wall for $392,157. Traditional Home Builders and Developers Inc sold property at 19 Mallory Way to Justin Murphy for $451,535. Lora Coes as trustee sold property at 7 Beechwood Dr to Rita Gallo for $322,000. Mark Wempe sold property at 1 Garrison Rd to Mary Adams for $325,000. David Ketterer sold property at 47 Forest Rd to Stacey Wilson for $175,000.…
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