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LEON Festival to offer free fun, information to keep summer safe for kids

An afternoon and evening of fun and fireworks, featuring a performance by the national singing sensation Kidz Bop, will highlight the LEON Festival to take place from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, June 25 at Onondaga Lake Park. Admission to the event is free. The event celebrates the halfway mark to the winter holidays and the start of summer.

Help me help the MDA

I need your help to make bail. No, not that kind of bail. I’ve never been arrested. But I am going to “jail.” I’ve been recruited to help the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) with their annual Lock-Up fundraiser. Such events occur nationwide all year long. Business owners and community leaders (and, apparently, weekly newspaper reporters) agree to be “put behind bars for good.” We’re asked to raise money from friends, family, co-workers and, in your case, readers to help make “bail,” which will then benefit the MDA’s research, medical clinics and summer camp experiences.

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Motorcycle ride for Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital celebrates 20th year

For several years, Tony Testa and his wife, Becky, participated in the Miracle Ride for Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. Both were motorcycle enthusiasts, and they enjoyed helping to raise money for the children’s hospital. But in 2004, it got personal. “My stepson, Jim, had a child who was born in 2004, Aiden,” Testa said. “Aiden was born with quite a few challenges.” Aiden Snell was born with Pierre-Robin Syndrome (PRS), a birth defect that causes cleft palate, smaller-than-normal or underdeveloped jaw, a tongue that sits back too far in the throat, obstructing breathing, and several other issues. The genetic condition affects approximately one out of every 1,500 children. In Aiden’s case, the disorder required surgery just a few days after he was born.

World Ovarian Cancer Day in Syracuse is May 8

On May 8, Central New York’s very own Hope for Heather (hopeforheather.org) joins the global movement to raise awareness about ovarian cancer by pledging to spread the word about ovarian cancer during the second annual World Ovarian Cancer Day (WOCD).

OCM-BOCES to hold referendum on building purchase

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.

Caregivers in crisis: New York ranks 48th in support for family caregivers

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.

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Eye on Business: Eyecare for the Adirondacks

Business continues to grow after 35 years in the North Country

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Zoo to welcome original ‘Wild Kingdom’ host Jim Fowler Oct. 3

On Thursday, Oct. 3, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo will host, “Twilight at the Zoo Special Edition: A Life in the Wild with Jim Fowler.” The evening lecture begins at 6:30 p.m., and is sponsored by Mutual of Omaha.

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Buddy Walk is one of many supports offered by DSA of CNY

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.

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Kirkpatrick Day Program provides services for patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia

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.

SAS takes steps to end suicide

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.

Kids with cancer: Part V: Survivors continue to deal with side effects from treatment

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.”

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Saving 81: Local officials, business leaders launch campaign to keep elevated highway

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.

Kids with cancer: Part IV: Community organizations, individuals provide relief to young patients

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.”

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Cuse Pit Crew launches SOS Pet Project to deal with shelter overcrowding

This summer has created the perfect storm for shelter overcrowding. Fireworks send many animals running, and their owners don’t always check area shelters. Many have been forced to give up their pets due to financial hardship. Litters of unexpected puppies and kittens end up in shelters after their owners fail to spay or neuter their cats and dogs. And most recently, area flooding has forced homeowners and renters to move, sometimes leaving their pets behind. As a result, local shelters are struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing rate of abandoned animals.

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