For More Information Contact:
Colleen Pillus, Communications Director (845) 486-2000
Colleen Pillus, Communications Director
Poughkeepsie, NY … Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro announced the County will host a free #ThinkDIFFERENTLY drive-through picnic for residents with special needs on Tuesday, September 1st, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, 6636 Route 9 in Rhinebeck.
Akin to the County’s successful 2020 Office for the Aging (OFA) Drive-Through Senior Picnic Series, the #ThinkDIFFERENTLY drive-through event is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social-distancing; the #ThinkDIFFERENTLY drive-through picnic will be held alongside the OFA’s drive-through event at the fairgrounds on Sept. 1st. Residents with special needs and their families and/or providers will drive to the fairgrounds’ entrance, where they’ll be greeted by #ThinkDIFFERENTLY staff for brief and safely distant socialization, including a guest appearance by Bee Bee the Clown, and receive a bag lunch, including a vegetarian option, prepared by a local deli to take with them. Space is limited for this rain-or-shine event, and online registration is required at dutchessny.gov/picnicrsvp; residents are urged to register promptly before this event reaches capacity.
County Executive Molinaro said, “While the pandemic has impacted us all, perhaps no group has felt more isolated than our friends and neighbors with disabilities. Despite the current challenges, we continue ThinkDIFFERENTLY about how to enhance the lives of residents of every ability. We look forward to welcoming our friends and neighbors of all abilities on September 1st, providing them some much-needed interaction, as well as a free, nutritious lunch, and seeing the many smiling faces we’ve missed for so long.”
The #ThinkDIFFERENTLY Drive-Through Picnic is made possible through the generous sponsorship from Greystone Programs Inc., Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, Blue Path Service Dogs and MidHudson Regional Hospital for their sponsorship, as well as the community our agency partners who will greet attendees at the event.
The drive-through event is the latest embodiment of the County’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative, established by County Executive Molinaro in 2015 to foster a welcoming and supportive environment to residents and visitors of all abilities. Since then, more than 100 communities throughout New York State and beyond have adopted “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” resolutions, pledging to accommodate individuals with special needs.
Dutchess County has hosted a free, in-person picnic for residents with special needs in each of the past seven years, attracting hundreds of attendees to each event, in addition to bi-annual, sensory-friendly movie days around the county; a sensory-friendly presentation of the holiday classic ballet, “The Nutcracker” at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in 2019; the Disability, Dream & Do adaptive baseball camp at Dutchess Stadium in 2017-19; ThinkDIFFERENTLY Thursday at the Dutchess County Fair, a sensory-sensitive morning, in 2016-19; and the ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash throughout the City of Poughkeepsie for participants of every ability in 2016-19, among other events.
Toni-Marie Ciarfella, Dutchess County’s Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs, said, “Having had to cancel outreach events due to the pandemic, we feel so fortunate and grateful to the Office for the Aging for welcoming us to hold our summer picnic alongside its event. This is a new way to reach out and offer support to the many friends we haven’t seen in so long. Safety is our top priority, and we’ve worked to ensure our drive-through picnic provides enjoyment and a healthy meal to attendees while adhering to pertinent health protocols.”
More information about the County’s efforts to ThinkDIFFERENTLY is available on the initiative’s award-winning website, ThinkDIFFERENTLY.net.