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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 11:59 am

Screenwriter Bill Kauffman and film director Ron Maxwell discuss 'Copperhead'

post by Daniel Crofts in arts, batavia, bill kauffman, GCC, GoArt!, movies

Next week, Hollywood comes to Batavia.

GoArt!, in partnership with local author Bill Kauffman -- author of such books as "Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette" and "Look Homeward America" -- and filmmaker Ronald F. Maxwell -- director of the Civil War epics "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals" -- will host a screening of the movie "Copperhead" on Thursday, June 13. 

This will give locals a chance to see the film before its official release in theaters on June 28.

"Copperhead" takes place in Upstate New York during the Civil War. Kauffman wrote the screenplay, based the novel "The Copperhead" by Harold Frederic, and Maxwell directed it.

Both men will be at the screening, and the movie will be followed by a short presentation by Kauffman and a Q&A session with Kauffman and Maxwell.

In anticipation of the screening, they spoke with The Batavian about the project itself, their collaboration over the years, among other things.

(To Ron): I understand you have been a longtime fan of Bill Kauffman. So this is a two-part question:

A. When and how did you first discover his work?
B. When and how did you two come into contact?

Ron: Actually the second thing happened first. We both attended an event in Washington, D.C. --- at which he spoke -- sometime in the mid-1990s. I was impressed with his wit, with his use of language, his sense of humor, and his insight, and that started a long friendship. I subsequently read his writings, and we stayed in touch over the years. 

Bill: “Copperhead” was actually my second screenplay. The first one was a project that Ron and I started developing several years ago. This was also an historical film, and it almost made it into development but didn't. We still hope it will someday. So "Copperhead" was my second screenplay, but it was the first to be produced.

(To both): What drew you to this material?

Bill: I probably first read the book 25 or more years ago. Harold Frederic was one of the great Upstate New York novelists. In fact his most well-known book, "The Damnation of Theron Ware," was hailed by F. Scott Fitzgerald as the best American novel before 1920.

Edmund Wilson, the great literary critic, praised Frederic's "Civil War Stories" for being unlike any other Civil War fiction. There's no Southern "moonlight and magnolias" romanticism, and there's no Northern "Battle Hymn of the Republic" righteousness; these are hard, unsentimental but very poignant stories of life in the North -- specifically Upstate New York -- on the home front during the war...the people left behind.

And this particular story, "The Copperhead," is about a farmer, a respected man, in a little hamlet in Upstate New York -- he's an old-fashioned Democrat who is against the war. And he is standing up, really, against his community on this. The community is torn apart, his family and the family of his chief rival are torn apart. So these people are casualties of the war in a different way.

The film is also, I think, about the resilience and resourcefulness of the people at home during wartime. It's a rich and complex story about our area, for one, and also about a fascinating time in American history.

Ron: As soon as I read it I thought, "Wow, this would be a terrific subject for a film." And I kind of ruminated for a while until about three and a half years ago, when it came up in conversation with Bill over dinner in Connecticut. I think he mentioned it first, but we both knew the novel and admired it. It was very interesting to me to explore the whole issue of the dissenters in society -- especially within the context of the Civil War, because I had already explored the reasons why good men chose to go to war in the other films, whether they wore blue or gray. Here was a film where you could explore why a good, ethical man chose not to go to war. It's the other side of the coin.

(To Bill): How was the screenwriting process different from the process of writing a book?

Bill: It’s a whole different style of writing. Writing a book is very much a solitary endeavor, although there is give-and-take with the editor. Movies are totally collaborative ventures. Even with the screenplay, Ron and I consulted throughout. Ron has a great sense for how to tell a story. So it was a very harmonious collaboration -- he's a great guy, and we work well together.

(To Ron): You wrote the scripts for both "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals." Why did you choose to have Bill write this one?

Ron: Well, as I said, it came up over a dinner, and by that time he and I had collaborated on the earlier project that he wrote. So I knew that he could do it. And I think part of the dynamic there is that when you write a screenplay, you need to focus big time and stop doing everything else.  At the time we started to talk about "Copperhead," I was totally immersed in something else, so I could not write the screenplay myself even if I wanted to. But I knew he could. So I worked with him, you know, in the way that a director-filmmaker works with a writer. We closely collaborated on it, but he in fact did the writing. A lot of times in Hollywood there are shared credits when a director works with the writer, but I'm a strong believer that the writer gets the credit. Because the writer is doing the work.

So, just as on the earlier screenplay, we collaborated but Bill adapted the novel. And I knew that his sensibilities would be very responsive to it. It takes place, as you know, in Upstate New York. And Bill was not only aware of this novel, but he had read other works of Harold Frederic.

In a sense, Bill is a regionalist. He's very aware of where he lives -- not just of how it is now, but of its history and literary traditions. So he was already connected to the history of this part of the world, and to Harold Frederic specifically. So of all the writers in the world, he was probably the most perfectly adapted to work out the screenplay.

If you know Bill's other work, one of his preoccupations is small town America. He has made the choice to live in small town America because he thinks that that's where American values are embodied and where the "simpler life" can be lived. That's a theme that runs through all of his nonfiction, and is certainly one of the themes of this particular story. One of the things ("Copperhead") explores is living in a rural community. I'm sure it was much more rural, with a much smaller population, back then than it is now. But again, Bill was predisposed to understanding and exploring the values of these people.

(To Bill): Were you a fan of Ron's films before this?

Oh yeah, absolutely. He's the great cinematic interpreter of the Civil War. This is his third Civil War film, but it's on a different scale. ("Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals") had scenes with thousands of extras colliding on the great battlefields -- they were Civil War films set behind the lines.

Were you intimidated by the prospect of writing a script for him after seeing the scope of his previous films?

Bill: Well, you know, I might have been, but we had known each other. We're friends, so in that sense it was comfortable. But it was a challenge. I like challenges, and I have over the years read a lot of screenplays in preparation for this film. I'd read a number of screenplays of films that I like very much -- everything from Paul Schrader's script for "Taxi Driver" to Graham Greene's screenplay for "The Third Man." So I had an idea of how to do it, and Ron was an invaluable guide to picking up the form and grammar of a screenplay.

(To Ron): Had you ever in your life heard of Batavia before meeting Bill?

Ron: No, and I wasn't even sure whether to say Bat-ah-via or Bat-ay-via. But I guess it's like that Cole Porter song, "You say tom-ay-to, I say tom-ah-to."

(To Bill): Are there any local connections in "Copperhead"?

Bill: There is one specifically Batavia reference -- it's a little bit of an inside joke -- early in the film. Some folks will pick up on it. But I can't tell you anymore.

Also, my daughter, Gretel, and the daughter of one of the producers have cameos in the film.  It's during the barn dance scene -- look for the "giggling girls."

(To Bill): Did you have chance to visit the location shoots in Canada? If so, what was this like?

Bill: I was there for about four to seven weeks. I went up a couple different times. I got a real kick out of watching these characters that existed on paper become real. And it's funny, because some of the characters ended up looking very different from how I thought they'd look. But I think the actors really brought to life and enriched the story with their own contributions. They did a lot of studying, put a lot of thought into the roles, and I think it shows on the screen.

(On Ron as a director): You hear stories of these tyrannical, dictatorial directors, but Ron is nothing at all like that. He's very much in control, and the production is well run. But he listens to people, everyone gets along, and it's very harmonious. He does a lot of planning (before production), and that shows in that there's a real efficiency about it. It was shot over about seven weeks, and there were no wasted days. They worked from sunup to sundown. It was very impressive.

(To Bill): I understand the actors were instructed to study your Western New York accent.  What was that experience like?

Bill: (Laughs) Yes, they had a dialect coach from Canada who did a great job with them. We don't have any tapes of what people in Upstate New York sounded like in 1862, so one of the things she did -- unbeknownst to me -- was send them videotapes of speeches of mine. So it was kind of fun on the set when actors would come up to me and ask, "How do you say 'apple'? How do you say 'orange'?" Of course, we're not aware of our accents. To us, we speak normally and everyone else has an accent. And when someone asks you to pronounce something, inevitably a little bit of self-consciousness creeps into you, you know? You exaggerate whatever little accent you might have. But yeah, that was a lot of fun. And fortunately, they do not all sound like me (laughs). They develop their own accents and styles of speaking.

(To Ron): Many of the actors in "Copperhead" are a bit less well-known than a lot of movie stars out there. Was this an artistic decision on your part?

Ron: Yes, very much so, insofar as you want (as a filmmaker) to be able to have the creative freedom to cast the way you want. We made a decision early on that we were not going to chase the movie stars. Because then you're always at the mercy of their schedules, their price tags, and competing for their time with the major studios. So suddenly you're not in control of your own movie. And I've played that game, so I know that game. We wanted to be independent and just cast the movie the best way we knew we could, make the movie we wanted to make, hope that it would stand on its own merits, and get it to the public. 

The reason people get the big stars is because those stars will get the movie financed and distributed. It's a simple formula. So if you think you can have alternate ways of getting the movie financed and distributed, then that allows you artistic freedom.

(To both): How did the upcoming screening/fundraiser come about?

Ron: We thought, as part of our marketing and promotion of the movie, that it would behoove us to do a number of screenings across the country to help generate word of mouth and grassroots support of the film. And we thought, "What better way than to ally with charitable organizations?" So we looked for charitable organizations that we could feel comfortable supporting, and we have about 18 or 19 of these all across the country.

Bill: The producers asked me about having one of the screenings in Batavia, and I of course jumped at the chance. And I thought GoArt! would be a great organization (to support), and they were enthusiastic about sponsoring.

(To Ron): What interests you about the Civil War Era as a filmmaker?

RM: Well, you know, I was drawn to it so many years ago now...it took me 15 years from the time I read (Michael Shaara's) "The Killer Angels" (the book on which "Gettysburg" is based) until the time "Gettysburg" was released in the theaters. I didn't know it was going to take 15 years, and I certainly didn't know I would spend another 10 years making "God and Generals," and then another 10 years before I could make "Copperhead." That's a lot of years altogether -- it's a big chunk of anyone's life to spend on one historical period. It's not like I set out to do that, it just kind of happened that way.

But along the way I came to realize that it has been a deep and abiding interest. It's just endlessly fascinating, and these are stories that have been very compelling to me. I have other kinds of projects I've been working on -- I have a Western I've been working on, a project on Joan of Arc, contemporary films...I'm always juggling them and trying to get them financed like other filmmakers. But it's just kind of worked out that "Gettysburg" led to "Gods and Generals," which led to "Copperhead." A lot of that is my own focus and my own energy, but some of it is serendipitous.

(To Bill): What draws you to writing about small town America?

BK: Well, it's where I've spent most of my life -- it's where I am now. To me, Batavia was always a source of fascination. Every story you could tell was on its streets and in its buildings. 

It's not that people in small towns are better than people in big cities. But I think because of the smallness and intimacy of the scale, it's a place where the individual can matter. In the anonymity of the big cities and suburbs, sometimes the individual can get lost in the crowd. To me, life in a small town seems more real, more immediate. I also think that small towns get the short shrift, both culturally and politically. It's unexplored territory.

(To both): Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for readers who might be aspiring toward successful careers in writing or filmmaking?

Bill: Words of advice for aspiring writers? I guess I'd say Read Read Read Read Read. Persevere. And don't get discouraged.

Ron: Well the most important thing is for aspiring filmmakers to develop and protect their own voice -- and not kind of mimic, copy, cater, pander or be what they think someone else wants them to be, what Hollywood wants them to be, or what any third party wants them to be.  Because then they are wasting their own time and everyone else's. If they can hold onto that little voice inside them that is their unique voice, that's the most important thing. That's what we want to hear and watch.

The screening of "Copperhead" will take place at Genesee Community College's Stuart Steiner Theatre, at 1 College Road in Batavia, and start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for GoArt! members and $25 for non-members.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.goart.org/events.php#Copperhead or call 343-9313.

Supplemental: "Copperhead" trailer

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo-j4_05bcI]

Photo of Ronald F. Maxwell directing courtesy of George Nicholis.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Photos: 'Mini Relay for Life' at GCC

Walkers finished Genesee Community College's six-hour "mini Relay for Life" last night with a dusk "Luminaria Ceremony" honoring the memory of cancer victims and people lives have been touched by cancer. The bags lining their path contained lit candles and each one was dedicated to a particular individual.

Suzanne Smith, of Batavia, "Luminaria Ceremony" coordinator and cancer survivor, is pictured here with her sons, Richie and Mikey.

This is the college's second annual "mini Relay for Life," which is a partnership between GCC's Wellness Center and the American Cancer Society.  It is also a sort of prelude to the annual "Relay for Life" at Van Detta Stadium, which will be held on Aug. 24.

More pictures:

Kristina Groff, American Cancer Society staff partner, and Michelle Williams, the event chair.

Master of Ceremonies John Kochmanski, who is with the college's radio station.

Jace Little, fundraising specialist and safety officer at College Village, and Tiffany Ralston, who was on the event's public relations committee and serves as a "Living Learning" advisor at College Village.

For more information on "Relay for Life," visit relayforlife.org/bataviany

Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 1:43 pm

GCC student art exhibit open through Thursday

post by Daniel Crofts in announcements, art, fine arts, GCC

Jennifer Spychalski, a freshman at Genesee Community College, is the winner of the college's "Fine Arts Student Show."

Her work, and that of other students enrolled in GCC's Fine Arts program, will be featured in an exhibit that will be open through Thursday.

According to a press release from Elisa Di Pietro, this exhibit "features two- and three-dimensional artwork" and "reflects the diverse coursework from drawing (to) painting, photography, 2D and 3D design and ceramics."

The exhibit is at GCC's Rosalie "Roz" Steiner Art Gallery at 1 College Road in Batavia.

For more information, contact Di Pietro at 356-2338.

Photo and information submitted by Elisa Di Pietro.

Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Attention shoppers: Super MAMMOTH Sale is Saturday

post by Daniel Crofts in garage sales, photos, St. Joe's, SUPER MAMMOTH

After nine years, Kathy Stefani, of Batavia, will soon gallop into the sunset as organizer of the Super Mammoth Sale at St. Joseph School.

But she will be going out with a bang, as they say, because this year's sale is the biggest thus far and includes several new attractions.

The sale will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. -- with a 15-minute break for restocking at 12:30 p.m. -- at St. Joseph School, at 2 Summit St. in Batavia.

Here are some pics:

NEW: Car/Truck Room

Volunteer Jerry Fisk will be running the car/truck room, which will feature models and toys of various vehicle types from the oldies right up to Nascar.

The Baby Room

Paintings and prints

Artisan Doll Room

Showroom #1 (cafeteria) - stage

Showroom #1 (cafeteria) - main floor

Showroom #2 (gym)

Note: Because there is so much inventory this year, both showrooms will be restocked at 12:30 (in the past, this has only been done for showroom #1).

Other items for sale will include a "barely used" Wii system with two remote controls for only $100, four Elvis Presley albums, and a copy of The Beatles' very first album.

There will also be a tent outside featuring furniture, gardening equipment, grills, and other miscellaneous items.

All proceeds of the sale will benefit St. Joseph School. For more information, call Stefani at 344-2701.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Photos: Notre Dame High School's 'Make Some Noise Area-Wide Talent Show'

In this short video, St. Joe's fourth-grader Andres Mateos demonstrates the use of a Bo, a martial arts weapon from Korea.

Andres was one of many talented youths from Genesee County competing in the "Make Some Noise Area-Wide Talent Show" at Notre Dame High School last night.

Proceeds from this event will be donated to the Western New York chapter of "Make Noise 4 Kids," a nonprofit organization that raises money and awareness in the fight against pediatric cancer.

Here are some of the other performers:

Natalie Matuszak (Notre Dame) singing and playing the guitar for "I Wouldn't Mind" by He is We.

Nathan Beck (Notre Dame) singing and playing the original song "Can't Wait."

Kathryn Fitzpatrick (John Kennedy School) singing a cappella "Wizard and I" (from the Broadway musical "Wicked").

Matuszak and Gabrielle Linsey (Notre Dame) dancing to Rihanna's "Right Now."

Peter Kehl (Notre Dame) singing "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables" (dressed as Jean Valjean).

Laura Guiste (Batavia High School) singing "Love Story" by Taylor Swift.

Jon Korzelius, Tyler Hamm and Tristan Korzelius (all from Oakfield-Alabama) performing "The Pit and the Pendulum," a rock medley of original and popular rock songs.

Hailey Natalizia (Pembroke) singing "I'm Gonna Love You Through It" by Martina McBride.

Due to some technical difficulties, I was unable to take pictures of all the performers. My apologies and congratulations on a job well done to the following:

Keara Zerillo, Erin Phillips and Serena Strollo-DiCenso (St. Joseph School), who sang "Wings" by Little Mix.

Kyle Kendall (John Kennedy School), who performed a ball spinning act.

Fiona Beck (St. Joseph School), who sang and played "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones.

Jake Krajewski, Tyler Barrett, Peter Kehl, Janelle Fancher and Lydia Moens (Notre Dame), who performed a short play called "The Legend of Krately House."

Tyler Hamm and Jon Korzelius (Oakfield-Alabama), who performed a drum duet.

Tracy Read and Beth Johnson-Walsh (Oakfield-Alabama), who sang and played the piano for "Hometown Glory" by Adele.

The winners of the contest were, left to right, Beck (first place), Cheverie (honorable mention), Phillips, Strollo-DiCenso and Zerillo (honorable mention), Kehl (third place), Korzelius and Hamm (second place) and Natalizia (pictured separately).

So as to fit them all in clearly, here is a picture from the other side:

Natalizia was happy to be another honorable mention.

As first prize winner, Beck was awarded $150. He donated his entire winnings to "Make Noise 4 Kids."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Le Roy High School presents 'Anything Goes'

Le Roy high schoolers Margaret Kovach, Erica Parker and Ben Neumann posed in character during a rehearsal of "Anything Goes," Le Roy Jr./Sr. High School's 2013 musical production. They will be playing Reno, Bonnie and Moonface Martin, respectively.

Jackie McLean, chorus teacher for the Le Roy schools and musical director for the play, described "Anything Goes" as an intricate, laugh-out-loud funny show with great characters.

More than 80 kids are involved in this production, including cast and crew members.

With music and lyrics by Cole Porter, the show takes place on a cruise ship and features comic circumstances resulting from three love triangles.

Pictured Ashley Webb (Hope), Steven Farnholz (Evelyn) and Natalie Salphine (Mrs. Harcourt)

"The script is jam-packed with funny moments and intricacies," McClean said.

She also said that the cast, which is made up of students in grades seven through 12, "did a great job of making the characters believable."

Danny Weaver and Jayce Seeley play Mr. Whitney and Billy, respectively.

Having "believable" characters is a big change from last year's performance of "Cinderella," which had a fanciful fairy tale atmosphere. With "Anything Goes," the kids have switched to a more realistic setting.

"It was a challenge, but they've done a great job," McClean said. "It's a great group of kids."

For her part, McClean understands and appreciates the challenge of bringing these characters to life. She was in "Anything Goes" as a junior at Batavia High School, which put on its own performance of the show in 2001.

"I picked the show (for the 2013 musical) because I loved it when I was in it," she said. "I understand the challenges, and also the funny moments and the characters, because I lived it. That gives you a different perspective."

As for the music, McClean describes it as old-style jazz with a "huge choral involvement." So in addition to great sets and lots of humor, "Anything Goes" will also boast a large chorus.

Le Roy is known for setting a high bar when it comes to its school musicals. Each year, staff and students like to give audiences something new to look forward to.

This year, audiences can look forward to huge, elaborate tap dance numbers by the whole cast, as well as a six-foot platform of the cruise ship built by Patrick Patton, complete with the look of a real ship and lights that go on at night.

Patton, the father of a Le Roy High School student, has been building sets for these productions for seven years. McClean said he sets a new challenge for himself with each one.

"He's amazing," she said. "(His sets) get better each year."

Performances of "Anything Goes" will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the high school auditorium, at 9300 South St. Road in Le Roy. All performances will begin at 7 p.m.

All tickets are $8 each and can be purchased at the door, via the district Web site or at the school's main office.

Supplemental Photos: Past Performances

Friday, March 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm

'Glitz-N-Glamour Salon' to host 'Dan Nash Cut-a-Thon'

Glitz-N-Glamour Salon owner Nicole Voltura will hold a “Cut-a-Thon” for her brother, Batavia resident Dan Nash, on Sunday, March 17 from 1 until 5 pm.

The event will include raffle items as well as a 50/50 raffle.  Voltura said there are 26 confirmed baskets for the raffle so far.

Items range from party mixes to wine, a Keurig machine, gift certificates to local restaurants, hair products, etc.

Ticket prices are $1 for three tickets or $10 for arms-length.

As the event name suggests, the salon will also be offering haircuts to those who would like them.  There is no set donation amount for those – people are just encouraged to give whatever they can.

Nash was diagnosed with a brain tumor in February.  According to Voltura, doctors were able to remove 90% of the tumor and are waiting to see if the rest will disappear.

Meanwhile, Nash has had doctor visits two or three times a week and has a long recovery ahead of him.  To make things worse, he is out of work and has health insurance that, according to Voltura, “hardly covers anything.”

Voltura herself is a cancer survivor.  She remembers how the community came together to help her and her family in their time of need, and she sees the “Dan Nash Cut-a-Thon” as a way for her to “give back.”

Even though Nash is her brother, Voltura said she would do this for anybody.

“I like to help however I can,” she said.

Glitz-N-Glamour Salon is located at 319 Ellicott St. in Batavia.  For more information or to purchase raffle tickets – which anyone can do, even if they cannot make the event – call Voltura at 813-9757 or send her a message on Facebook via the event page (

Glitz-N-Glamour Salon owner Nicole Voltura will hold a “Cut-a-Thon” for her brother, Batavia resident Dan Nash, on Sunday, March 17 from 1 until 5 pm.

The event will include raffle items as well as a 50/50 raffle.  Voltura said there are 26 confirmed baskets for the raffle so far.

Items range from party mixes to wine, a Keurig machine, gift certificates to local restaurants, hair products, etc.

Ticket prices are $1 for three tickets or $10 for arms-length.

As the event name suggests, the salon will also be offering haircuts to those who would like them.  There is no set donation amount for those – people are just encouraged to give whatever they can.

Nash was diagnosed with a brain tumor in February.  According to Voltura, doctors were able to remove 90% of the tumor and are waiting to see if the rest will disappear.

Meanwhile, Nash has had doctor visits two or three times a week and has a long recovery ahead of him.  To make things worse, he is out of work and has health insurance that, according to Voltura, “hardly covers anything.”

Voltura herself is a cancer survivor.  She remembers how the community came together to help her and her family in their time of need, and she sees the “Dan Nash Cut-a-Thon” as a way for her to “give back.”

Even though Nash is her brother, Voltura said she would do this for anybody.

“I like to help however I can,” she said.

Glitz-N-Glamour Salon is located at 319 Ellicott St. in Batavia.  For more information or to purchase raffle tickets – which anyone can do, even if they cannot make the event – call Voltura at 813-9757 or send her a message on Facebook via the event's page.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Austin Heineman fundraiser scheduled for Friday

From the "Amanda's Rage Cranking it up for Austin" Facebook page (with a few edits):

(Area band) Amanda's Rage will be cranking it up to help Austin Heineman in his battle with cancer.

 

At the young age of 17 Austin was suddenly up against, and in a battle, with a very aggressive and rare form of cancer called Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor.

 

Austin is now 18. He has completed several rounds of chemo and will soon be undergoing bone marrow transplants in Maryland. He has also had to travel to New York City for several days/weeks at a time for treatment.

 

Austin's father, Jason, has been transporting and staying by Austin's side on each and every trip for treatment.

 

Austin needs your help, support and all-important prayers to continue fighting this battle.

 

Austin's Army is looking for recruits. Do you have what it takes?
Come out March 1 to join Austin's Army & show Austin and his family that they are not alone in this.

 

$3.00 cover/donation - 50/50 raffles - Open donations.

This event will take place at the Batavia Country Club, at 7909 Batavia-Byron Road in Batavia, and last from 8 p.m. until midnight Friday.

For more information, call Dawn at 703-3793.

Friday, January 25, 2013 at 9:17 am

'Hit a Home Run for Ken Hazlett' to help beloved Little League umpire

Ken Hazlett, 51, is a lifelong Batavia resident who was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer shortly after Thanksgiving. He is undergoing treatment at Wilmot Cancer Center in Rochester, and on Saturday there will be a benefit to raise money for his medical expenses.

"Hit a Home Run for Ken Hazlett" will be held on Saturday at Polish Falcons, at 123 S. Swan St. in Batavia, starting at 2 p.m.

The event will feature a Chinese Auction with 120 to 150 baskets, a 50/50, a 46-inch TV to be raffled off, a week's cabin rental at Frost Ridge Campgrounds in Le Roy (valued at $600), and a Little League package that will include a batting glove, a bat, and tickets for reserved seating at a Buffalo Bisons' game. 

Basket drawings will take place at 6 p.m.

Clor's Chicken BBQ dinners and T-shirts, which cost $9 and $10 respectively, will be available at the event or in advance. Hazlett's niece, Nicole Newton, said there will be a limited number of extra dinners (she anticipates about 75) available on the night of the event.

Saturday's event will also include beef on weck, pizza, pop and water.

Hazlett is well-known locally for having umpired Little League games for many years, as well as for coordinating the area's umpires for about a decade. He was invited to Cooperstown in August 2011 to watch the international Little League tournament, at which he was honored to be the umpire behind the plate at the final game.

For more information or for dinner and T-shirt pre-orders, call 409-4385, 584-3589 or 409-8802. People can also pick up dinners and T-shirts at the Detail Shop, at 3875 W. Main St. Road, or Mazures Automobile Repair Service, at 643 E. Main St., both in Batavia.

Photo submitted by Nicole Newton

Friday, January 18, 2013 at 10:41 am

Two upcoming events to benefit family of Batavia man with cancer

Family and friends of Patrick Suozzi, a Batavia man facing terminal cancer, are asking people for support.

On Jan. 27, there will be a benefit/fundraiser for Suozzi's wife, Mary Beth, and son, PJ, from 1 until 6 p.m. at Resurrection Parish (St. Mary's) Recreation Hall, at 18 Ellicott St. in Batavia. All proceeds will help offset their ongoing medical expenses.

The fundraiser will include a meal of spaghetti, salad, bread, beverages and dessert, as well as a TV raffle, a Chinese auction, a bake sale and face painting.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 10 and under.

To purchase tickets, make a donation or obtain more information, contact Lori DiFilippo at (716) 474-2895 or Kim Turman at 356-8922

There will also be a rock 'n' roll benefit on Jan. 26 at T.F. Brown's, at 214 E. Main St. in Batavia. It will feature three local bands: Bob Lovelace (acoustics), Amanda's Rage and Savage Cabbage (main band). The event will last from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m.

Admission is $3 at the door, and there will be a 50/50 raffle. For more information, call 343-1547.

Photo submitted by Steve Ognibene

Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 10:45 am

GCC alumnus, Vietnam veteran is grateful for 'second chance'

Jim Lachman likes to tell people that in 1968 he went to Vietnam to kill Vietnamese, but in 2012 he went to paint their nails.

Lachman, of Brockport, is a 2010 graduate of Genesee Community College and is currently pursuing a Bachelors in Social Work at the College at Brockport. 

A Vietnam veteran, Lachman had the opportunity to return to the battleground this past year -- not as a soldier, but as a guest. Through Brockport's Vietnam Program, he earned 15 college credits studying Vietnamese culture and completed many hours of community service in the city of Danang. He chronicled his experience in a blog called "Danang again." (There's a link at the end of the article.)

On Nov. 13, he contrasted his two experiences in Vietnam in a speech titled "A Forty-Year Journey from Vietnam to Vietnam," which was held at his alma mater, GCC. We invited him to sit down with us and share some of his insights for readers of The Batavian.

Lachman and his wife, Bernie -- who joined him for part of his stay in Vietnam -- were interviewed at Coffee Culture in Batavia last week.

What did you do in the Vietnam War?

Jim: I was part of the C-130 Squadron in the Marines. I worked on large airplanes called VMGR 152s. We were stationed in Okinawa, but we had a sub-unit in Danang. I was there for three months, then I went back to Okinawa. Then I spent three months with the flight crew as a plane mechanic, so I was in and out of Vietnam, Thailand, and up and down different airstrips. We flew cargo and troops back and forth. Most of the missions I flew were flight-refueling operations.

So you didn't see any combat, correct?

Jim: No. I was one of the lucky few who weren't exposed to any of that.

How did you get involved in Brockport's Vietnam Program?

Jim: I was in a U.S. History class at GCC in 2010, and there was a little Asian woman sitting next to me. I asked her where she was from, and she said Vietnam. We developed a friendship -- I asked questions. She told me about a study abroad program in Vietnam at Brockport, and I said "Oh, okay..."

What exactly did you do while studying abroad in Vietnam?

Jim: I probably got about 100 hours of community service while I was in Vietnam.  There was a large community service component.

Each week we spent an hour and a half in a nursing home with ladies in their 80s and 90s (there were some men, too). We helped them pick mulberries and peanuts, and they loved to have their nails trimmed and painted.

Then we did an hour and a half a week at Agent Orange group home, and we also did home visits to kids who were too sick to come to the group home.  

Bernie: We know the effects of agent orange on American soldiers, but we don't know about the effect it had on the people who live in Vietnam. It has affected three generations with birth defects, mental sickness, (etc.) 

Jim: The way I like to put it is, we put poison in their backyard and it's still there.

We also did English instruction two nights a week and delivered food and medical supplies to a leper village. Then we got 15 credit hours studying Vietnamese history, politics, culture and language.

What was the big difference between your first visit and your second?

Jim: I contributed to the death of two million Vietnamese people by being part of the war. By contrast, in 2012 I learned about the culture and the people, and I connected with them on a human level. And I fell in love with them.

A former Viet Cong chairman who now writes for "Da Nang Today" (a Danang newspaper) interviewed me for an article on a "former invader who was coming back to do good." He asked me questions, and he was very curious. But if we had met 40 years ago, someone would have been taken prisoner.

Today, Vietnam is a wonderful vacation spot. You see people there from China, Australia, Russia...They have wonderful and very cheap accommodations, beautiful beaches...and the Vietnamese people don't like the sun, so we'd have the beach almost to ourselves (during the day).

Bernie: I came to visit Jim for a month. It was a two thousand dollar round trip by airplane, and that was the most money I spent the whole time.

I shopped at the tailor stores, which are family owned businesses. The Vietnamese are known through much of the world for their tailor-made clothes.

As a woman in Danang, I could walk safely at night. I couldn't do that in Batavia.  All the stores (in Danang) are street-level. (Store owners) got to know me, and I knew that if anyone ever tried to molest me in the street, they'd be all over them.

I went into a bookstore once, and no one there knew English. So they went two stores down and found someone who did. That's what they want -- they want to communicate.

And they revere the elderly. One time we went into a coffee shop, and one of the first questions they asked before seating us was, "How old are you?" Because we're over 40, we were always in the most honored spot.

Jim: And (accepting that courtesy) was part of my being a guest, part of accepting the culture as it was. One of the things the Vietnam Program page on the Brockport Web site says is that as students, we are guests of the Vietnamese government. So that's how I conducted myself. The last thing I wanted was to be an "ugly American."

At every other place I had served (in the Marines), I had the opportunity to connect with the people and the culture. Going back to Vietnam, it was like I had a second chance, you know?

Even if I didn't like an experience, I would try to write about it in a positive way on my blog. At the exit dinner (held at the end of the program), one of the chairmen said, "We've been enjoying your blog" -- "we" meaning the Communist Party.  When I told my son about that, he said: "Well, did you think they wouldn't?"  Honestly, I never thought about it -- I just wrote from the heart.

What would you want people today to know about the Vietnam War?

The man who taught my politics class was in charge of the Liberation Front (the enemy) in Danang back in '68. He said Vietnam has a "market economy with a socialist orientation." It seems to me that their government works as well for them as ours does for us. I often wonder what would have happened if the U.S. had allowed the Vietnamese to have their elections the way they had planned. When the U.S. got involved, it went from 1956-1975 until (the Vietnamese) could unify their country.

Bernie: People our age will ask us, "Did you go to North Vietnam or South Vietnam?" It's just Vietnam now.

Jim: I can think of two men in history who wanted to preserve national union: Abraham Lincoln and Ho Chi Minh. They both wanted the same thing.

After doing some research, I found out that what I was taught about Communism and Ho Chi Minh growing up might not have been the truth.

So then you would say that the Vietnam War was not worth it in the end?

Jim: In humanistic terms, I would have to say no. It wasn't worth all that death.

What I was told when I went over was that I was being sent to stop Communism.  After I came home, I discovered the real reason: The U.S. military was serving as the hired guns of capitalism. The reason (for the war) was that the capitalists in charge of the U.S. government wanted to control all trade in and out of Southeast Asia.

We would have been better off staying out of the whole thing and allowing the Vietnamese to have their elections and be the government they were going to be. It would have saved a lot of lives.

As an American military man in Vietnam, how were you treated when you returned home?

Jim: When I came back in July of 1969, I had heard the stories. So when I came into Travis Air Force Base in California, I put on civilian clothes in the bathroom. I made the choice not to call any attention to myself. Even today, I choose not to wear (my Marines hat), because I just got used to that.

Bernie: When I was a sergeant instructor in the Reserves (in the 1970s and 1980s), we were taught not to wear our uniforms when travelling on a civilian conveyance. Then when the Vietnam veterans insisted that the Desert Storm soldiers be honored, the culture changed. It went from "we're against the war" to "we support our troops."

What led you to speak about your experience at GCC on Nov. 13?

Jim: I was there because of Josephine Kerney, who was my sociology professor (at GCC). She does a lot of study abroad stuff, so in association with the Vietnam Program I'd run into her at fairs and such. I talked about the contrast between my first trip to Vietnam and my second, and it fascinated her. She wondered if I would come in and talk to her class about it, and that led to it being a larger event where anyone could come.

Do you have any thoughts on the current war in Afghanistan?

What I learned from my Vietnam experience was that I can't trust the government. I wonder what my government is lying to me about now. Is (the war in Afghanistan) about money? Is it about pharmaceutical interest in what we can extract from the poppy that grows there?

I've heard it said that "Afghanistan is where empires go to die." Alexander the Great tried (to invade), the Russians tried it, and now it's us.

A Kodak retiree, Lachman returned to school in 2008 out of a desire to become a counselor for military veterans. Currently in his junior year at Brockport, he plans to go on for a master's degree so that he can counsel veterans "who saw things that no one should have to see."

For more information on his experience, go to www.danangagain.blogspot.com.

Monday, December 10, 2012 at 9:17 am

Byron-Bergen third-grader founds 'Jr. Angels in Action' -- for kids, by kids

It all started with a little girl with a big heart.

Angelique Heick, the 8-year-old from Bergen who competed as a finalist in the "American Miss" pageant in August, spent a large part of the last year taking money from her monthly allowances and using it to purchase toys for underprivileged children in Genesee County.

She donated 12 toys for each month of the year to Community Action Angels of Genesee County, which is the volunteer arm of Community Action of Orleans & Genesee. It's made up of volunteers dedicated to gathering donations for toys, food, clothing, extra money and other necessities for Genesee County residents in need.

But this wasn't enough. When Angelique learned about all that the "Angels" do to support needy kids and families, she was bothered that there was no such volunteer program for kids her age.

"I wanted to know why there was no Community Action Junior Angels," she said, "so I decided to start my own."

Now, with the help of 100 Girl Scouts -- officially dubbed "Jr. Angels" -- their families, Community Action and others, Angelique has achieved this dream.

Angelique -- a third-grader at Byron-Bergen Elementary School, a Girl Scout since age 4 and a member of Troop 42174 -- inspired her Girl Scout Troop with her idea and efforts to collect funding promises from local businesses along with three friends -- Pat, Lisa and Annet.

Troop 42174 Leader Rene Vurraro gathered Girl Scout Troops from Byron-Bergen, Pavilion and Le Roy to help with a community service event in response to Angelique's vision.

When Community Action, in turn, heard about what the Scouts were doing, they decided to partner with them to make this a much bigger, annual event called "Circle of Giving" and to develop a Community Action Jr. Angels program.

The first "Circle of Giving" was held on Saturday at Byron-Bergen High School.  The Jr. Angels were there to collect donations of food, clothing and toys, and to make cards for the recipients.

The goal is to eventually turn this into an opportunity for area Girl Scouts to earn a badge.

Beyond that, Community Action has included this project in a book of statewide initiatives so that people in other areas of New York State can read about it and get similar projects started.

"One 8-year-old's dream could turn into thousands of Girl Scouts doing the same thing," said Pat Standish, founder of Community Action Angels of Genesee County.

Standish gave the Scouts an inspirational talk about her experience with the "Angels" and told them how much people will appreciate what they are doing.

"When I first started (with Community Action Angels)," she said, "I thought kids would want things like bicycles and iPods. But what's important to them is not what you give, but that you show that you care."

She also stressed the importance of team effort when it comes to the "Angels" and similar volunteer initiatives.

"I may have had the idea (as founder)," Standish said, "but I needed the help of volunteers to make it happen. And Angelique had an idea, but she couldn't have done it without help from all of you and your families."

Organizations that sponsored this endeavor include Stahlka Agency, Complete Payroll Processing, the Sallie Mae Fund and First Niagara Bank.

"They gave money so the kids wouldn't have to wait (to get started)," Standish said.

Dee Dee Hintz, Angelique's grandmother and legal guardian, expressed gratitude to Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School Principal Aaron Johnson and Elementary School Principal Brian Meister for handing out fliers for this event.

"I think this is the beginning of something big," Hintz said, noting the number of volunteers involved in the overall project.

"Next year will be even bigger," she said. "(Angelique) already knows what she wants to do next year. She'll carry this on for at least two or three more years."

A final note

"Circle of Giving" is the philosophy of Community Action Angels, which encourages its beneficiaries to "pay it forward."

According to Standish, many of the people helped by the "Angels" over the years have become volunteers.

Special thanks to Angelique's mom, Jennifer Cejka, for sharing background information prior to the event and for providing the inspiration for the article's title.

Monday, November 12, 2012 at 11:44 am

Workshops to address topic of senior citizen suicide Tuesday

One elderly person commits suicide every 90 seconds, according to a statistic provided by the Genesee County Mental Health Association.

That's why they are helping the Genesee County Suicide Prevention Coalition to host an upcoming pair of workshops featuring Eric Weaver (pictured). He's the executive director of "Overcoming the Darkness," a Victor-based organization dedicated to providing education about and help for people with mental illnesses.

"Suicide Prevention in the Elderly" is the title of the workshops, which will take place Tuesday at ARC's Community Center, at 38 Woodrow Road in Batavia. There will be a workshop for providers from 12:30 until 4:30 p.m. and another one for friends and family members from 6 until 8 p.m.

Both are free and open to the public.

Caregivers, family and community members who attend either workshop will be equipped to help elderly individuals in danger of suicide by learning how to:

  • Understand risk factors;
  • Recognize warning signs;
  • Learn how to have a discussion with the person if they suspect suicidal thoughts; and
  • Learn about local resources available to help with prevention, managing risk factors and coping in the wake of a suicide.

According to Sue Gagne, of Genesee County Mental Health, people age 65 and older have a higher suicide rate than any other age group.

She believes the main contributing factors to be "financial concerns, concerns about managing the aging process, health concerns and loss of independence."

Millie Tomidy, also of Genesee County Mental Health, described the Genesee County Suicide Prevention Coalition as "a group of people from various professional backgrounds as well as individual community members who are alarmed by the prevalence of suicide and want to do something about it."

"The ripple effect from one death can devastate the entire community," Tomidy said. "The goal of the coalition is to educate in order to prevent future suicides, but also to have a unified response plan in place if (a suicide) should occur."

Weaver, a survivor of a mental illness himself, is widely recognized for his educational talks and training seminars for professionals, family members, churches, workplaces, community groups, schools, hospitals and other audiences.

The mission of his business, "Overcoming the Darkness," is to "reduce stigma, increase understanding surrounding the many challenges of mental health related issues, create a culture that openly discusses the topic of mental illness, suicide and suicide related behavior, and above all proclaim that there is hope and that a level of recovery is available to everyone, so that individuals and families will no longer need to suffer in silence" (from the Web site).

For more information or to reserve a space, call 344-2611.

Photo from www.overcomingthedarkness.com

Monday, November 5, 2012 at 10:24 am

Friends open businesses in shared downtown Batavia space

Amy Worthington and Stacy Mullett celebrated the opening of their respective businesses, "Amy's Fluffy Friends" and "Phoenix Creatives," on Saturday.

Pictured are Katie Chapell-Vaught -- proprietor of "Athena's Bakery," which specializes in dog treats that are sold at "Amy's Fluffy Friends" -- Worthington (holding Clifford) and Mullett at the grand opening. It was held at the two businesses' shared space at 238 Ellicott St. in Batavia. 

"Amy's Fluffy Friends" offers grooming services for canines of all sizes, including (but not limited to) baths with massage, premium shampoos and conditioners, brushing, nail trimming, hair removal and sanitary trim, as well as skunk and flea treatment.

Worthington carries a variety of shampoos, including kinds that are designed for dogs with sensitive skin. She is open to customers bringing in their own shampoos if they prefer to do so.

In honor of the opening, she will offer free nail trimming for the first month.

"Phoenix Creatives," meanwhile, features custom printing, art, beaded jewelry, painted glass and secondhand items.

Mullett is offering 50-percent off of custom printing orders and "U-Pick" T-shirt designs for the first month.

Worthington and Mullett were friends and coworkers well before they decided to share business space.

"(Then one day) we said, 'We should go into business together,' " Worthington said. "It was almost like a joke. But then the thought stuck in our heads. It was a good idea."

"Amy's Fluffy Friends" is open from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday (Worthington said she will stay until 5 p.m. if need be) and on Saturdays by appointment only. For more information, call 300-8765.

Hours of operation for "Phoenix Creatives" are 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon until 4 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 298-2045.

Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 8:44 am

Batavia music prodigies to perform at GCC Sunday

post by Daniel Crofts in GCC, Irrera brothers, music, Piano

For John and Joseph Irrera, it all started with an owl who liked to play the saxophone and a little boy who signed up to play the violin without telling his parents.

Joseph and John graduated from Batavia High School in 2000 and 2003, respectively, and since then they have had a quite successful run as a piano-violin duo. On Sunday, they will kick off the "Irrera Brothers Chamber Music Series" at GCC.

The piano is Joseph's instrument of choice. He has been playing since he was 5 years old, and his love for the piano began with, of all things, the saxophone.

"I always watched 'Sesame Street,' " he said, "and there was an owl character who played the saxophone. So I wanted to play the saxophone, too."

Joseph's parents took him to Roxy's Music Store for lessons, only to learn that he was too young for wind instrument lessons.

"(The teachers at Roxy's) suggested starting with the piano," Joseph said. "I wasn't interested. But my parents -- especially my dad -- convinced me. They said that if I started with the piano I would have a good foundation, learn how to read music and get to know rhythm. And then when I actually started to learn the saxophone, it would be much easier."

And he never looked back.

"I started to play the saxophone in fourth grade and continued through high school," he said, "but it never felt like the piano did to me."

Five years later, his little brother John, a first-grader at John Kennedy Elementary School, signed up to play a string instrument.

"(He did it) on his own," Joseph said.

After Christmas, John's mother got a surprise call from string instructor Cindy Baldwin, who said that a spot had opened up for the violin.

And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Joseph and John are both currently studying for their doctorates in Piano Performance and Violin Performance, respectively, at the Eastman School of Music.

They have an impressive repertoire as a performing piano-violin duo that includes frequent performances on the radio station WXXI 91.5 (they will be featured in a noon performance on Wednesday), two performances at Carnegie Hall in New York City (one in 2009, the other in March 2012) and a 10-day tour in Costa Rica in August.

According to Joseph, the piano and violin are "the best pair you can have."

"The great thing about the piano is that it can provide both melody and harmony underneath," he said. "And then the violin is one of the most vocal instruments. It can emote a lot. So they complement each other very nicely. It has been a very popular arrangement to compose for over the centuries and has an extensive repertoire."

More after the jump (click on the headline):

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

Nurse practitioner offers personalized health care at 'Ladies First'

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Ladies First, medicine, women

For Krysten Schmidt, “ladies first” is more than just a polite truism – it is a passion.

“I have always been passionate about women’s health,” she said. “We all have a niche, and I found mine.”

That’s why she has opened “Ladies First,” a gynecological care clinic at 47A Batavia City Centre in Batavia.

Services at “Ladies First” is available to females age 13 and older and includes:

  • routine annual exams;
  • cancer screenings;
  • vaginal and urinary tract infection diagnosis and treatment;
  • STD diagnosis and treatment;
  • family planning;
  • birth control;
  • menopausal care; and
  • osteoporosis treatment.

Schmidt, of Batavia, draws from a 20-year nursing career that has allowed her to work with all kinds of patients "from babies to geriatrics.”

Prior to her new venture, she was a nurse practitioner at the Women's Care Center of United Memorial Medical Center and at the general practice of Mary Obear, M.D., in Pembroke. She has also worked at St. Jerome's and HomeCare & Hospice.

One of the perks she has noticed in being a nurse practitioner is that it fosters a holistic view of the patient.

"I think being a nurse practitioner rather than an M.D., you look at the patient as a whole (rather than) just focus on what the patient came to the office that day for."

To that end, she has worked hard to give "Ladies First" a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere -- complete with solid, Amish-made maple cabinets from Pennsylvania, hardwood flooring and walls painted a warm terra cotta.

"My patients are loving the non-medical feel of the office," Schmidt said.

Construction of "Ladies First" started the first week of August. Schmidt's husband, Edward, collaborated with the contractors in renovating the vacant space next to the office of Lalit Jain, M.D., and "worked hard to get the place done on time."

Once that phase of the project was completed, then came the marketing phase. "Ladies First" has had a very good run so far, and Schmidt attributes much of its success to word of mouth.

"Let's face it," she said, "most women are not going to pick their GYN provider out of the Yellow Pages. Most of my patients come from referrals from their friends, family and coworkers."

Still, Schmidt has done her part to put "Ladies First" out there. She took part in the Business Improvement District's "Taste of Fall Wine Walk," which brought about 300 people to the office. She has also been printing T-shirts and advertising (including on The Batavian).

All of this effort flows from Schmidt's strong desire to use her expertise in the service of other women.

"Women seem to relate better to other women when discussing birth control, menstrual cycles, menopause and sexual health. They are more open to discussion."

Most insurance programs will cover a visit to "Ladies First," according to Schmidt.

"We do have a reduced fee for cash-paying patients depending on the service they need," she said.

As a nurse practitioner, Schmidt cannot provide any surgical or pregnancy-related care. For that, she will refer patients to her collaborating physician, Richard Edwards, M.D.

"Ladies First" is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 8 a.m. to noon Fridays. It is closed on Wednesdays.

For more information, call 343-6600.

Photo courtesy of Krysten Schmidt

Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Ribbon-cutting ceremony for Alexander outdoor classroom introduces a first for New York State

post by Daniel Crofts in alexander, education, nature, schools

Yesterday was the official opening of Alexander Elementary School's outdoor classroom. Sixth-graders McKenna Moran and Nick Allen did the honors for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, with some assistance from preschool teacher Ellie Jinks.

Parents, kids and community members braved the autumn morning chill to attend the ceremony celebrating the opening of the very first certified outdoor classroom in Upstate NY.

McKenna and Nick were among the students who helped with this project last year as fifth-graders. They were honored student speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, where each praised the outdoor classroom's merits from a student's perspective.

"(It's great that) instead of just staying inside all day and writing papers," McKenna said, "kids get to be outside doing hands-on things and still learn the same things they would be learning inside."

"I think it's a great addition to our school," Nick said when addressing the crowd. "We don't get to go outside very much. And like McKenna said, instead of just reading about nature in books, we get to go outside (and learn in a hands-on way). I want to thank all the donors (and everyone who helped out)."

Guest speaker Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer called Alexander's outdoor classroom "a shining example of what all of Genesee County, and really the rest of New York State, should do."

He also said that "our kids are in front of too many screens (TV screens, computers, iPods, etc.)," and that projects like this show dedication to "where education should be going -- into the future."

Alexander School Board Vice President Reed Pettys cited studies indicating that:

  • Most of today's children spend 90 percent of their time indoors;
  • Allergies and asthma have increased as kids have stayed indoors more often;
  • Kids who spend more time playing outdoors do better in school and have better motor skills (agility, etc);
  • Symptoms of conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are relieved by contact with nature.

"Our hope is that for many years and decades to come," Pettys said, "this outdoor classroom will give relief to many individuals."

More photos after the jump (click on the headline):

Friday, October 12, 2012 at 7:35 am

Second time around for GCC students' 'Walk for a Cure'

post by Daniel Crofts in GCC

When Genesee Community College students in the "Alpha Iota Upsilon" chapter of Phi Theta Kappa met for their organizational meeting over a year ago, they came to realize that they had all been affected by breast cancer in some way or another.

"Be it a family member, friend, or acquaintance," said Chapter President Thomas Wieszczyk,"we all knew someone who had battled breast cancer."

That's why they started "Walk for a Cure," a walk in honor of breast cancer victims and survivors that will be heldat 10 a.m. on Saturday on GCC grounds (at 1 College Road in Batavia). This will be the second annual walk; the above photo, which features student officers and volunteers, is from last year.

Pre-registration is not required to participate in the walk, which is open to the public. Lasting about 30-45 minutes, it will begin at the nature trail west of the campus and then wind its way through the woods and across the field, ending at the student forum.

Tickets cost $3, and T-shirts can be purchased for an additional $4.

Around 11 a.m., there will be a post-walk gathering in the student forum with refreshments -- including drinks and pizza from Mark's Pizzeria -- guest speakers and information on how to conduct a self-examination.

Guest speakers will include Bobbie Noto of GCC, Sharon Occhino of "Komen for the Cure" and Susan Smith, a GCC student and breast cancer survivor.

The event will also feature:

  • A raffle including gift baskets, gift certificates and a pink ribbon quilt; and
  • A Chinese Auction that will include gift certificates to Settler's Restaurant, Burger King, Denny's, the National Museum of Play in Rochester, Total Tan, Continental School of Beauty and more.

According to Wieszczyk, "Walk for a Cure" was sparked by a desire to start a "project that would help our community, raise student involvement within the community and fit into Phi Theta Kappa's national initiative for that year."

"Our then-president, Devon Kleinbach, called for order and said that she would very much like to do a breast cancer awareness walk."

The first walk raised over $1,000, which was donated to United Memorial Medical Center "to cover the cost of breast cancer screening for people who could not otherwise afford it."

The same will be done with this year's proceeds.

So far, the students of Phi Theta Kappa have gotten a lot of support, with community organizations and individuals donating gift baskets and nearly $300 raised from a pre-walk bake sale on Tuesday.

"If things continue in this fashion," Wieszczyk said, "we will have another phenomenal year."

Photo submitted by Thomas Wieszczyk

Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 6:45 am

GCC's 'Phi Theta Kappa' hosts second annual 'Walk for a Cure'

post by Daniel Crofts in announcements, breast cancer, GCC, phi theta kappa, walk

Student members of Phi Theta Kappa at Genesee Community College -- at 1 College Road in Batavia -- will host their second annual "Walk for a Cure" to assist victims of breast cancer on Saturday, Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. until an unspecified time. The walk itself will last 30-45 minutes, followed by a post-walk event in the student forum beginning around 11 a.m.

The walk will start at GCC's nature trail, which is on the west side of the campus, and then wind through the nearby woods and across the field, ending at the student forum.

Guest speakers will include two people from "Komen for the Cure" and a GCC student who is a breast cancer survivor. Food, drinks, a Chinese Auction and a raffle will be included.

This event is open to the public. The cost is $3 for the walk, or $7 for the walk plus a t-shirt. Tickets and t-shirts will be for sale the morning of the event, but they can be purchased along with Chinese Auction tickets on Thursday, Oct. 11 from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Pre-registration is not required.

For more information, e-mail Michelle Williams at [email protected].

Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm

GoArt! recognizes community members dedicated to local arts and culture

post by Daniel Crofts in arts, community, GoArt!

Genesee/Orleans Regional Arts Council (GoArt!) held its Community Awards Gala last night at Terry Hills Banquet Facility. Honorees Linda Blanchet (Board of Directors Special Recognition Award), Patrick Burk, Lorie Longhany, Medina Sandstone Society (represented by Craig Lacy and Robert Waters) and Chris Busch are pictured.

Bill McDonald, center, was another award winner. He performed for the event with "The Old Hippies" -- Jim Sweet, Kay McMahon and James Catino (Bill Pitcher, far right, is not a member of "The Old Hippies," but presented the award to McDonald).

The other winners (not pictured) were the Holland Land Office Museum, the Le Roy Barn Quilt Project and the Mason Family.

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley was Master of Ceremonies for this 12th annual gala honoring community members in Genesee and Orleans Counties who give of their time, talents and treasure to enrich the artistic and cultural atmosphere of their community.

Genesee County

Patrick Burk was recognized for his contributions to community theater and, in particular, for giving the Batavia Players a new and permanent home with the Harvester 56 Theater.

Norm Argulsky, who presented the award to Burk, credited him with introducing Batavia to "the idea of a theater season," which allows people to know ahead of time what shows will be performed over the course of an entire year.

The Holland Land Office Museum was recognized for "enlivening local history and culture through exhibits, engagement and exploration" (as worded in the event program). Museum Director Jeffrey Donahue and Board of Directors Member Jim Dusen accepted the award.

Jim Owen, also on the museum's board of directors, lauded HLOM for "keeping history alive in Genesee County."

"It's very important that people don't forget our history," he said, "because without history our future might be pretty dim."

Lorie Longhany was honored for her passionate commitment to sharing her love of art with "the young and the young at heart" (Longhany's words), inspiring many young people to pursue careers in the arts and many senior citizens to explore their creativity.

Bill McDonald -- aka "Wild Bill" -- a local musician, was honored "for selflessly performing and promoting music and art, now and for the future."

When presenting the award to McDonald, Pitcher called him "a genuine troubadour."

The Mason family, a family of talented artists whose work has drawn national recognition, and whose paintings can be seen in buildings throughout Genesee County (including United Memorial Medical Center, Bank of America, and the Holland Land Office Museum), were awarded for their contribution to the cultural vitality of our area.

Max and Jane Mason were to receive the award for the family, but they could not attend. Beth Carr accepted the award on their behalf.

The Le Roy Barn Quilt Project, which showcases locally embroidered quilts on barns throughout Le Roy, received an award for "blazing a colorful trail to share (Le Roy's) rural heritage through public art."

Linda Blanchet, former GoArt! president and recipient of the GoArt! Board of Directors Special Recognition Award, was recognized "for dedication, drive and direction in pursuit of shining a spotlight on the arts in Genesee and Orleans counties."

It is worth noting that Burk, in his acceptance speech, credited Blanchet in a special way for getting him back into local theater after he had been away from the stage for 10 years.

Orleans County

Chris Busch, a member of the Orleans County Renaissance Group, achieved recognition "for passion and commitment to bringing cultural experiences into the community."

The Medina Sandstone Society received an award "for embracing the natural as a 'cornerstone' of culture, founding a tradition of community pride."

Guests at the event included representatives from National Grid, Turnbull Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration, O-AT-KA Milk Products, Roxy's Music Store, NYSARC and GCASA, among others.

For more information on GoArt! and its programs and services, call 343-9313, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.goart.org.

Supplemental note on the Holland Land Office Museum

In his acceptance speech, Donahue mentioned that the museum now has the "V" from the old Batavia Downs sign. People who have driven by and seen it hanging for many years can now go to the museum to "see it in person," says Donahue.

Photos

Lastly, here are samples of the artwork included in the gala's silent auction:

"Holland Land Office" by Lorie Longhany.

"Hand-painted Autumn Leaf Pottery," donated by Kelly Kiebala.

"Barn on Country Road" by Tom Zangerle.

"Iris with Fence" by Dan Cherry.

"Framed & Matted Print" by Brandi Bruggman.

"School's Out" by Diane Phalen.

"Halloween Wall Hanging" by Linda Kozubal.

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