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Displaying items by tag: Capital District Invention Convention

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The fifth annual Autism Expo and Art Exhibit will take place at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Sunday, April 10. Presented by Saratoga Bridges, this free expo will feature fun family activities as well as over 70 vendors, ranging from recreational activities, camps, therapeutic programs, education opportunities and more.

“It started five years ago when several parents who have children on the autism spectrum had this dream of wanting to do an expo that gathers providers and programs in one place,” said Patty Paduano, Director of Family Support Services at Saratoga Bridges.

Saratoga Bridges then connected with Skidmore College to make that dream a reality. Rachel Mann Ph.D., a psychology professor at Skidmore College that teaches classes on developmental disabilities, helped to initiate the Autism Expo and now, has her students helping at the event.

While the first two expos took place at Skidmore College, the expo was eventually moved to the City Center because of space.

“That first year, we had no idea how many people would be there. Parking was crazy. We thought, ‘I think we’ve hit on something here,” said Paduano, who noted that last year nearly 700 people attended the event, with even more expected this year.  

A unique aspect of the Autism Expo is the art exhibit portion of the event. Adults and children on the autism spectrum have created over 70 pieces of art that will be on display. The exhibit includes all mediums of artwork, from sculptures to paintings and drawings. “Our individuals do wonderful things out in the community, and art is one of the areas we really wanted to celebrate,” said Paduano.

January Slater, a local mom and artist, became involved in the Autism Expo through her own non-profit, Creative Kidz Café. This organization provides creative outlets for children both with and without autism through art, cooking, crafts, music, and movement, all in a safe, accepting environment.

“It’s all creative based, there is no true structure. It’s there for the children’s own self-expression and it gives them the space for that.” said Slater, who has partnered with Saratoga Bridges to host some of her Creative Kidz Café classes. “I love working with Saratoga Bridges because we have the same vision and mindset, and that is whatever is good for the families and the kids. For me, the art exhibit at the expo shows how the people that are involved in it really understand the importance of expression – it’s a way for them to communicate in a completely different way that is perhaps more natural for them.”

Slater knows from a first-hand perspective how important expression and creativity is for those with autism: her nine-year old son Jackson is also on the spectrum.

“I feel like there has been a lot of negative thoughts on the word ‘autism,’ said Slater. “People fear that word. For me, it’s about diminishing that fear and creating more of a loving and accepting world for these kids, because there are so many of them.”

Often, when parents find out their child has an autism spectrum disorder, they are confused, scared, and just want answers.

“Our community has to be able to embrace every family and we also want to provide families a place to turn to. That’s what is so great about the expo,” said Paduano. “Many parents feel lost, like they don’t know where to start after getting that diagnosis. The expo is a place where you can meet other parents, pick up brochures, and talk to professionals. It’s a place where families can come and get information without having to figure it out all on their own.”

While there will be a multitude of activities and vendors for children on the spectrum at the expo, the Autism Expo is an excellent source for adults with autism as well.

“There are a lot of adults on the spectrum, and once you’re getting adult services, it can be challenging,” added Paduano. This year, the expo has added two workshops aimed at adults living with autism: “Managing Stress” and “Getting and Keeping a Job.” There will also be colleges set up, including Adirondack Community College and Sage College, to provide information about their academic programs.

For children and their families, the Autism Expo will feature engaging activities from Spotted Zebra Learning Center, a bouncy house, and crafts, such as sand art, spin art and face painting, presented by Skidmore students. Vendors will be set up around the perimeter of the expo, with the family activities in the center, allowing parents to visit the vendors at their leisure while ensuring that their children are safe.

“As a parent, you strive for your child with autism to be part of a community that wants them there and makes them feel welcome,” concluded Slater. “To actually be in a community that has that understanding and has that compassion is something I am truly grateful for.”

The Autism Expo and Art Exhibit will take place from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 10 at the Saratoga Springs City Center, located at 522 Broadway. The expo is free and everyone is welcome to attend. For more information about the expo, or if you are interested in being a volunteer, visit saratogabridges.org. 

Published in News
Thursday, 10 March 2016 11:23

Viewpoint: City Center and High Rock Parking

By Michele Madigan

For Saratoga TODAY 

 

I want to clarify certain facts regarding the City Center's plans to build a parking structure, and clear up any confusion amongst members of the public regarding the City's RFP to develop the entire High Rock parking lot.  It is important to note that the City Center Authority is not a private entity; it was created by a legislative act of New York State to carry out governmental functions. The Mayor is an ex-officio member, and the Finance Commissioner acts as its agent, empowered to examine its accounts, finances, contracts, and leases, among other things. As such, the City Center and the City have a very close working relationship that is written into New York State law.

 

The City Center approached the City Council on November 20, 2012 with a proposal to lease a portion of the High Rock lot upon which they would build - at their expense - a facility to provide much needed parking. The lack of covered and connected parking for vendors and exhibitors to unload marketing materials and wares at City Center events places them at a competitive disadvantage, which will worsen once competing local convention facilities are open for business. This is unfortunate, as the City Center is a vital part of our local economy, drawing thousands of visitors each year to our hotels, restaurants, and retail establishments, supporting local businesses and generating tax revenues that fund our government and help keep our property tax rates stable.  

 

At that meeting, the Council agreed unanimously to allow the City Center to move forward with its plans. Although questioning the proposed $1 lease payment and resulting financials, I did offer my support, as did Commissioners Scirocco and Mathiesen, and Mayor Johnson. Commissioner Franck said that this was the best High Rock lot proposal that he had ever seen; hed "worked the numbers" and was in full support. Soon thereafter, the City Center issued an RFP (Request for Proposal), receiving several responses and selecting one. Their plans have been subject to numerous public discussions, which resulted in several modifications. The current plan to lease approximately two-thirds of the lot and build a parking structure (that includes space for community events) on half of the leased land, with the City retaining development rights for the other half, has received all of the necessary approvals from the City's various land use boards.

 

While the above was transpiring, several local residents expressed reservations about these plans, suggesting a grander multi-use development of the entire High Rock lot that would simultaneously meet the needs of the City Center and provide other opportunities. The Council unanimously agreed to explore this alternative, and in the summer of 2015 the City issued an RFP soliciting proposals to develop the entire lot. The City Center's original RFP was focused on meeting the demonstrated downtown parking needs, with a structure occupying a portion of the High Rock lot, which they would pay to build. The purpose of the subsequent RFP issued by the City was to solicit plans to develop the entire High Rock lot while meeting those parking needs, which the City Center would not fund. The Council clearly stated that while we were issuing this RFP, and would be reviewing subsequent proposals, the City Center should continue to move forward with its plans. The City received two responses to this RFP, and the Council appointed the Technical Review Committee to review the proposals. At a special City Council meeting on February 25, 2016 the Technical Review Committee said they could not recommend either proposal due to parking, financing, urban form, and engineering concerns.

 

The City has been negotiating the aforementioned lease with the City Center since 2013; I assumed responsibility for these negotiations in September 2014.  Given that the City Center has received all necessary approvals for their plans, and the Technical Review Committee's concerns regarding the two High Rock lot development proposals, I presented this lease to the public and the Council on March 1, 2016. I plan to ask the Council to make a decision regarding the lease in April. If the Council approves this lease then the City Center will be able to move forward with their plans  - leaving approximately two-thirds of the High Rock lot available for future development.   

 

Michele Madigan is the Commissioner of Finance for the City of Saratoga Springs

Published in News
Thursday, 08 October 2015 12:06

Rotary Brunch Fundraiser Honors Community Leaders

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The sixteenth annual Community Service Awards Brunch hosted by the Saratoga Springs Rotary Club took place Sunday, October 4 at the Saratoga Springs City Center.

The brunch was a fundraiser for the Saratoga Springs Rotary Education Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to assist students from the greater Saratoga community to advance their education and training by raising and managing funds in support of scholarships and general educational needs. In June, $53,000 in scholarships was awarded to 12 local students.

The fundraising brunch featured a silent auction, food donated by Longfellows restaurant, as well as musical performances by the chorus group “Dynamics” from Skidmore College.

Philip W. Klein and Reverend Jay and Judy Ekman were honored for their humanitarian services in the community.

Klein is currently vice president at Adirondack Trust Insurance in Saratoga Springs. He has lived in Saratoga Springs for more than 35 years and spent 18 of them as a supervisor for the City of Saratoga Springs. He also served as past chair of Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, past board member of Saratoga Care, and past president for Saratoga YMCA. He is the current chairman of The Wesley Foundation and sits on the Saratoga Springs Planning Board.

When he was accepting his speech, he mentioned how he felt the most reward working with the board at Saratoga Hospital. “They have experienced well-paced growth, and medical care is of the utmost importance,” Klein said.

Klein inspired the crowd at the end of his speech by saying, “Volunteer. It’s good for you.”

Reverend Jay and Judy Ekman have been married for almost 50 years. Together they helped start the Rural Food Delivery Program and have been involved in youth-centered activities for many years. Judy helped start the Child Abuse Task Force (now the Center for the Family), while Jay chaired OASIS, a drug counselling effort. They both have organized many interfaith activities over the years in the community.

“If you’re trying to make the world a better place, going at it alone is not an option,” said Judy Ekman.

In regards to his wife, Jay Ekman said, “We have a shared purpose and a shared memory.”

For more information about the Saratoga Spring Rotary Education Foundation, visit saratogaspringsscholarships.org. 

Published in News

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