Utica-area unionists make waves for ‘Strides’

The Riveredge conference hotel sits right on the water in Alexandria Bay, a long stone’s throw across the St. Lawrence Seaway from Boldt Castle. The largest tanker sliding by on its way from Cleveland, Detroit or Duluth to the North Atlantic never made waves like the ones that rocked the hotel’s dining room Saturday night.

Jammed cheek by jowl into the room were 200 unionists from 29 Utica-area NYSUT locals trying to outdo each other to show their spirit – and raise some money – for “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.”

They had left their daylong NYSUT regional leadership conference workshops just in time to decorate their tables in a Halloween theme and change into the most elaborate costumes they could conjure: pirates, witches, superheroes, ninja turtles, M&Ms… even Shark Week!

In between each local’s chance to make an impression on the anonymous judges in the room, the throng actually united to form a relentless “wave” that lasted several minutes, just like a Utica Comets hockey game at the Aud! In unity, there is motion!

The co-chairs of the event this year were Ellis Searles of Mohawk Valley Community College Adjuncts Association and Catherine Alessandrini of the New Hartford Teachers Association. They ran a silent auction, a raffle and a live auction for dozens of donated prizes ranging from food to electronics and school tools to hockey tickets. The whole event lasted a couple of hours, but it seemed like 20 minutes. It took a year to plan it, and they started talking about 2015 the very next day.

NYSUT staffer Jim Henck of the Utica field office said the preliminary total as of Monday was $20,848 and organizers expect more money to come in. This annual tradition of the Utica leadership conference has raised more than $320,000 over the past 11 years.

Many of these folks will be Making Strides in Utica on Oct. 19, as well, to raise even more money for the American Cancer Society.

Photos of the event were taken by Suzanne Baxter of the union’s Syracuse Regional Office.

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