An Inspiring Polar Plunge Journey

Exploring Planetary Art: Foundation-Supported Projects Spark Creativity

Community Spotlight - Volunteers Making a Difference, One Act of Kindness at a Time

Program Updates - Support our DSPs and Rally in the Valley!

Welcome to the Family at Community Connections

Celebrating Black History Month

AF & FAFNY Events

Support FAFNY

Give a Gift Today with PayPal

An Inspiring Polar Plunge Journey

In the heart of winter's chill and icy waters here in the Hudson Valley, there shines a beacon of courage and determination. Meet Ricky Miller, a remarkable individual who attends Abilities First programs and is a Special Olympic athlete who fearlessly took the Polar Plunge this month. Ricky has participated in the New York Special Olympics Polar Plunge for over 20 years! The Polar Plunge represents a significant fundraising initiative in support of the Special Olympics and its athletes. To take part, individuals or teams gather pledges from their circle of friends, family, and colleagues to secure their participation spot!

As a Special Olympics athlete Ricky has been competing since he was 5 years old and has competed in snowshoeing, golf, softball, basketball, gymnastics, equestrian, track and field and his favorite--bowling!

We are so excited to see what medals Ricky brings home at the next season's Special Olympics and we are so proud of his OLYMPIC efforts!

Pictured left: Ricky before his first Special Olympics competition and at right Ricky with Ellen Pikula, Program Director for the Special Olympics NY — Hudson Valley Region.

Exploring Planetary Art: Foundation-Supported

Projects Spark Creativity

Students at the Straus Family Pavilion School are embarking on an out-of-this-world artistic adventure. Thanks to the generous support of gifts to the Foundation for Abilities First NY, these budding artists are exploring the depths of space and imagination through a groundbreaking planetary art project. Art Teacher Carrie Valure explains, "When I’m thinking of art projects to work on with the students I try to find a culturally significant topic or a subject matter that I can use to pique their interest and help build their understanding of a topic. I try to include materials that can be utilized at different levels of ability so all students can enjoy and have success with the creation process."

Students are using chalk pastels to create planets with an objective of helping them understand the difference between positive and negative space. Carrie adds, "Using chalk pastels was also a new experience for them and they experimented with the mediums ability to be easily spread and blended."

Foundation for Abilities First NY, (FAFNY), funding is instrumental in enhancing programs, driving innovation, building capacity, and creating positive and creative learning environments in our classrooms. To learn about ways to give to Abilities First schools through our Foundation, please contact JoAnn Parker, Director of Development, at


Pictured Mia Smith & Violet Mackey

Volunteers Making a Difference, One Act of Kindness at a Time

At the heart of our organization's mission lies a commitment to providing unparalleled support and care to individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and central to this mission is the unwavering dedication of our volunteers like Mia & Violet. Throughout this year, these two dynamic volunteers have generously dedicated their time and talents to support the Foundation for Abilities First office. Violet, captured on the left, has devoted the past four years to crafting heartfelt Valentine's Day greetings to share with our community members. Mia enjoys utilizing her creative flair to provide invaluable office assistance during our bustling event seasons.

At Abilities First & the Foundation for Abilities First NY, we are filled with gratitude and admiration for Mia & Violet's tireless efforts and boundless generosity.

Program Updates

Support our DSPs and Rally in the Valley!

Come together with us on March 8th as we rally in solidarity for our DSP workers! We'll be marching for fair wages at Letchworth Village, advocating for recognition and support for the incredible staff who tirelessly care for individuals with special needs.

The current state of DSP wages is a crisis with a proposed cost of living adjustment, (COLA), of a mere1.5% and no wage enhancement to make up for a decade where inflation outpaced COLA by 20%.

Let's unite our voices and show Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Senate and Assembly the importance of valuing our dedicated DSPs. To join the Rally In the Valley, register HERE!

Welcome to the Family at Community Connections

The Abilities First Community Connections program prioritizes individuality, aiming to customize experiences according to each person's distinct strengths, requirements, and aspirations. Our primary goal is to enhance an individual's overall quality of life, independence, and engagement within their community, all while upholding their dignity and rights.

Meet Jessica & Bea. Jessica recently had her first day with Community Connections and staff member, Bea. Jessica loves visiting malls and has a strong interest with Mazda cars! The wonderful team at Route 9 Mazda of Poughkeepsie and Gabe Felix, Director of Sales, let Jessica "test drive" a beautiful red car. Jessica even got her own Mazda keychain. Community Connections staff members serve as guides and companions on the journey towards greater independence and self-discovery. Whether accompanying participants on outings, assisting with daily tasks, or providing emotional support during challenging moments, staff members like Bea, play a pivotal role in empowering individuals to navigate community life with confidence, resilience and of course a little fun.

For more information on Community Connections program services or to find out how you can be part of the Community Connections team, email Gina Carminucci, Director of Community Services, at

As we commemorate Black History Month, we take this opportunity to shine a light on the remarkable individuals who have not only left an indelible mark on African American history but have also been champions for disability rights and inclusion. We celebrate the legacies of these trailblazers whose tireless efforts have paved the way for progress and equality for individuals with disabilities.

Featured in the image above are: Louis Curits, Fannie Lou Hammer, Donald Galloway, Haben Girma, Johnnie Lacy, Morenike Giwa, and Vilissa Thompson. As we honor the achievements of these exceptional individuals during Black History Month, let us also rededicate ourselves to upholding their legacy of advocacy, empowerment, and inclusion for individuals with disabilities.

Abilities First & Foundation Events

For Sponsorship & Reception Ticket Opportunities, please contact

JoAnn Parker, Director of Development, at

Support the Foundation for Abilities First NY with your end of year giving.

To make an online gift to the mission of Abilities First, visit
For information about gifts, sponsorships, events, volunteering, or hosting a fundraiser, contact JoAnn Parker at
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