As controversies over Common Core and mandated standardized tests become more and more prevalent, many parents are choosing a new option in educating their children: homeschooling. Once the sole province of the very religious, homeschooling is becoming more popular every day, with a growth rate of 7 to 15 percent per year. Nationwide, about 2 million children learn at home instead of in a brick-and-mortar school, up from about 1 million in 2003. According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 88 percent of U.S. homeschool parents express concern about the school environment, citing drugs, negative peer pressure and general safety.
Running a 10-mile race is a tremendous challenge. But if you’ve got the right motivation, those 10 miles can feel like nothing at all. That’s the idea behind Team Believe, a grassroots organization that brings together local runners to help the Central New York community. The group, which got its start in 2009, asks participants to help raise money for local children’s charities while training for the Dunn Tire Mountain Goat Run in Syracuse in May.
School districts in Central New York and beyond are in trouble, and it’s time we do something about it. That’s the message behind a pair of forums to be held Feb. 4 and 5 in Auburn and North Syracuse by the Central New York School Boards Association (CNY SBA) in conjunction with the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison, Cayuga-Onondaga, Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga and Oswego County BOCES. The forums, which will take place at Auburn West Middle School and North Syracuse Junior High School, respectively, will focus on the major factors causing those financial issues and how school administrators, teachers and community members can make a difference.
The Central New York SPCA is looking for the community’s help to raise the money to construct more than three dozen new kennels to improve the health and safety of their large dogs, accomplishing the second phase of a project they call Kennels for Canines.
On Thursday, Jan. 23, voters in 23 school districts across three counties will be asked to go to the polls to approve a building purchase that will have no impact on their wallets. Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES is looking to purchase the former Nationwide Insurance building, located at 110 Elwood Davis Road in the town of Salina. According to BOCES information officer Laurie Cook, the purchase would allow OCM-BOCES to relocate several programs now housed in leased space.
The lack of available help from senior care agencies is just one of the reasons New York state was ranked 48th in a 2011 national report by AARP’s Public Policy Institute, the Commonwealth Fund and the SCAN Foundation out of 50 states with regard to support for its family caregivers. Caregivers also face extensive waiting lists for adult day care programs and rehab facilities, a lack of support for in the work environment, limited or no access to transportation and inadequate informational resources regarding care options for their loved ones. And with the Baby Boomer generation moving into their golden years, the problem is only going to get worse.
’Tis the season of giving, and you needn’t look too far to find a worthy recipient for your time and financial donations. Central New York has a wealth of deserving organizations doing good, and they’re all in need of your support. To get you started, here’s an A-to-Z primer (minus X), complete with a description of each along with websites, contact information and basic needs. Remember, these are just a few of the many deserving nonprofits in Central New York, and the introductions offered barely scratch the surface of the services they offer. Check out the websites of these organizations for more information. Got your own favorites? Feel free to share at Facebook.com/eaglestarreview.
Helping others around the holidays doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. It can be as simple as cleaning out your linen closet or picking up some extra pet food. Joelle Litz of Liverpool is conducting a donation drive for the Humane Association of CNY and the CNY SPCA from now until Dec. 22. Both shelters are always in need of supplies (see the sidebar for their wish lists), and Litz said every little bit counts.
For 15 years, Terri and Vince Cook thought they had a daughter. But as they watched their child change from the vibrant, happy kid they’d always known to a withdrawn, depressed and ultimately suicidal teen, they knew something was very wrong. “We’d been through the hard teenage years with [our older son], and we’d seen this,” Terri Cook said. “This was different. This was someone who was just struggling and nobody could figure out why.” It took years of turmoil before the Cooks could determine the root of the problem: Drew Cook was transgender, which meant that although he was physically female, he identified mentally and emotionally as a male.
When you’re named the top running store in America, it would seem there’s nowhere to go but up. That’s exactly where Fleet Feet Sports went — well, north, anyway. Fleet Feet, a locally owned and operated store “dedicated to creating an inclusive environment in which all types of people receive outstanding service in the fitting of running, walking and cross training shoes as well as accessories and apparel for the active lifestyle” (according to its website) opened a second location in Market Fair North Plaza at 4136 Route 31, Clay, across from Great Northern Mall Friday, Nov. 1. The expansion was a result of expanding business in the original location in DeWitt, as well as a growing customer base in the north suburbs.
When you hear about problems on college campuses, you tend to think of binge drinking, budget cuts or fraternity hazing. But one of the biggest problems these days is hunger. A growing population of college students is struggling to make ends meet, unable to make tuition payments and pay for meals. There’s no comprehensive data available, but a City University of New York survey found that “39 percent [of students] had either gone hungry for lack of money, skipped meals, or been unable to afford balanced meals” in 2009. In order to help its students through the struggle, Onondaga Community College has joined a number of colleges nationwide in starting a food pantry.
The smell of Laurie Farrell’s daughter is starting to fade from the box of mementos she brought home from the hospital five years ago. The contents of the hand-painted box — a Beanie Baby, a receiving blanket, a small knitted cap, a crocheted blanket, a tiny gold ring and a bracelet — is all Farrell has left of her little girl. Emily was stillborn in November of 2008. “These are things she wore, and these are amazing mementos for me as a parent,” said Farrell, of Onondaga Hill. “Every year when I open it up on the anniversary date, I can still smell her.”
The DSA of CNY offers a number of activities for families of those with Down syndrome, but its biggest event — and the only one it offers that’s open to the entire community — is the Buddy Walk, which celebrates its 15th year this fall. “At our Buddy Walk, we do not focus on the therapies, doctor appointments, etc., that is a part of their daily life. We celebrate the joy of having them in our lives and family,” Bottego said. “Most of the committee members have worked on the Buddy Walk from the beginning. We have volunteers who come back year after year because it such an uplifting event.” The Buddy Walk will take place on Sunday, Sept. 29 at Long Branch Park in Liverpool. Registration starts at 9:30 a.m.; walkers who have pre-registered can pick up their preordered shirts. Walk-in registration is also available. T-shirts are available to purchase. Children’s games are open from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and only shut down while the walk is in progress. Attendees can purchase raffle tickets The walk starts at 10:30 a.m. The walkers follow the path out of the Longbranch Park area into the Willow Bay section of Onondaga Lake Park.
Patrick Oneill was already facing multiple counts of animal cruelty when he allegedly left his Labrador retriever, Ali, in his car for more than four hours on Sept. 2 while he enjoyed the New York State Fair with his girlfriend. Ali, left in the 100-degree car with no water and one window barely cracked, died despite the efforts of state troopers and bystanders who tried to save her. Animal advocates are saying she didn’t have to die.
In a secure courtyard near Syracuse’s Inner Harbor, on a daily basis, you can find a gathering of people engaged in any number of activities. They might be playing Bingo or trivia. They might be working on a small building project. If you head into the indoor area, you might find them baking or preparing snacks. What might surprise you is to find that all of these men and women have Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia. The Kirkpatrick Day Program is a social adult day program provided by the Alzheimer’s Association of Central New York. The program, which dates back to the early 1980s, came under the auspices of the Alzheimer’s Association in 1987.
More than 5,200 ducks took to Chittenango Creek in a race for more than glory — these ducks raced to raise money for the Bridgeport Food Pantry, which serves families in the towns of Cicero, Manlius and Sullivan. The Don’t Duck Hunger duck race, the brainchild of food pantry coordinator Patti Hedrick, typically raises about $25,000 for the pantry and is its major annual fundraiser; totals for this year’s race were not yet available at press time.
Lauren Dodge knows all too well the pain of losing someone to suicide. “I got involved with [Stand Against Suicide] because of the friends that I lost to suicide growing up,” said Dodge, who lives in Liverpool. “I not only felt the direct heartbreak of losing a friend, but I also saw what their families had to go through after losing their child.” The worst part was that no one was able to talk about it. “Experiencing the loss of a friend to suicide when it was a ‘hush-hush subject’ in high school made the loss very difficult to cope with,” Dodge said. That’s why Dodge became secretary of Stand Against Suicide (SAS), which was founded in 2010 by Tara Dennee in memory of her father, Wayne Olmstead, who died by suicide in 2008. The Elbridge-based organization gained nonprofit status in 2012. It seeks to raise awareness about the risks of mental illness and to encourage those in need to get help. Through a grant from the Pepsi Foundation and local fundraisers, Stand Against Suicide seeks to erase the stigma surrounding the discussion of mental illness and suicide. SAS hosts support group meetings every Tuesday at the Elbridge Community Church for those who have lost a loved one to suicide, for those struggling with depression or other mental illness and their family members and for volunteers looking to help.
It wouldn’t be out of line to say that the fate of the Bridgeport Food Pantry rests on the back of a plastic duck — or a whole creek full of them. The pantry will hold its annual “Don’t Duck Hunger” duck race fundraiser at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7 in the parking lot of St. Francis Parish in Bridgeport. The race typically raises approximately $25,000 for the pantry.
According to this year’s math and English Language Arts (ELA) tests administered by the state of New York, less than a third of students in grades three through eight are performing at grade level.
As it turned out, Erin Hannagan was one of the lucky ones. Hannagan was 16 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease May 25, 1993. But she would beat the disease. “I had been coughing for quite some time and had been diagnosed with multiple ‘colds,’” Hannagan recalled. “It finally got so bad that my mom took me to an urgent care center where a chest X-ray was done that revealed a large mediastinal [cavity containing the heart, esophagus, trachea, thymus and aorta] mass.”
A large group of politicians, citizens and businessmen and –women have launched an initiative to encourage the state to keep a 1.4-mile stretch of Interstate 81 as it is instead of turning it into an arterial boulevard. Savei81.org revealed itself at a press conference on Thursday, Aug. 1, in downtown Syracuse, where supporters spoke out against the New York State Department of Transportation’s proposal to turn I-81’s viaduct stretch, the elevated portion of the highway that runs through the central business district, into an arterial boulevard through the city with stoplights and cross streets, something the group said would irreparably damage the city’s economy by creating a backlog of traffic. The group also issued a press release after the conference outlining its goals.
Maureen Humphrey lost her child to cancer, but not in the traditional sense. Humphrey was pregnant in June of 2001 when she learned that she had clear cell adenocarcinoma, a rare and aggressive cervical cancer that necessitated a radical hysterectomy as well as the removal of 28 lymph nodes. “No one ever expects that cancer or illness will happen to them, and we certainly felt the same way,” said Susan Bertrand of Baldwinsville, Humphrey’s older sister. “Maureen's cancer diagnosis was a shock, but worse than the diagnosis was the grief she felt knowing she was going to lose her unborn child and never again have the chance to conceive or carry her own child again.”
Jenni-Lyn Watson lived to dance. In her memory, her family is holding a golf tournament to help others who share the same passion. Jenni-Lyn Watson, a 2008 Liverpool High School graduate, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Steven Pieper, in November of 2010 while she was home on break from Mercyhurst College, where she was studying dance. Pieper is currently serving a 23-year-to-life sentence in prison. The golf tournament, to be held Saturday, July 20, at Radisson Greens in Baldwinsville, raises money for the Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Fund.
Five years from now, the Syracuse skyline could look very different. Instead of an elevated highway heading into the city, the New York State Department of Transportation could construct an arterial boulevard. Or an underground tunnel. Or an iconic bridge. Truthfully, the DOT isn’t sure yet what the new Interstate 81 will look like. They just know that something needs to be done to replace the existing structure. “Bridges are designed to last for a certain period of time,” said Beau Duffy, public information officer for the NYS DOT. “The I-81 viaduct in Syracuse is reaching this point in time. Because repair and refurbishment of the bridge involves a significant investment, it makes sense, from a cost-benefit perspective, to look at potential alternatives for the future of the corridor.”
Editors at Eagle Newspapers were honored for their work at two recent awards ceremonies that celebrate the best journalism in Central New York and statewide.
Up-and-comers in the Central New York music scene will compete for prizes as well as the coveted title of “Best Band” this weekend, and they’ll support a good cause at the same time. Stand Against Suicide will host its inaugural Battle of the Bands on Saturday, April 20, at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College. Doors open at 11 a.m. and bands begin competing at noon. Tickets are $7 for students and $12 for adults. Eighteen bands will compete for a chance at the title as well as prizes.
When Caryn Daher’s son, Jon, was little, he was into everything — even more than the average toddler. “He was… constantly bumping and crashing into things and people and seeking-jumping type activities,” said Daher, a Cicero resident. “He had difficulty in regulating and responding to movement activities appropriately. It went far beyond a ‘busy’ toddler.” In addition, Jon struggled with a variety of sounds, often withdrawing or avoiding certain situations because of the noise level. He had higher-than-average sensitivities to food, temperature and touch. In addition, his speech was delayed. It was that delay that led to help for his other issues. Through his speech therapist, Jon was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder.
In a surprise move, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney appointed former Cicero Supervisor Chet Dudzinski to replace outgoing Legislator Bill Meyer, just hours before the Cicero Republican Committee unanimously nominated current Supervisor Jim Corl for the position. Corl said he was notified of the decision in an email that was also sent to Dudzinski and Michael Becallo, who had also expressed an interest in the seat.
WCNY has launched a new effort aimed at helping local nonprofits. “Won’t You Help a Neighbor?” uses the public broadcast station’s many media resources and connections to promote causes near and dear to Central New York residents.
More than 20 years after losing her mother to cancer, Kristin Atkinson is channeling her grief into helping other women. Atkinson of Cicero, Kristin Johnson of Cicero and Tara Polcaro of North Syracuse started The Molly Project as a way to provide comfort to women affected by cancer and their families. Named after Atkinson’s late mother, The Molly Project got its start a year ago when Johnson’s sister called her, looking for a way to help a co-worker with cancer.
With a $20 million budget gap facing Syracuse, the city’s busiest fire station may be on the line. City officials have floated the idea of closing down Syracuse Fire Department Engine Company No. 7, located at 1039 E. Fayette St. But the members of Local No. 280, the firefighters’ union, say that would be a very bad idea. “In the past two years, we’ve had several incidents of multiple fires in the city. We were stripped, using every resource,” said Paul Motondo, vice president of Local No. 280. “Losing an engine company, especially this one because of where it is and what its responses are, it’ll create a huge void.”
As we enter the New Year, many of us are pledging to get healthier — to lose weight, exercise more, eat more fruits and vegetables. But possibly the healthiest resolution, and one of the most enduring, is to quit smoking. But given that tobacco kills more people every year than alcohol, car accidents, cocaine, heroin, homicide, suicide, fire and AIDS combined, wouldn’t it be better never to start?
There’s a lot of conflict in education these days, but experts agree on one thing: something needs to change. “New York State has high academic standards and spends more money per student than any other state in the nation,” said a report by the New NY Education Reform Commission issued last week. “However, we are not seeing enough return on investment, especially for the large number of students from a background of poverty. New York lags far behind most states in graduation rates; only 74 percent of New York’s students graduate from high school, and only 35 percent are college ready.” That’s why Gov. Andrew Cuomo convened the the 25-member commission last April: to better prepare New York’s 2.7 million K through 12 students for the future. The commission issued its preliminary recommendations last week to mixed reviews.
On Saturday, Dec. 15, Moyers Corners Fire Department Station No. 1 opened its doors to a different kind of crowd. In addition to the usual crew of firefighters and first responders, several burn survivors and their families also came to the station in order to enjoy the holiday celebration of the Burn Foundation of CNY, to which the department volunteered to play host.
Operation Southern Comfort, as well as Operation Northern Comfort, its locally-active counterpart, has sent volunteers to areas affected by Sandy twice since the beginning of November. Norm Andrzejewski, a Liverpool resident who has been to the hardest-hit areas of the Gulf Coast more than 40 times since Katrina struck, said it’s an all-too-familiar scene. “It’s a lot like New Orleans, a lot like Mississippi, especially in some of the harder-hit areas like Rockaway,” he said. “There’s a lot of sand, a lot of homes that need to be mucked out. There are a lot of families hurting.” That’s why ONC and OSC are teaming up in a new effort, one Andrzejewski is calling Operation Sandyland, to help those affected by the latest disaster. A team, led by Andrzejewski’s granddaughter Kristin, will be heading down with a rental truck on Dec. 22 to help out wherever they can.
Want to get the people on your gift list something unique this year? Why not try something from one of Central New York’s many locally-owned businesses? To get you started, here’s an A-to-Z primer, with descriptions and suggestions. Got your own favorites? Feel free to share on our Facebook page.
When you put some of Central New York’s most popular bands under one roof with the goal of having them compete for the title of “Best Band,” it should make for some good entertainment. When you do it for a good cause, it should make for a great fundraiser.
During the holidays, there’s no place like home. But for the Fields-Hennessey family of Wynmoor Drive in Cicero, home is but a memory; theirs was destroyed in a devastating fire. The blaze broke out shortly after the family had gone to bed the night of Oct. 4. They were alerted to the conflagration by neighbors, who happened to see the flames through their back door, and banged on the Hennesseys’ door to wake them and get them out of the house. Maryann Fields and her daughter Marisa Falgiatano escaped without injury, but Fields’ husband David Hennessey suffered burns to his hands, and his son Connor suffered severe cuts to his hands and arms when he had to break through his bedroom window to escape. A family friend was also injured in the fire.
On Election Day, voters in Central New York resoundingly rejected national Republican candidates, re-electing President Barack Obama by a vote of 59 percent to Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s 38 percent, choosing Democrat Dan Maffei over conservative opponent Ann Marie Buerkle for Congress and, at a more local level, selecting more liberal Al Stirpe instead of Don Miller. While the presidential vote isn’t a big surprise — Obama took Onondaga County by a similar margin in the 2008 election — both Maffei and Stirpe lost those seats in the 2010 elections to Buerkle and Miller, respectively. So what made voters change their minds? What made these two candidates, as one politician at the Democrats’ Election Night celebration put it, “Central New York’s Comeback Kids”?
The images of the devastated Jersey Shore are haunting, particularly for those with a lifetime of memories swept away by Hurricane Sandy. Among those are Jim Siciliano and his daughter Gabby, who moved to Manlius from Ocean Township, N.J., 12 years ago, when Gabby was in fifth grade.
This election cycle, more women ran for Congressional office than ever before, with 18 running for the Senate and 141 for the House. In New York, both candidates for the Senate race were women; two of the three candidates for the 24th Congressional District race, one of the nation’s most hotly contested seats, were women.
Dan Maffei has issued a statement declaring victory in the 24th District Congressional race.
Democrat Al Stirpe retook the 127th District Assembly seat from Republican Don Miller, defeating him by a vote of 32,013 to 26,035. Stirpe had previously held the position from 2006 to 2010. The district encompasses the towns of Clay and Cicero and part of the town of Manlius.
Democrat Julie Cecile beat out Onondaga County Legislator Patrick Kilmartin for the open seat in the Onondaga County Family Court on election night. Cecile defeated Kilmartin, a Republican, by a vote of 98,742 to 78,425. Cecile is currently the executive director of McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center. Kilmartin is a practicing attorney.
Don Miller, 127th District Assemblyman and Republican candidate for the seat, cast his vote this morning, confident that he would retain his seat in the state legislature.
Democratic Congressional candidate Dan Maffei was confident as he cast his vote early Tuesday morning at the DeWitt Community Church, praising his campaign volunteers and urging Central New Yorkers to get to the polls. “We had the largest get-out-the-vote effort that I’ve ever seen in this region, so I’m very proud of that,” Maffei said. “Literally hundreds of volunteers who have worked not just today, but for many, many months, and I will tell you this, I am very, very confident that we have put everything into this effort that any campaign can, and I am very, very proud.”
You’ve all seen the commercials: Dan Maffei’s campaign accusing Ann Marie Buerkle of colluding with Todd Akin to redefine rape. Buerkle’s ad lambasting Maffei for giving bonuses to his staff with taxpayer money.
A lifelong Central New Yorker, Al Stirpe was born and raised in Clyde, where his family owned and operated Albert's Restaurant for more than 25 years.
Don Miller was elected to represent the people of the 121st Assembly District (now the 127th) on Nov. 2, 2010. The district encompasses the towns of Cicero, Clay, Manlius, LaFayette and Pompey in Onondaga County.
Ursula Rozum is a Syracuse native, the daughter of Polish immigrants who were exiled due to their work with the anti-Communist Solidarity trade union. She holds a BA Political Science and Latin American Literature from McGill University. In recent years, she has worked with Citizen Action of NY, the Working Families Party and the Green Party. Currently, she works on staff at the Syracuse Peace Council. She has been active locally working on issues of peace, immigrant rights, Latin America Solidarity and in the movement to ban hydrofracking in New York.