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Displaying items by tag: Omar Herrick
BALLSTON SPA – A lifetime of bringing joy to others, particularly those who do not have the simple pleasures we sometimes take for granted.
Patty LeRoy of Ballston Spa has been all about the giving; the selfless act of opening her heart, her house and inviting people to be part of her family, as a host family for The Fresh Air Fund for 50 years. She has been a tireless advocate during this time as well, recruiting countless other host families (she currently monitors about 75 as a Fund Representative in charge of the Clifton Park zone) in the region. And at 78 years young, she has absolutely no intention of slowing down. “I love what I am doing, why would I stop?” she said.
For all these reasons, all the lives she has touched and made better, and more, Patty was surprised at the annual meeting of the Fresh Air Fund earlier this month (February 4-7) with a surprise celebration at a banquet in her honor in front of 300 people at New York City’s Marriott Marquis Hotel, in which she was commemorated as the first volunteer to reach the 50-year milestone in The Fresh Air Fund’s long and storied history.
The Fresh Air Fund has been serving children since 1877. Each summer, it strives to provide thousands of New York City children with unforgettable experiences that will unlock their limitless potential. Guest children are placed starting at age 7 to 12, and often will stay with a family until age 18. “Most families get to enjoy that long term connection. And they are in your lives forever,” Patty noted.
The summer experiences they enjoy by being a part of Patty’s or another host family’s life for a week or two are made up of regular activities that most of us would regard as routine. Yet, they expose a child to a quality of life that can make all the difference.
Consider that many of these guest children come from gritty inner-city environments. Many have never ridden a bike; played barefoot in the grass; or sat around a campfire. But through the efforts of Patty and The Fresh Air Fund, these children are taken away from the sirens and people screaming – they actually hear crickets at night for the first time, and that is a priceless, horizon-broadening experience that can be nothing short of miraculous – it changes lives, pure and simple.
To be sure, there is an economic commitment in all this. Host families are volunteers and are not compensated. And yet, Patty has always regarded this as simple as “…adding a hot dog to the grill,” she said. “These children are not looking for anything more than what you might regularly do with your family. What’s more important is the size of your heart, not your wallet.”
A small, 100-word newspaper item started this all in motion. In 1966, Patty read in the Ballston Journal about the Ballston Spa’s Rotary Club’s plans to participate, for the 14th year, in what at the time was the “90th year of The New York Herald Tribune Fresh Air Fund” that summer. Through that small article, a life’s labor of love was set in motion. With ripple effects onto countless lives, that continues to this day.
Her daughter Tricia, herself a long-time Fresh Air volunteer, said it best. “My mom is PASSIONATE in everything she does! I love her dearly and am inspired by her daily! She is my hero!” To commemorate her 50th anniversary, her family has set the goal of recruiting 50 new Fresh Air Fund families in the region.
Make that 49 – she’s my hero too.
To learn more about becoming a host family, contact Patty LeRoy at 518-885-9505. For more information about the Fresh Air Fund and its programs, visit www.FreshAir.org
SARATOGA SPRINGS – With new hotel properties sprouting up like spring flowers throughout the 12866 zip code, there has never been a better time to celebrate the one hotel who put our town on the map.
The Holiday Inn Saratoga Springs will be celebrating its silver anniversary this year – 50 years is an achievement of merit in any circumstance. As expected, they have a full slate of activities to commemorate this milestone.
But before we detail the celebrations to come, let us take a moment to recall how this property came into existence and how it was seminal in the development of the Saratoga Springs we enjoy today.
This was an example of a municipality coming together in a unique fashion. An entire community galvanized to finance the Holiday Inn’s construction. Under a slogan of “What Saratoga Springs builds - builds Saratoga Springs,” a campaign committee was formed that had community leaders with last names most people would easily recognize: for instance Benton, Grande, Roohan, Clements and Wait. Except these, of course, were the forbearers of the ones that are prominent today.
But participation extended to all levels of the community.
The idea of the campaign was to show a major hotel chain that this town was serious about building itself as a convention destination. In 1961, approximately 300 campaigners went door-to-door across the City of Saratoga Springs to sell over 15,000 shares of stock in a new convention hotel. In the end, they collected over $700,000 in cash and pledges from over 1,500 residents. Some invested as little as $50 while organizations such as Skidmore College and the Adirondack Trust Company purchased shares worth $25,000 or more.
Holiday Inn was a pioneer 50 years ago – opening ceremonies took place on August 15, 1964. Because of their commitment back then, you cannot name a hotel chain that wouldn’t want to be here.
To celebrate, there are a bevy of events scheduled:
- A Reunion of Investors: Cynthia Hollowood, general manager of the Holiday Inn, invites all investors and their families to a free Anniversary Reception and Luncheon at the hotel on May 28. At the event, The Holiday Inn will unveil a 70-foot timeline featuring its robust history and catalytic role in the revitalization of Saratoga Springs.
“We have some of the names of the original shareholders, but in 50 years people make many moves and families change. We’d like to be able to find everyone so we can invite them and their families back to the hotel they helped create,” shared Hollowood.
- Memories for Timeline: The Holiday Inn is asking community residents and guests to submit their special memories for a chance to be featured in its 50th Anniversary celebration. Selected stories will be displayed in social media, celebratory videos and on the hotel’s new 70-foot historical timeline, set to be unveiled at the end of May.
Whether it’s the day you said, “I do,” or the night you won the big award, Grandma’s 80th birthday party, your nephew’s graduation or a charity fundraiser, each individual memory, pulled together, creates 50 years of stories.
“Since our foundation, we’ve been a community-oriented hotel. We’re still here 50 years later because of the special moments our community members choose to share with us,” said Cynthia Hollowood, general manager of the Holiday Inn.
- Other Events: The Holiday Inn’s 50th Anniversary celebrations will continue throughout 2014 with a VIP Private Birthday Celebration on September 4 followed by a Community Open House on September 7. The specifics about these events will be released in the near future.
My Holiday Inn memory: As a young lad fresh out of grad school, I was thrilled to given a job as a marketing rep for a major metropolitan newspaper. My territory extended from Poughkeepsie to Montreal – the geographic mid-point was Albany, which at the time was a less-than-thrilling prospect to live in.
On a beautiful spring day in 1981, I was driving back from Montreal, when I saw the signs for Saratoga Springs – a city I had heard of but never explored. It was lunchtime, so I pulled off at Exit 14.
I passed the racecourse, racing museum and Congress Park on my way into town. Sitting on a Broadway patio, I thought: ‘We may have something here.’ But I was concerned what life would be like year-round. Did they roll up the sidewalks in the winter?
I did my due diligence and checked into the Holiday Inn Saratoga Springs for a week and asked residents about life here. They assured me I’d have plenty to do all year round.
The Holiday Inn Saratoga Springs helped this “City Boy” find his new home.
Plus, I collected a ton of “Priority Club” points.
“My Top Memories”
Cynthia Hollowood has been with The Holiday Inn Saratoga Springs for over 30 years and its general manager since 1985. We asked her to reach back and recall her favorite moments at the hotel:
- Who would have thought? In 1983, I met a very nice couple from Ballston Spa who planned the wedding of their daughter at the hotel. On the eve of the wedding they came by to review the final arrangements. As they got up to leave my office, the husband asked, “Will you be here tomorrow? “ Unfortunately, I was scheduled to work the evening event the next day but assured them they would be well taken care of. He exclaimed, “I am not worried about that, I have 5 single, eligible sons that I would like you to meet!” Five years later I did get to meet I met one of their sons, Brien. Eventually, they would become my in-laws, Hugh and Bernice Hollowood!
- All New! When the Saratoga Springs City Center and adjoining hotel was getting ready to open in 1984, our partnership had the foresight to recognize that an improved facility was necessary to stay competitive. A major remodeling of rooms, commercial areas and new restaurant and nightclub/lounge was designed and built over the course of 12 months. In the spring of 1985, RASCALS (operated by Doug and Patty Wolfe) opened and soon became one of Saratoga’s most popular eateries and successful nightclubs for more than 10 years. From that point on, we have continued to make regular improvements to keep our business going and growing. Watch for more updates coming this year.
- The biggest (and longest) wedding of the decade: In 1989, Brien and I were married on September 3rd and held a large reception for 350 guests at the hotel that lasted over nine hours. In addition to our large families, guests included the many friends and associates we have met here at the hotel and in the business community. A total of 4 Hollowood family members have had their receptions at the hotel.
- The Best of The Best: in 1998, along with the greater Saratoga Springs community, we had the privilege of hosting the Congressional Medal of Honor Society over Flag Day weekend. In addition to a fabulous parade and series of military band concerts, the highlight of the weekend included a black tie dinner held at the hotel. We were honored to have over 160 Congressional Medal recipients under our roof and had the opportunity to learn about their heroic efforts in protecting America’s freedom. They are described as “Ordinary men who did extraordinary acts of bravery and valor.”
- 30 Years of Fun, Family and Friendship: in November 2011, I celebrated 30 years of service to the hotel. I was honored to celebrate with my teammates, partners and the many guests and community friends I have met along the way. My career, my family, my friends, my associates and our many guests all blend together to make for a full life in the world’s best community, Saratoga Springs.
Saratoga Springs to be Commemorative Partner in National Vietnam 50th Anniversary Program
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Springs City Council unanimously voted to join a national and state program to co1mmemorate the 50th anniversary of the War in Vietnam. As such, a committee will be formed shortly that will set up a schedule of events and activities, from 2015 through 2017, which will be designed to effectuate the objectives of this nationwide program.
The primary objective, as noted on the national commemorative website, www.vietnamwar50th.com is: “To thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war (POW), or listed as missing in action (MIA), for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.”
The presentation to join the Vietnam War commemoration at the council’s October 15 meeting was delivered by County Supervisor Joanne Yepsen and was sponsored on the agenda of Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen. The entire council voted 5-0 to complete the paperwork to become an official local commemorative partner. Once the application is reviewed and approved, each council member and county supervisor will appoint one representative to the committee, which will then set up a schedule of events. According to the official website, these events should be designed to be educational and informative, utilizing multi-media where appropriate.
“I was glad to bring it to the council,” Yepsen said. “This is part of a continuing effort as supervisor to bring together civilian with military life in the county, with mutual recognition and education as a by-product. We often can learn as much from things that went wrong as those that went right for us as a people.”
The official national period of commemoration, declared by presidential proclamation, is May 28, 2012 through November 11, 2025. Beyond the significance of beginning on a Memorial Day and ending on a Veterans Day, the length of time closely parallels the length of America’s Vietnam involvement.
For Mathiesen, the length also serves another important purpose.
“It gives us a proper amount of time to reflect properly,” he said. “Vietnam in many ways was a combination of eras. The beginning period, a major turning point in 1968 with the Tet offensive, Kent State in 1970 and the intensifying of protests coinciding with the decline in America’s fortunes. We went from a mentality of it’s a foregone conclusion that we would have dominating victory to grappling with the concept of peace with honor.”
Eventually, withdrawal at any cost became the order of the day. “It’s a lot to absorb, particular for someone who was born after the Vietnam era,” he said.
Mathiesen came of draft age in 1968. At that time, there wasn’t a volunteer army as is today. A draft was conducted by a random drawing of birth dates. His number, 76, would almost certainly have assured he would be drafted but was fortunate to be classified 2F— which was a student deferment.
“I was lucky. But, of course, I had numerous contacts with those who went over there,” he said.
Wilton resident James Hartman was there. The Buffalo native was one of six boys in his family. He was eligible for a college deferment, but instead enlisted in 1969. Next stop— Da Nang Province. Another world.
Hartman was accepted into the Air Force’s intelligence unit, a specialist in cryptology training eavesdropping on the enemy. While not stationed on the front lines per se`:
“We were close enough,” Hartman said. “It was nothing unusual for our communications shack to get blasted by rockets. We rarely had enough warning to make it to our concrete bunker. A young man, Paul Wayne Anthony, was there only18 days…gone in an instant when the rockets came.”
On the 30th anniversary of Anthony’s death, Hartman made a point to visit the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall to find the young man’s name among the upwards of 50,000 inscriptions.
Returning home after a year overseas, Hartman attended Buffalo State University on the G.I. Bill, where he described the mood on campus as ranging from outright hostility “it was our (soldier’s) fault” to apathy and war weariness “this has nothing to do with us,” he described. He did establish a Veteran’s Club on campus, but noted that it never got any funding from the student activity committee.
Even in town, the primarily working class city offered no support.
“Honestly, nobody cared,” Hartman said. “There was no talk, nothing. I was amazed after all I had seen.”
I asked Hartman what activities he would like to see developed coming out of the local Vietnam 50 committee’s work.
“Certainly a parade of some sort would be appropriate,” he said. “I would like to see a gathering at the Gerald Solomon National Cemetery.
“Maybe a reception for those who are still with us.” Hartman said. “But more importantly, activities that honor those who are not.”
In addition to the Saratoga Springs committee’s schedule of activities, there will also be local sites that will have additional programs generated from the New York State commemorative committee. In a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta dated February 5, Governor Andrew Cuomo cited the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs and the Vietnam Memorial and Gallery in the State Capitol as potential exhibit locations.
The main objective, of thanking and honoring those who served in Vietnam, will hopefully go a long way to close an important circle; a circle which has been open and overdue for too long.