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'Change for Change,' final update

By Daniel Crofts

The Genesee County high schools' "Change for Change" fundraiser has come to an end. The money raised will benefit United Way charities in Genesee County.

Nancy Harding of the Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union reported the following totals after final deposits were made on Friday:

Batavia High: $3,384.27

New York State School for the Blind: $701.73

Oakfield: $459.06

Pavilion: $32.95

Genesee County youth aim to rake in change for makin' change

By Daniel Crofts

Everybody likes a little friendly competition, right? And if it's for a good cause, all the better!

These guys definitely feel that way:

Half of them are pictured above...

...and here's the other half!

High schoolers from all over Genesee County are getting involved in "Change for Change" (C4C), a fundraising project for United Way of Genesee County. Student government reps from Batavia High School, the NYS State School for the Blind, Oakfield-Alabama High School and Pavillion Central School gathered in the BHS auditorium Yesterday to kick-start the project. 

From Mar. 8-26, the schools will compete to raise as much money as they can and deposit their funds in an account with the Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union (set up for United Way, with a sub-account for each school) every Friday.

BHS government members welcomed their fellow students and gave them the lay of the land (contest rules and stakes, etc.) at Thursday's meeting...

...starting with an icebreaker from treasurer Amanda Jones, who asked representatives of each school to come up with and share a few "fun facts" about their school.

Some interesting ones to consider:

1. O-A HS recently organized a lunch boycott

2. Pavilion is one of the few schools in the state with a pillow tournament

3. The Blind School has a heated pool with a moving floor

4. BHS has the best cookies in the state, inarguably, of course


Handling introductions was co-mayor C.J. Shultz, who introduced his fellow officers and their faculty advisors/helpers as follows:

"There's [mayor] Matt Hoye, who has nothing better to do than keep his beautiful red hair perfectly groomed.

"And next to him is Sahil Jain, our representative to the board of education -- which basically means he makes sure the students' voices are heard at board
meetings. But then he doesn’t get to vote for anything, so it doesn't really matter.

"Then we have the wonderful Amanda Jones, who is our treasurer. We have to trust her with our money. She ran unopposed, so we really didn't have a choice.

"Erica Bucci is our secretary, who takes great notes...when she's

"In the audience is [BHS special education teacher] Mrs. Gammack, who is a great student advisor. Nobody else really wanted the job, so...

"And finally, there's Mrs. Johnson, who is the best statistics teacher at Batavia High…actually, she's the only statistics teacher at Batavia High."

Shultz and Hoye were the brains behind the whole operation, according to Gammack and the other student officers.

"They came to me with this idea in August," Gammack said. "And I thought it sounded great."

The project was inspired by 98 PXY's Penny Challenge, in which BHS students competed (and won!) two years ago. They raised $8,000 in pennies by doing "some crazy things" [crazy in a good way, of course], says UW Campaign Associate Christine Fix.

"We saw the school come together in a way that surpassed any kind of sporting event, school activity, etc.," Hoye said. "We felt that another fundraiser could produce a similar effect, continuing to blur the lines between grade levels and uniting the school as a single body."

"I remember how close our school became during the Penny Challenge," Jones said, "and I really wanted to start that kind of excitement within our school again, with a new group of kids."

During the Penny Challenge, the students saw how powerful a tool competition can be when raising money. This time, they decided to expand the range to include their peers throughout the county.

"I think this is a great way to encourage healthy competition and interaction between our schools," Jones said, "especially since Batavia doesn't participate with the smaller schools in sports very much, since we're in the Monroe County League."

There is another major difference from the 98 PXY fundraiser: this time, they are keeping it local.

"Even though we raised a lot of money [for the Penny Challenge], the proceeds went mostly to agencies in Rochester," Hoye said. "Although we are very proud of our efforts and the money we raised, we would like to see our money used within our own communities in Genesee County."

Representatives from area organizations that will benefit from this fundraiser came to the meeting to express their gratitude and to show the kids how much of a difference they will be making.

UW Regional Manager Lori Stupp pointed out that UW will "fall short of [its] goal this year" in terms of fundraising.

"What you guys are doing is going to help us recuperate some of that loss," she added.

Patricia Kurtz of the Salvation Army -- which receives $57,000 a year from UW -- took a moment to thank the high schoolers for "stepping up to represent [their] schools and to raise money for our community."

"Know how important what you're doing is to us," she added. "I hope this goes to show that when we are united, we are strong, and we can change the world together."

YMCA Regional Director Erik Fix called the C4C fundraising project "a phenomenal thing that speaks volumes about the students in our communities."

"It feels like we're a part of history at BHS," education board rep Jain said. "I feel like the fundraiser will only get bigger and better in the years to come, and to be among the people who started it is an incredible thing."

Students of each school were encouraged to be creative with their fundraisers, which could be anything ranging from competitions between the grades to placing cans at community businesses.

Shultz concluded the meeting on a mobilizing note. First, he quoted Gandhi's famous statement: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." Second, he said: "Now get out there and raise as much money as you can. Booyah!"

Stay tuned to The Batavian for updates on C4C's progress, which will be submitted on a weekly basis once the project officially gets started.


Additional Note:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (pictured) and Legislator Jay Grasso came to talk to the students about the importance of civic responsibility and why Genesee County is a great place to live in, thereby encouraging them in their efforts.

New York State School for the Blind hosts Community Days

By Philip Anselmo

From the School for the Blind:

On January 28, 2009 the New York State School for the Blind will host a Community Day in celebration of the School’s 140th Anniversary. The Community Day will be open to the public from 1:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.  The event will feature a variety of activities including a “Glimpses of Our Past” slide show, hourly tours, and activities with the goal of the participants gaining an understanding of individuals with visual impairments.

State considering turning School for Blind over to private enterprise

By Howard B. Owens

The D&C reports that the New York's Education Department is considering turning Batavia's historic School for the Blind into a private institution because the state cannot adequately run the institution.

The state Board of Regents will decide next week whether to seek letters of interest from private operators who could run the Batavia school. The change would require approval from the state Legislature and governor.

No recommendations have been made yet, said Rebecca Cort, a deputy commissioner.

"We do want to reassure people that we are not looking to close this school," she said. "In fact, it's just the opposite. We are trying to look long term and say, 'How do we continue to ensure the viability of a very viable program?'"

The 140-year-old institution's enrollment was once as high as 300 but is now just over 50. The population has declined largely because school districts have adapted to federal and state laws that require special-education students be mainstreamed into regular classrooms when possible.

The version of the story contains this:

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, R-Batavia, said he is also trying to publicize the school. As for privatization, "I'm not sure that that's necessarily the route that we need to take at this point."

The school has about 150 state employees and a $10.3 million annual operating budget. It is one of two state-run schools. The other is the School for the Deaf in Rome, Oneida County.

On Tuesday, the Regents will discuss a report on the school by the Education Transformation Group. ETG, which was hired by the state, recommended operating a seven-day program and expanding admissions criteria to include students who are developmentally disabled and have a sensory impairment (vision and/or hearing loss) that makes it difficult to succeed in a regular classroom.

ETG is recommending the institution be privatized and become a state-approved school. Doing so would provide greater flexibility in who could be admitted, the report said.

The school was founded in 1868 largely to help Civil War veterans learn new skills. Here's a 1995 New York Times story that goes into some detail on the school's facilities and results.

News roundup: Early end for spray park this summer

By Philip Anselmo

Austin Spray Park is closed for the season—two weeks early, according to the Daily News. A waterline break that damaged "some electrical components" is cited as the cause of the early closure. It would have taken more than two weeks to fix the problem, and since the park was scheduled to closed on September 2 anyway, officials decided to just call it quits for the season.

In other news:

  • Canandaiguan Erin Fairben will take over as superintendent of the New York State School for the Blind. She comes to Batavia from the Geneva City School District. She starts September 2.
  • Wyoming and Orleans counties have joined in the statewide NY-Alert system that provides emergency alert information such as road closings and severe weather warnings. Genesee County is "implementing the service."
  • Assemblyman Steve Hawley will lead youth in a pledge to be drug-free at 6:30pm at the Muckdogs game this Friday.
  • Victorian Manor will host a get-together "for people in any type of business to get acquainted" with the staff and amenities of the refurbished apartment building. Show up at 427 East Main St. from 5:00 to 7:00pm.

Pick up your own copy of the Daily News at local newsstands. Or, better yet, subscribe at

News roundup: Body found in Oatka Creek

By Philip Anselmo

LeRoy police have identified the body discovered in Oatka Creek Wednesday afternoon as that of 41-year-old Glenn Kanaley, according to the Daily News. No cause of death has been determined, and the body has been taken to the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office where an autopsy will be performed.

LeRoy Police Chief Christopher Hayward dispelled rumors on television that the death was a suicide. "Nothing indicated he was suicidal," writes reporter Scott DeSmit.

In other news, the New York State School for the Blind opened its "Sensory Park" playground Wednesday. The park is designed to"stimulate senses (and) help students with motor skills" and includes an herb garden, slides and a swingset, pedal cars, go-carts and a "spongy carpet, which gets thicker under any areas where students are apt to fall."

The Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park was approved for a $225,000 grant from the Batavia Town Board at its meeting last night.

Consolidation is under way as city police officers begin training on the new computer system they will share with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office. Once the consolidation is complete — should be in September — there will no longer be a dispatcher in police headquarters. Instead, "the city will have a clerk on duty during day-time hours."

Investigation into the fire that scorched Cristina's Restaurant Saturday continues, though "the probe has shifted ... to interviewing people," writes Paul Mrozek. Cristina's owner Charles Brumsted has declined to comment to the Daily News and has not returned messages left by The Batavian.

Pick up your copy of the Daily News at local newsstands — such as Main Street Coffee. Or, better yet, subscribe online at

News roundup: Genesee County inherits a murder from California

By Philip Anselmo

From the Daily News (Thursday):

  • A 68-year-old California man who confessed June 17 to the murder of his wife back in 1992 was extradited to Genesee County Jail on murder charges. Robert Kirkup's wife, Janet, went missing in 1992 when the couple was traveling across country in a mobile home, and an investigation into her disappearance went "cold" in 1999. Detectives in San Bernardino County in California reopened the case on June 10 and took Robert Kirkup into custody following his confession. It is now believed that Janet Kirkup's body is buried somewhere in Genesee County.
  • A story on the front page about United Memorial Medical Center potentially losing IDA funding was reported yesterday on The Batavian — including a link to full coverage of the issue by the Buffalo News.
  • The New York State School for the Blind held its graduation and student awards ceremony yesterday. Amanda Benoit, David Roberts, Andrew Hershelman, Amy Mae Snyder and Catherine Truesdale got their diplomas, and dozens of others were honored with awards.
  • Reporter Roger Muehlig does a good job writing up the current exhibit at GO ART! in Batavia. The show is titled Artitude and features works in pen and ink, watercolor, colored pencil and crayon by members of the Genesee County Mental Health Association's Social Club. You can see the show at the cultural center at 201 E. Main St., Batavia. The gallery is open from 9:00am to 4:00pm daily.

For the complete stories, the Daily News is available on local newsstands, or you can subscribe on

News roundup: Upstate crops ravaged by hail storms

By Philip Anselmo

From the Daily News (Friday):

  • State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker is urging the governor to declare about 20 state counties as disaster sites following the hail storms that pounded the area on Monday. Hooker came through Genesee County yesterday, stopping by ravaged cabbage and onion fields in Elba. If his request goes through, those and many other farms will be eligible for federal disaster aid. While the crops were not destroyed on most farms, they did take a beating, and many farmers are worried that the market simply won't accept the un-perfect produce. New York Apple Association Director Jim Allen said: "You can't tolerate defects in fresh fruit. There's no doubt we took a serious hit." Farmers will know more about how much they can recover in the coming weeks.
  • A computer screen-reading program is helping students at the state School for the Blind. Reporter Kristen Kotz writes about the program, called JAWS: "It allows them to navigate the entire computer system and receive verbal feedback."
  •  A dozen folks turned out for the first session of the Military Pride Network, a new "networking and support group for families of individuals who are on active duty in the military," writes reporter Paul Mrozek. The group will meet again July 17 at 5:15pm at the Genesee County Career Center in Eastown Plaza in Batavia. Call (585) 344-0842 for more information.
  • Batavia's Rotary, Rods and Rock & Roll fundraiser is all set for June 28 at Batavia Downs. The event kicks off at 3:00pm with a car show, an auction and a pizza tasting. A beer festival will follow at 6:00pm — Batavia's first ever, according to Joanne Beck. Her article is pretty comprehensive — including a list of all the bands slated to perform — so for those looking for more information, check it out. Admission will be $2 for the Rotary event and $15 for the beer festival.
  • Batavia Downs will host a horse show this weekend. The show will start at 7:30am and run to 5:00pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.
  • Looks like the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce is pretty geeked up about the Rural Tourism Conference that they'll be hosting next year. They've already put out the announcement. Congrats to them.
  • A pair of articles inside the A Section of today's paper were featured on The Batavian in earlier posts: Batavia's BID puts up hanging flower baskets and truckers converge on Albany.
  • Great photo spread at the back of the paper today!
  • The Muckdogs went down hard, 7-0, against the Auburn Doubledays last night to start the season 0-3. They'll be playing at Frontier Field in Rochester tonight.

For the complete stories, the Daily News is available on local newsstands, or you can subscribe on

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