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Friday, June 26, 2015

Olympic Day in Newburgh

Olympic Day is finally here.  Actually, Olympic Day almost didn’t happen at all.  I have done so many events over the years but this is one I am particularly proud of, no matter how it turns out.  America Rows and Swims Newburgh will be hosting a free water confidence clinic, learn to swim, and learn to row at the Delano Hitch Aquatic Center, 401 Washington Street, Newburgh, today from 11 am - 2pm.  It’s a massive production to put on, with a great volunteer effort by both kids and adults.  As always, we don’t pay for advertising, so whoever shows up got there through word of mouth or social media.  Big turnout or not, I’m thrilled we got this off the ground.

As with all things, it started with an email from Coach Kennedy to all the coaches.  Which we all kind of ignored.  Then he said to me, “Mrs. Lo, will you please host some kind of Olympic Day, I have always wanted to do this.”  So I applied to the US Olympic Committee and got permission to hold an Olympic Day.  The purpose of Olympic Day is to have kids try an olympic sport they haven’t tried before.  We have two Olympic sports, swimming and rowing.
I wanted to do a free water confidence clinic and learn to row clinic at Delano Hitch aquatic center.  We have done free events there before.  This year, though, I got an email that the City of Newburgh wanted the Newburgh Rowing Club to pay $600.00 in various fees (lifeguards, estimated lost revenue, pool chemicals, etc.) to hold a free Learn to Swim clinic.  Seriously?  The City of Newburgh has money for $73,400.00 in computer software for the Traffic Violations Bureau; $24,000.00 to lease a parking lot for the City Courthouse; $60,000.00 for Title searches by the Corporate Counsel office; $6,000.00 for boat launches at Brown’s Pond and some other really mind-boggling expenses.  They can’t trim $600.00 out of the hundreds of thousands that comes under the category of “other” to have a fun, free day for Newburgh’s kids?  The rowing club is made up of volunteers -- we donate our time on a Saturday (yes, we have families, lives, homes and gardens to tend to) --  to have a fun day at the City Pool and maybe help prevent some drownings; and we have to pay City of Newburgh $600.00?
I just didn’t have the energy, I wrote an email saying forget it, I will do it at the Union Avenue pool where we have regular swim club sessions.  Then something crazy happened.  People started coming together.  I got an email from Councilwoman and Mayoral candidate Gay Lee, “Hold on a minute, not so fast,” she said.  “Let me see what we can do.  I will put up $200.00 of my personal money.”  Councilwoman Genie Abrams worked something out with the rec department where we would provide our own lifeguards thereby bringing the overall fee down.  Councilwoman Lee worked to raise another $250.00 in donations, NYS Assmeblyman Skartados donated, the Sofokles Family donated, the LoBiondo Family donated, and the next thing you know we had more than enough.  
I called Rita’s Ices and asked them to help out with reduced prices Italian Ices and they said, Sure, we’re in.  And we are still doing a free event at the Union Avenue pool on Sunday.
And just like that, Olympic Day is on!  I love doing events like this for the community.  I hope you will all stop by and see me so we can enjoy Olympic Day together.  Rain or shine!  
Have a great day everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo www.LoBiondo.org

Friday, June 19, 2015

Growing up LoBiondo: Summer Edition

Hey guys, it’s me, Orion, the only 4-legged member of the LoBiondo Family!  The last time my mom let me write a Guest Blog it was the beginning of Spring!  (In case you haven’t noticed, every time a season changes, Mom lets me get my paws on the keyboard and write something).  Can you believe this weekend is the first day of Summer, and Father’s Day?  And it’s something else pretty big:  my brother Christian is turning 15!

I will never forget when my brother came to adopt me from the Middletown Humane Shelter, that was a whole 6 years ago!  And now my little bro is going to be a soft-a-more in high school.  I don’t know what that it but it sounds a little bit better than being a flesh-man.  Humans, they have such silly names for things.  I’m really glad Christian is done with this school year, he and daddy were up early and had to drive to catch the train.  I don’t know how they catch something so big but they did it every day by 6 am.  Christian had football practice every day, then winter track practice, then crew practice.  And mom had to make him two lunches and a protein shake and protein packs and fruit salad and Nutriblast every night for school the next day.  Gee, I get tired thinking about all that running around and I’m a lab!  Why they can’t just throw each other a tennis ball and jump up and catch it with their teeth is a mystery to me but there’s no accounting for humans.  That’s OK, I love them even more because they’re so silly like that.
Now Christian is back at the Newburgh Rowing Club which is much better because we get to spend more quality time together.  I used to have a LOT more energy than Christian and my other brother Michael.  They could throw the tennis ball to me for HOURS and I would never stop.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love playing catch with the tennis ball but after a few throws, I’m good.  I can rest a little, I am 56 in human years after all.
In other big news this season:  My mom bought me a GIANT dog bed.  Like, you could fit a small human in there.  And I do.  Michael likes to snuggle up with me sometimes.  And the biggest news is (DRUMROLL PLEASE) -- I am now allowed all the way upstairs to the bedroom land.  Yeah, they used to not let me go up there, they were afraid because Christian used to have Al-It-Juries -- whatever that is -- and my parents thought my hair would make him sneeze or something.  Anyway, they must have forgot all about that because now I can go upstairs anytime I want!  I still like to sleep by my parents so I can guard them from the evil squirrels.  Those beady eyed things are always trying to get in and attacking the bird feeder so they can get fatter and fatter.  Curse you Evil Squirrels, you are the bain of my existence!  (Can you see me shaking my paw at the sky??)
Michael was just a little poop-kicker when my family adopted me.  But now he’s getting to be a big boy too.  Next year he goes to middle school.  My mom says it doesn’t seem possible she has no more kids in elementary school and spends a lot of time looking at their baby pictures.  She’s silly like that.
This summer is going to be AWESOME!  RAD!  I’m going to Summer Rowing Camp at the Newburgh Rowing Club, I’m going to rowing camp at Princeton (Go Tigers, even if you are cats!), I’m going to Drama Camp in Sugarloaf and .... wait, what?  You’re kidding.  That’s so unfair, Mom!
OK, correction, my Mom says I’m not going to any of those camps, my brothers are.  (Mom, not even Princeton?)  Yea, that’s a no.  
Anyway, we are all back together again after a long school year and we’re going to have lots of Barbie-cues on the back deck and build campfires and have S’mores and do fun stuff.
Are you kidding me, Now?  In the middle of my Summer Blog?  You guys are just - you know - evil.  Gotta go, the Evil Squirrels are back, trying to get to the bird feeder and I’ve got to go bark my head off.  Humans --  a dog’s work never ends, you guys know that, right?
Signing off, Orion LoBiondo (and oh yeah, my Mom said don’t forget to Count Your Blessings!) www.LoBiondo.org

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Inspiration to Swim

THE INSPIRATION TO SWIM - my Readers all know about the rowing portion of America Rows and Swims Newburgh, I have been blogging about that for years.  But running the swim portion is probably my greatest struggle, in that it is my largest, most-time consuming, money-consuming program, and I receive no financial assistance and have no help running it.  So why do I do it?

The story starts when I was taking Christian for weekly swim lessons and almost daily swim laps to what was then the YWCA on Union Avenue, New Windsor.  He was about 8 years old. In the lane next to us were two brothers, maybe 12 and 14.  They would swim laps relentlessly.  Not quite with the precision of the swim team kids but they were clearly talented and would swim non stop.  Their “coach” would sit on the floor, leaned up against the wall, and call out directions to them in Spanish.  I figured he must be a former swimmer himself.  Of course, I started chatting him up in Spanish.

It turns out he was their dad and had learned everything he knew by going to the library.  He read up about the four competitive swim strokes, flip turns and every other basic, by going to the library.  In fact, the Dad didn’t even know how to swim himself.  “Isn’t there some type of free or low cost swim club in Newburgh, where the kids could swim laps every day?”  I asked.  In NYC, where I had lived for 10 years, swim “clubs” were very popular.  For a nominal fee, anyone from child to adult could get in the pool and swim laps with their club as much as they wanted, without the competitive element.  The answer was no.

The Dad’s plan was to get the kids really good at swimming so that it would one day become their ticket to college.  Look at the Big One, everyone would say, he’s the one who’s going to make it.  The  Little One, he’s a little bit chubbier and a little bit slower.  Actually, I would tell the other observers, you never know.  There’s something about the Little One, he’s got a drive, I think he might be the one to really make it.

We started spending less time at the pool.  Christian started playing soccer, then moved on the Bluefish swim team, and most famously, then the Newburgh Rowing Club. By the time I came back with Michael for swim lessons, the boys were gone.  I always wondered what ever happened to those two brothers.
Flash forward 7 years to 2015.  I have resurrected the Hudson Valley Bluefish, the swim team started by Coach Kennedy decades ago, as a low cost swim club run by America Rows and Swims Newburgh.  Not a team, mind you, but a swim club and water confidence clinic.  It’s $125.00 for the whole summer and, if the parents show me they live below the federal poverty level, which the majority of my kids do, then they receive financial aid and their cost is whatever money they can put in the coffee can that week.
Thanks to the Union Avenue Community Fitness Center (formerly the YWCA) giving us a deeply reduced rate, I am able to rent the pool Tuesday nights and Sunday afternoons.  I have a paid staff of eleven: 4 swim coaches and 7 lifeguards/ instructors.  Out of 70 kids,  60 of them have demonstrated financial need and participate in the youth swim club for free.  It costs $1,800.00 per month to run the program.  I receive no grant money, no donations, no corporate sponsors.  We need more kids to sign up for the program, that is our main source of revenue (www.RowSwimNewburgh.org to signup!).  Without the signups, we take to the “can” -- we pass the coffee can at swim club and I ask everyone to put in at least $2.00 per swimmer, and the swim clubbers come out to Quick Check and Shop Rite to hold fundraisers (i.e. “coin drops”) on a regular basis.  All of which is tremendous work on the administrative side.  
Almost every week, I say to my family, “this is it. I’m done with the swim program.   I can’t keep doing all the work and all the fundraising, I can’t do this anymore.  I spend all my time on this swim program.”  And every week, Christian, who loves getting in the pool and volunteering with the little kids says to me, “but don’t you always say you’re saving lives?  This is the highlight of the week for these little kids.”
And he’s right, we are saving lives.  None of these kids would be water confident or be swimming if it weren’t for this program.  
Recently, I saw our Head Coach, Frankie Maurice, talking to the young guy who comes to the pool to help his mom cleanup.  “Mrs. Lo, do you know Joe Galan?” said Frank.  Of course, I knew the name, he was in the newspaper every week during swim season, one of the best swimmers NFA every produced.  What ever happened to him?
“This is him, this is Joe Galan,” said Frank. The janitor?  I thought Joe Galan was swimming at college.  It turned out he was taking an extended break this semester.

I looked at the famous Joe Galan.  He smiled his big happy smile.  I knew this kid.  And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  “Did you and your brother used to swim laps here every day, years ago, with your dad,” I asked him.
“Yep, that’s me” he said.  “I remember you, Mrs. Lo.”  
“Just tell me one thing,” I said.  “Are you the Little One or the Big One?”
“I’m the Little One,” he laughed.  
“You’re hired.”
Joe Galan is my newest and most enthusiastic swim coach and Mrs. Lo has officially come full circle.  The swim program is “killing me,” time-wise and money-wise but I keep doing it because I love it and these kids are awesome.  I am praying for a miracle, which would be more kids signing up for the low-cost swim club -- www.RowSwimNewburgh.org, then click on Hudson Valley Bluefish, or more sponsorships.  I am currently not taking anymore scholarshiped swimmers as we have hit capacity on that front.  If you would like to help, either send someone to signup their kid for our program, or sponsor a swimmer, the $125.00 is tax deductible.
That’s my swim story.  Have a great day, everyone and, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo, go to our Facebook page to watch some of the swim videos … www.Facebook.com/RowSwimNewburgh
Signup at www.RowSwimNewburgh.org, click on the link for “Hudson Valley Bluefish”  or email newburghrowers@gmail.com.

I

Friday, June 5, 2015

Top 10 Reasons to Visit Your Library this Summer

One of my earliest memories involves the local library.  My mother, a teacher, took us to the library across the street from my house all the time, especially during the summers, when she was home with us.  I loved picking out the picture books and going home and having her read to us.  Finally, my mother told me I was old enough to check out books myself.  I must have been 5.  I walked to the library where I gathered books and dutifully brought them back a few days later.  I continued this process for many weeks.  One day, I stopped to say hello to Mrs. Bogardus, the librarian.



“Hello, dear,” she said.  “Are you checking out books today?”  It soon became clear that I had been taking books home and bringing them back without going through the process of getting a library card or checking the books out.  Mrs. Bogardus, always so kind, said nothing, she simply gave me a library card, checked out my library books and sent me on my way with a smile and a wave.  Thanks to Mrs. Bogardus, and my parents, I have a deep and abiding love of public libraries.  From my Blodgett, my hometown library in Fishkill; to the amazing Bobst Library at NYU, one of the largest academic libraries in the world --  it is 12 stories high,  425,000 square feet, has over 3.3 million books, and gets over 6,500 visitors a day.  My love of libraries has nothing to do with being able to afford to buy books at Barnes and Noble or Amazon or getting e-books.  Going to the library is a visceral experience, an important one, and I have always taken my kids to the library regularly.  We used to go weekly but Christian is reading so much with high school he has no time.  Michael, however, still loves going to the library, his current favorite is the smaller but beautiful Town Branch in the Newburgh Mall.  For the biggest selection, you will want to go to the Main Library on Grand.  

That being said, here are my Top 10 Reasons to Spend as much time as possible at the Library this Summer, and year round:

10.  It’s Free!  Let’s face it, few things in life are free anymore and our school taxes support this amazing library system.  I love bookstores too but my checkout would be over $100 a week if I were to buy the books I check out of the library.  Take advantage of it!

9.  They have everything:  kids books, grown up books, DVD’s, CD’s, research centers on the computer, a full on database of every book in the system.  If the Newburgh library doesn’t have it, they will get it for you from another library.

8.  Great Parent-Kid activity at any age.  Kids love going to the library.  We each have our own library cards and our own Newburgh Free library book bags.  Michael loves picking out his books and although I read on a tablet, I enjoy picking up books on decorating, gardening, and Business books.

7.  Free programs.  There are a ton of free programs at the library, from poetry to tail wagging tutors, to the pre-school Library program.  We like the Summer Reading programs, and there are also films and speakers at the main library.  Follow them on fb or Twitter for the latest updates!

6.  Read more!  Because you have to bring your books back, you and your kids are more likely to read the books within the 3 week time frame.  And you can always bring them in to renew.

5.  Silence!  Where else can you enjoy the pure bliss of Library silence?  Main can be noisy in some sections after school but if you go downstairs you can enjoy the views of the Hudson River and read/ research in blissful silence.

4.  Book pointers.  Can’t think of a book you like?  No problem, they always have great suggested books on display.  

3.  Rituals are important.  I blog a lot about how important it is to create rituals for your kids.  Reading is a key one, from bedtime stories to having a reading nook.  And going to the library is a great ritual that leads to more reading, which leads to countless benefits for your kids.

2. Higher Test Scores! Results from countless studies, involving over 8,700 schools and over 2.6 million students, have consistently demonstrated that kids who visit the library on a regular basis score an average of 10-20 % higher on reading and achievement tests -- including higher reading, writing and ACT test scores, than those who do not.

  1. IT’S FUN!

Have a great day everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo www.LoBiondo.org (Photo of Little Michael "reading" a book as a toddler)