A little About Alot Saratoga

Celebrating the Power of Hope, Saratoga!

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Saratoga Center For The Family supporters care in a big way and you can help, too. The power of hope matters.

Showing how much they care by giving, that is what "Celebrating the Power of Hope" fundraiser was all about, Wednesday night April 25, at Longfellows, Hotel, Restaurant and Conference Center, 500 Union Avenue. The Saratoga Center for the Family benefited from the Saratoga County community by being recognized for the tireless efforts and the generous donations of financial support through paying to attend, through a live and a silent auction.

Corinne Vahanian, the event chairwoman predicted early during the evening they would raise between thirty-five to forty thousand dollars. This annual fundraiser, held every year during the month of April, as an observance of the National Child Abuse Prevention month.

The center handles 4,300 cases a year at the Harriet M. West Child Advocacy Center located at 359 Balston Ave, Saratoga Springs. Offered there are child abuse prevention programs, counseling and victim advocacy. Law enforcement, Child Protective Services and the Saratoga County district attorney work closely to bring abuse cases to justice. The victims are given counseling as well as the victims are helped to heal after their trauma.

Prevention programs included parenting, strengthening families, child custody stress prevention and anger management. Its mental health services focus on trauma caused by abuse, violence and victimization. Counseling also addresses family dysfunction and managing symptoms of depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorders.

The crowd who help support the center participated in the fundraiser because they believe in what The Saratoga Center for the Family does for those traumatized. The advocacy center is a place where mental health professionals, law enforcement and specialized medical teams can hear the story one time by the victim and has been designed after a national model in which a non-threatening environment allows the abuse cases can be heard all at the same time. The victim does not need to repeat the story numerous times.

Through the dedication of legal, psychological and trauma specialists, the center is able to help thousands countywide. The fundraiser helps the professionals to do their difficult but necessary work.

The one hundred fifty plus crowd at Longfellows enjoyed a vibrant evening with a vibrant group of supporters. Yvonne and Steve "Sully" Sullivan showed how much they cared for The Saratoga Center for the Family by donating their facility to the fundraiser. Also, in attendance were Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson and his wife Julie who enjoyed, along with the delighted crowd, unique performances by the Schuylerville High School Chamber singers. The student ensemble performed solos and several popular songs throughout the evening entertaining all the attendees as they mingled and checked out numerous auction items.

Benita Zahn, WNYT Channel 13 news anchor served as the celebrity host while Dr. Manny Cirenza, Community Care Pediatrics physician based out of Saratoga and Malta, served at the evening's auctioneer. Dr. Cirenza just returned from a trip to Africa where he examined twelve abused orphans. While there, Dr. Cirenza told the gathered crowd, that he saw a giant sign with the words written in bold letters: "During life the things you do for yourself, die with you, and the things you do for others remain in the world." Dr. Cirenza related that to the kindness of those in attendance Wednesday night. He added, "and that is what the people of the Saratoga Center child advocacy program do everyday."

Dr. Cirenza then jumped into the auctioneering role along with the help of Ms. Zahn urging the crowd to bid higher for each item. They made a strong team.

Dr. Timothy Brooks stood at the rear of the hall talking with his wife, Ellen, and friends about the evening. Dr. Brooks has been an emergency medicine specialist for 28 years and works at Saratoga Hospital Emergency Department.

He spoke proudly about the work being done at The Saratoga Center for the Family, saying that "these children are innocent and they need someone to advocate for them and take care of them and protect them and help them heal, and that is why we do what we do." Dr. Brooks says this type of advocacy, teaching the traumatized how to deal with their physical and emotional pain, takes time, but these methods do work.

Dr. Brooks works closely with the center and says there are two types of cases he sees most often, chronic cases of abuse in which an individual has been traumatized over many years and acute cases in which a victim has been recently abused. The acute victim goes directly to Saratoga Hospital emergency department, while the chronic victim usually, on their own, finally decides to come forward, seeking the services of the Saratoga Center for the Family. At the center hope exists to relieve the trauma. Working, teaching and helping the victim cope makes a tremendous difference in their future lives.

At the center there are three nurse practitioners, all highly trained women, who handle cases of pediatric sexual assaults. According to Dr. Brooks, serious concern develops if a case is not handled properly at this crucial stage. The cycle of abuse has an extremely high potential of continuing, not only by the perpetrator, but by the victim. The victims can become abusers if not guided professionally.

One area Dr. Brooks says the adolescent offender who bullies children needs tremendous attention. "These offenders are too young to be punished as adults, they often times slip through the cracks and continue to abuse others later in life, "said Dr. Brooks.

Dr. Candice Dunn, the clinical director of psychology at the center, specializes in effecting change by working closely with a group of highly trained therapists who deal directly with victims. The traumatic event can be devastating. Dr. Dunn and her team focus on the abuse and making a difference in the victims future.

"A lot of people think they are going crazy after they have been abused and that abuse could have happened years ago. Many become depressed as adults and do not understand why," says Dr. Dunn. "Our therapists help victims discover the source of their pain, panic attacks and inability to function in their daily lives."

Dr. Dunn has been in the Saratoga region for two and a half years and she brought her highly specialized background in clinical psychology, family therapy, treatment of trauma, supervising teams of therapists who provide home based therapy to keep children in their homes. Dr. Dunn also has experience working with a many different types of clients and age groups. Last year the organization provided more than 3,500 mental health visits to more than 400 clients and offered prevention programs to more than 400 clients.

The Saratoga Center for the Family will continue "Celebrating the Power of Hope" year round. Everyone has a moment of stress and strain they need to work through. Teens who are under tremendous pressure from bullying, school and recent financial strains affecting their lives should contact the center to work through mental health problems. 

For those people who have been severely traumatized, feel hopeless and are concerned they have no one to speak, the center personnel urges anyone to call the center at 518-587-8008

All information is kept confidential and free of charge.

The power of hope exists in Saratoga County because The Saratoga Center for the Family has the power to help.

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Elaine Hume Peake

Elaine Hume Peake has vast experience covering news, lifestyle and entertainment since 1976. As an award-winning media executive, senior producer and show runner for a variety of multimedia, Elaine has a deep sense of curiosity and enjoys digging deep to find not only the serious side of life but also the immense joys. Elaine's proven expertise on the national and the local level while working in Washington, DC for Post Newsweek stations, WPLG in Miami, WABC in New York City, WCBS in New York City and WTEN in the Capitol region, she has found a wonderful home in Saratoga. Elaine has extensive experience on the editorial and the creative production side. She has developed several news and talk shows, documentaries, non-fiction television series, major live events and specials has taken her on a fantastic journey she will share with her audience of A LITTLE ABOUT A LOT. Elaine's perspective after covering riots, Princess Di's death, Pope John Paul II funeral and others such as the search and recovery of the body of John F. Kennedy, Jr, numerous political campaigns, major crime stories to the amazingly life changing days of 9/11 created her level of news gravitas. Elaine has been the driver of numerous newsrooms in the nonstop 24/7 news cycle of New York City, Miami, Washington, DC and now this region. She is well as traveled and enjoyed her globe trotting in search of great tales to share. Elaine loves to communicate the story in an interesting, compelling and enjoyable way. She is a passionate idea generator and program innovator with a news metabolism for innovation, change and a focus on the future while a perspective from over the past 35 years of news. Elaine maintains a keen awareness on delivering enjoyment to her readers whether it be a major news happening or a compelling, memorable moment in time. Elaine is on board with Saratoga.com for a fun ride deeper into the world of this region and wants her readers of A LITTLE ABOUT A LOT to be a part of the journey but also a major participate in the ongoing conversation. Readers can e-mail me with comments, suggestions, ideas, stories at