On Wednesday, January 24, Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C,I,REF-Ballston) hosted Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and local stakeholders for a community forum to discuss Dutchess County’s highly-successful “Think DIFFERENTLY” initiative. The Capital Region joins several communities across the state in adopting “Think DIFFERENTLY” resolutions, which focus on fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for individuals with special needs, and Wednesday’s event laid the framework for what promises to be a mutually beneficial local program for residents of all abilities.
Walsh and Molinaro were joined by several interested stakeholders for a productive conversation regarding the “Think DIFFERENTLY” initiative with local town supervisors, law enforcement agencies, educators and county officials, as well as representatives from several local organizations, including Southern Saratoga YMCA, the Saratoga County Fair, the Southern Saratoga Chamber of Commerce and the Capital District Chamber.
Following welcoming remarks from Walsh, Molinaro offered a detailed overview of his county’s successful commitment to “Think DIFFERENTLY” and the positive effect it has had on local residents. Measures implemented in Dutchess County have included efforts to build more accessible infrastructure, educate local businesses and law enforcement on ways to improve communication and interaction with individuals with special needs and host a variety of welcoming events and activities ranging in scope from picnics and a one mile run called the “Think DIFFERENTLY” Dash, at the 2016 and 2017 New York State Special Olympics Winter Games.
“The overwhelmingly enthusiastic participation in Wednesday’s forum shows that our community is more than ready to ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ about how we can support our neighbors with special needs,” said Walsh. “I’d like to thank County Executive Molinaro for not only taking the time to travel here and speak with us about this truly remarkable and beneficial initiative, but also for his inspiring commitment to this worthy cause. I am proud to join the many communities across the state who have decided to ‘Think DIFFERENTLY,’ and I look forward to seeing this program have a positive impact here in the Capital Region.”
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to our ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ efforts over the past two-plus years, and I appreciate the cities, towns and villages throughout our state which have accepted our call to change hearts and minds,” said Molinaro. “I thank Assemblywoman Walsh for her eagerness to ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ and ensure every individual of every ability has a community that welcomes them and supports them.”
Launched by Molinaro in 2015, the “Think DIFFERENTLY” initiative seeks to foster a supportive and inclusive environment for residents with special needs, as well as change the way individuals, businesses, organizations and communities relate to residents of all abilities. Since July 2016, more than 60 communities around New York State have adopted “Think DIFFERENTLY” resolutions.
To learn more about “Think DIFFERENTLY” and the positive impact the program has had across the state, please visit the initiative’s website.