Spring of 2023 was busy With Wildwood Events. Here’s a rundown in case you missed them…
After a COVID induced hiatus, Wildwood’s Staff Day returned on June 4th. Staff Day has been an integral part of the Wildwood culture, fostering a sense of togetherness, building teams and a day to honor and celebrate the staff that carries out the organization’s mission.
This year’s staff day featured live music from Dave Graham, cornhole games, and a Rock ‘N Roll dress up theme. A delicious lunch was served and the indoor soccer fields at Afrim’s made for a unique and ideal setting.
It is a time to recognize staff and their length of service to the organization. The annual Values in Action Awards are presented to staff who demonstrate and live out Wildwood’s values of Respect, Integrity, Creativity and Holism. This year the award winners were Cailin Tozier and Ricardo Barney for Respect, Jolene Lyng and Rafael Gonzalez for Integrity, Matt McMorris and Nicole Ayotte for Creativity and Maggie Pascucci and Briana Macaione for Holism.
The Legacy Awards honoring our founders Ginny Rossuck and Maxine George and our most recent executive Director, the late Mary Ann Allen, were presented for the first time. The awards are given to long term staff who have served the organization in the same spirit and with the same energy as our founders and leaders.
This year’s Legacy Award were presented to Mark Ahola, music therapist and Luz Ramos, DSP.
The Spring Gala
This year’s Wildwood annual spring gala was held at Loft 433, the exciting new rooftop venue at Hedley’s Park Place in Troy with the breathtaking views of the Collar City and Albany. Wildwood, founded in 1967, provides supports for people with autism and other disabilities.
Loft 433 is a one of a kind venue for the region with its post-industrial interior and 180 degree balconies lit by fire tables, moonlight and the Troy cityscape below. At Wildwood’s gala, held April 21, party goers were gifted with a majestic sunset as the party kicked off.
Wildwood chose to honor the Spectrum News 1 team. It is a bit unusual for a non-profit to make a media outlet the focus of a gala but Wildwood Foundation Executive Director, Lauren Roecker, saw them as the perfect honorees.
“Spectrum has covered several features on our organization in the last year. Their coverage is informative and sensitive and they strive to get the human side of each story,” Roecker said.
The news team broadcast pieces on Wildwood’s music therapy program, their speech therapists, sex and relationships program, their trauma informed counseling initiative, their summer school extension program at Camp Wildwood and their legislative advocacy efforts, among others.
The gala raised $230,000.
The 2023 Collaborative Art Showcase
Wildwood teamed up with the Albany Barn, the Capital Region’s community's sustainable art incubator, to produce this year’s showcase. Artists from the Wildwood School and Wildwood adult artists teamed up with professional artists to develop works for this presentation held at the Albany Barn on May 25.
After months of work together the show featured art in various media including oil paint, sculpture, weaving and photography. The work of all the artists were displayed side by side and many of the pieces were for sale.
Spectrum News did a feature story on the showcase. This annual event is a great way to celebrate art and the community artists at both the Albany Barn and at Wildwood.
The Undisputed Champions and the 1,000 Punch Challenge
The Undisputed Champions Program, now in its 10th year held its 1,000 Punch Challenge June 15 at Schott’s Boxing.
The program is part of Wildwood School’s adapted physical education program. Head Coach, Javier Martinez, a retired undefeated professional fighter and a police detective with the Colonie Police Department, volunteers and leads the class students along with Tom Schreck, director of communications and a professional boxing official. A team of volunteer coaches works side by side with the students.
“When you get labeled with a disability it can become defining, if you let it. People around you often lower expectations and that becomes a way of life. That doesn’t happen here. The Undisputed Champions program is about going beyond,” Tom Schreck, the co-founder of the program said.
The program was designed by Martinez and Schreck and with certified adapted physical education instructor, Rachel McDermott, who made sure the program fit within the students’ PE goals. Safety is paramount…but so is hard work.
“When you drop in you can see the group doing burpees, mountain climbers, pushups, pistons—you name it. If need be, the exercises can be adapted to a person’s level. Doing their best and pushing to their limit is what is important,” Javy Martinez, co-founder, says.
The program also teaches the principles of “Relax, Focus and Adjust” as a way to be prepared in the ring, but more importantly, in life. Though the program does no sparring for safety reasons, the fighting metaphor is used as a teaching tool. The students train for eight weeks building up to this showcase where they will throw 1,000 punches to earn their “Undisputed Champion” title and their t-shirt. There’s a brief ceremony to close the training camp and salute the new champions.
The team decided to fight for a cause bigger than themselves. They have dedicated their 1,000 Punch Challenge to people facing cancer and raising funds for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. In the last five years the program has raised just under $10,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
The International Boxing Federation, Everlast and Schott’s Boxing have all lent their support to the Undisputed Champions program.