Al Sigl Community of Agencies Blog

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"Celebrating abilities starts with our hearts!" says long-time Al Sigl Community volunteer Dr. Barry Culhane, who created the artwork above to help our message of inclusion soar this ROC the Day!

Please join Barry in celebrating with us this #GivingTuesday - your gift of $10 or more will help abilities take flight for over 50,000 children and adults served by our Member Agencies on Al Sigl's six campuses.

You can help recognize their achievements while strengthening our work together. Please visit or our donation link to make your gift today.

We know Barry's reason...why do you ROC the Day with Al Sigl Community?
to foster inclusion......
to celebrate community......
to honor those who celebrate abilities with all of their hearts! 

Let us know why you ROC!


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“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” The words of the popular children’s book act as a guide – helping local daycare providers learn new ways to promote language literacy for children of all ages. The simple act of encouraging children to speak aloud the objects they see in their classroom helps them build their vocabulary while simultaneously practicing the different sounds letters make. 

This is just one example of how the highly trained staff of Rochester Hearing and Speech Center’s summer programs help children develop the language and literacy skills necessary for academic success.


Evidence shows when children participate in quality summer learning opportunities, they are more likely to do better in school. Over 10 weeks of summer, students lose between 20% and 30% of what they had gained during 40 weeks of the school year. ( That is why Rochester Hearing and Speech Center offers an array of programs designed specifically to help young children, including many who are not able to participate in other summer learning opportunities, stay on track.

Last year, 100% of the children who took part in RHSC’s summer programs showed gains in speech, language or academic skills over the summer.

Three different programs are offered each year through the Summer Services Outreach Program for children ages 2-6, including Therapy Services for Speech, Special Education, Occupational and Physical Therapy, a Summer Outreach Head Start Classroom Program and a Language Literacy Intervention Program which provides outreach to local daycares teaching language and literacy activities.

The goal of RHSC’s summer programs is to help children not only maintain the skills they learned during the school year but also continue to build vocabulary, language, literacy, motor and academic readiness skills. As a result, children’s cognitive and social skills also improve, helping them achieve independence in their everyday activities at home, school and in the community.

"It's amazing to see the children continue to grow and improve over the summer, learning new words, making new friends, and reading books together." – instructor Katie Heberle

To learn more about RHSC’s summer programs, please call 585.271.0680 x1443.


Join Al Sigl Community of Agencies for an evening of indulgence on Wednesday, September 17 from 6-9 p.m. at Locust Hill Country Club for Fine Tastings. The event, which is already nearly sold out, started as a gathering of friends inviting others to learn more about Al Sigl’s collaborative mission. It has grown into an annual celebration showcasing the best in regional flavors.

This September, guests will enjoy signature dishes and confections from nearly two dozen tasting partners, including Avvino, City Grill Rochester, Max Rochester, Hedonist Artisan Chocolates, The Little Bleu Cheese Shop, Tournedos, and more. The evening will also feature live music from the Kyle Vock Trio, a wine pull, and silent auction including original artwork and accessories from well-known local artists and artisans like Cordell and Rachel Cordaro and Gail Leess.

For the first time at Fine Tastings, artist Mark Groaning will create an original work of art during the event, allowing guests to be part of a shared creative experience.

Says Groaning, the event itself then becomes a work of art. “At a gallery, people see only the completed work.” he explains. “It hangs there on the wall, the viewer connected perhaps only to the image, not to the process. Few people have the opportunity to witness a work of art being made.”

An original work by artist Mark Groaning

Event guests participate by watching and reacting. Groaning incorporates the unique energy of the evening – the sights, music (in this case live jazz courtesy of Bistro 135), and commentary – into the final piece.  By events' end, guests leave with memories, photos, and stories. One guest will also receive the artwork itself.

Tickets for this event are $75 per person and may be purchased here or by calling (585) 442-4102, ext. 8944. 

All proceeds benefit the tens of thousands of children and adults with special needs in our community served by Al Sigl Member Agencies each year. To learn more about Fine Tastings for Al Sigl Community and view past event photos, please visit the event page.

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Al Sigl Community of Agencies is proud to partner with Rochester Institute of Technology and Nazareth College for the second annual Effective Access Technology Conference June 17 and 18.

The two-day conference, which is open to the public, will bring together students, educators, experts, and providers from across the region to share innovative solutions applying technology to improve access for people of all abilities.

“This conference is a way to bring people together who are working toward a common goal of creating access for people with disabilities,” said Ryne Raffaelle, RIT vice president for research and associate provost.

In addition to exciting projects similar to the ones shown in the above video, the June conference will feature keynote speakers, poster presentations, exhibits, plenary sessions and a dinner.

For more information on sponsorship, becoming an exhibitor, taking part in the poster competition, or attending the event, please click here.



Al Sigl WalkAbout a Family Affair for First Niagara Employee

Elizabeth Thulin of Hilton is looking forward to this year’s Al Sigl Community WalkAbout at Eastview Mall on October 27th.  “This will be my first Walk.  This is also the first time that I’ve rallied family and friends as a group for an event,” she says with a smile. “It’s been fun.  It helps that everyone is excited about getting involved.  The event is short – just a few hours in the morning, and it’s indoors, which makes it easy for families.”

There’s also a personal connection.  People who take part in WalkAbout can choose to help raise funds for any of Al Sigl’s six Member Agencies.  Elizabeth, who works for First Niagara Risk Management, is helping the First Niagara team raise funds for Epilepsy-Pralid, Inc., in honor of her cousin Casey.

"Al Sigl has helped my cousin Casey in so many ways.” Elizabeth says, “Casey was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was four years old after having a stroke when he was three.  In 1999, Casey went to Johns Hopkins fora very rare surgical procedure where one half of the brain was removed in hope of ending his daily grand mal seizures.  Sadly, the surgery was not successful yet Casey participates in many programs offered by Al Sigl Member Agencies, including summer camp, fundraising events and a day work program, which he loves.  He loves contributing and being recognized for his efforts.”

“When Casey was asked to paint a mask for the mask gallery, we were excited, because he loves to paint.” Elizabeth continues, “I had reached out to volunteer at Epilepsy-Pralid because I was looking for the opportunity to give back.  Supporting the organizations that have helped Casey really spoke to me.  It’s nice that we can all get involved.”

Elizabeth is also proud that her employer is a major sponsor of a cause close to her heart.  “First Niagara is really philanthropic - they support so many causes.” She says, “I was really excited to learn that John Lynch, First Vice President, and his wife Laura Saxby Lynch are the event co-chairs.  It’s been really great to invite people to join the First Niagara team and celebrate with us on the 27th.”

John agrees, noting “Laura and I are very involved in volunteer roles in the community.  It’s something we feel strongly about.  To have the opportunity to make a charitable commitment together, as co-chairs of the Al Sigl WalkAbout, was great.  We have long supported the work of Al Sigl and its Member Agencies, so it’s a pleasure to help raise funds for an organization that helps those with disabilities find their true abilities.”

While mask decorating activities provided a mission-driven art therapy project for Al Sigl Member Agencies, the Mask Gallery also provided exciting new ways for individuals and local businesses to get involved.  The majority of the 120 masks created for this year’s WalkAbout have already been sponsored, with only a handful of masks still available.  The entire gallery is now on display at Eastview Mall, with 50 of the 120 masks available for auction and viewable on

To learn more about the Mask Gallery or becoming a Team Leader for the Al Sigl Community WalkAbout, please visit or call (585) 442-4102, ext. 8944. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Bob_Golf13.jpgFor nearly a decade, Bob Prenoveau, Jr., has shared the court with the Rochester Wheels, a wheelchair basketball team affiliated with SportsNet, an inclusive sports and recreation program of Rochester Rehabilitation.  “I have had CP since birth but it never really stopped me.”  Bob says, “When I was young, I used canes when I would go camping or take part in other outdoor activities.  When I was 13, I lost a lot of the strength in my legs after surgery and started using a wheelchair more often,” he says.  “I’ve always stayed involved in sports.  Now I just play from a chair.” 

A resident of Syracuse, Bob is no longer on the team roster, but still plays with the Wheels during frequent visits to Rochester. “I’ve maintained that connection,” he says of his friendships with fellow team members.  It was such a friend who invited Bob to check out the 44th Annual Al Sigl Sports Classic, which took place in June.  Not only did Bob have the opportunity to play in the tournament through the use of an adaptive golf cart, he also volunteered at the event. 

“I’m glad I had the opportunity to get involved.” Bob says. “ I wanted to volunteer to help give back because of the services I’ve received through SportsNet as a member of the Wheels over the years.  But I ended up getting back a lot from the event too.  Thanks to an event sponsor, I was able to play several rounds of golf and my dad was able to attend too.  We met a lot of great people and had a lot of fun.”

The event, and Al Sigl Member Agency programs like SportsNet, also help to highlight to the importance of people of all abilities staying active and involved in the community. 

“I consider myself lucky,” Bob says. “Not everyone has the same opportunities.  It’s not that people don’t want to participate.  Nine out of ten times, the issue is transportation – I have my own car, but many people don’t.  Awareness is a big issue too.  That’s what is so great about events like the Al Sigl Sports Classic – getting to meet people and stay involved in the community while staying physically active.  For some, the social aspect is more important than the physical benefits.  The social aspect is huge.

Bob goes on to say, “Sometimes it seems like I’m part of a small minority as someone in a wheelchair.  When I’m out taking part in everyday activities and see someone else in a chair, I always approach them to say hello and see if they have any knowledge of adaptive sports.  Most people are unaware of the different programs that are out there.  Many who get to experience an activity for the first time say they are surprised; that they wished they knew sooner.”

Bob, who shared his experiences with other guests at this year’s Sports Classic dinner, encouraged everyone to learn more about how they, too, can get involved and help support programs that celebrate abilities and inclusion. 

Interested in volunteering at an upcoming Al Sigl event?  Click here to learn about the Al Sigl Community WalkAbout on October 27th.

Jane Newhouse of Penfield, NY lives by a simple motto, “Don't hide your light under a bushel.” This saying holds special meaning to Newhouse as it reminds her of her mother who taught her to shine and not let her gender scare her from playing with the “big boys.”


Over the past three years Newhouse has opened up three Massage Envy locations in Pittsford, Webster and Greece. Massage Envy is a national franchise whose mission is to promote a healthy lifestyle through affordable massage and spa services. The concept was brought to Rochester by Newhouse and her partners. They plan to open up a fourth location in Victor this fall.


Newhouse still finds time to give back to her community while running her three – soon to be four – business locations. She says of Rochester, “I have been blessed with a full and abundant life. The Rochester community has been a wonderful part of my life and is a great place to live and do business. I personally believe that people who’ve received the benefits of a community should make an effort to give back and help others. And the bottom line is that I like giving back. It makes me feel joyful, and being joyful is how you know when your heart is full.”


Giving back has also been good for business. Newhouse encourages other entrepreneurs to get involved in the communities where they live and do business. Volunteering is a great means of networking, and philanthropy of cash and in-kind gifts is a smart marketing investment.


Al Sigl Community is one of the many agencies within which Newhouse is involved. She says, “My involvement with the Al Sigl Organization has provided Massage Envy Spa an arena for spreading the word of what Massage Envy is and what the value of our services bring to people’s lives.”


Newhouse is a member of the Al Sigl Sports Committee and helps organize the annual Sports Classic Golf Tournament to benefit adults and children with disabilities® and special needs. Newhouse says that “Golf is a great way to slow down, relax and enjoy the company you are keeping. What better way to spend a day then enjoying golf, food, and the company of fellow golfers while knowing you’re benefitting a great cause.” Newhouse encourages individual golfers and sponsors alike to take part in the Sports Classic on June 10th at Midvale Country Club. Information can be found at www.alsigl.orgor by emailing If you’re looking for a way to improve your golf swing before June, Newhouse suggests coming in to one of her stores. She says massage therapy is sure to improve your golf game, but she cannot guarantee a lower score!


Newhouse and her partners at Massage Envy also support other causes: Lollypop Farm, Boy Scouts, National Arthritis Foundation, Lifespan, St Ann’s Community, Susan B. Anthony House, and the University of Rochester's Nursing School.

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Roberta Chaney, Victor, NY, is a novice tennis player, loving mother and avid activist. As the parent of a special needs child, she thinks it is important to put a face to a name. Mental illness and special needs can happen anywhere to anyone – all income levels are affected.


Chaney has found a way to give back through playing tennis. The golf community has done it for years and now the tennis community is making their mark. As Roberta says, “Workout and get the word out.” Tennis is a fun, healthy way to raise money for worthy causes.


This June Chaney will play in the Al Sigl Tennis Benefit at Midtown Athletic Club. Her whole family plays tennis and she has found the event to be a great way to bond with her family, improve her tennis skills and have fun. At last year’s event, the clinic by a Midtown Tennis Professional before the event helped Chaney conquer her fear of playing couples’ tennis. The Al Sigl Tennis Benefit welcomes players of all levels and abilities! The entire family is welcome at the event and kids can enjoy the Midtown pool while mom and dad play tennis!


Chaney is very excited for the social opportunity to play tennis with her family and friends on June 9th at Midtown. She asks that you help her heart grow and that you too sign up to play by visiting www.alsigl.orgor emailing Everyone in this community is touched by someone that has been helped by Al Sigl Community – join Chaney and the rest of the tennis community in giving back to Al Sigl.


Chaney also supports Autism Up and the Boys and Girls Club through tennis fundraising events.

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A new effort launched this month by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment celebrates the abilities of young people with special needs. The PSA, named "Because," encourages high expectations for all youth and spotlights seven individuals who’ve "excelled at work, sports and in life because of the support of others." You can read the full article here.

Inspired by the PSA? Visit us on Facebook to share your thoughts about this campaign.

Our thanks to our newest friends, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for generously donating over $7,500 as part of their recent tour. The organization contributes one dollar from each ticket sale to a local charity at each concert! Our thanks as well to the wonderful staff of 96.5 WCMF and Entercom Rochester, who nominated Al Sigl for this very meaningful gift.

Thank you for making a difference in the lives of children and adults of all abilities!

Congratulations to Karen Gaffney on being named the Robert A. Clinger Outstanding Professional Fundraiser at the 2012 Philanthropy Awards. Karen serves as an invaluable member of the Al Sigl leadership team, providing passion, expertise, and a commitment to others.

Visit to read more about the nominees and award winners in the Rochester Business Journal.

Congratulations as well to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Genesee Valley Chapter who hosted the awards and to each of the twenty-nine individuals and organizations nominated for their philanthropic efforts.

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Al Sigl Community WalkAbout from a Kid's Perspective

The Al Sigl Community WalkAbout is a great event for people of all ages and abilities. Join us October 28th inside Eastview Mall and make tracks to help raise funds for children and adults with special needs in our community. In addition to family-friendly entertainment, fun activities, and candy stations, there's also a costume contest just for kids.

We asked Peyton, shown here with her Mom at last year's event, what she likes about WalkAbout. As you can see, getting to pick out and wear a costume (and pick out one for Mom!) was a big hit, but spending time with Mom and Dad at the event was just as special.


Q: What's your favorite part of WalkAbout?

"Eating candy when Mommy says it's okay."


Q: Is it fun to see all the other kids?

"Yes, they have fun costumes too."


Q: Do you like that Mom and Dad walk with you?

"Yes...and I get to hold my Mom's hand and hug her while I trick or treat."


There is no cost to attend WalkAbout, but many teams and individual walkers collect donations to support Al Sigl’s Member Agencies: CP Rochester, Epilepsy Foundation of Rochester-Syracuse-Binghamton, Medical Motor Service, National Multiple Sclerosis Society-Upstate New York Chapter, Rochester Hearing and Speech Center, and Rochester Rehabilitation.

To learn more about becoming a Team Leader for the Al Sigl Community WalkAbout on October 28th at Eastview Mall, click here or call (585) 442-4102, ext. 8944.

Does your child have a favorite WalkAbout story? Please share in the comment's below...

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This year Al Sigl Community is celebrating 50 years of collaboration and mission. We could not have reached this milestone without the support of our special friends. The generosity and dedication of the entire Rochester community to our vision of Achieving More Together has helped us to continue providing the best spaces for our Member Agencies where abilities come to life for thousands of children and adults on their journey to independence.

Throughout this golden year, we will be sharing 50 Stories for 50 Years about collaboration, teamwork and celebrating abilities. Some of these stories date back to 1962, the year our charter was signed, others are happening around us each day and some look toward our bright future. You will hear from the clients of our Member Agencies, staff members, volunteers and our devoted donors. If you have a story you would like to share, please send it our way.