For more than 25 years, the North Syracuse Early Education Program at Main Street has been providing inclusive pre-K for children with special needs.
Now, they’re asking for a little help from the community to continue that mission.
“The school has always had its financial challenges,” said Philip Cleary, a teacher at the school. “Our funding from the state and federal government has always been spotty.”
Those difficulties deepened this year with the current financial crisis. As a result, teachers, administrators and parents at the school have started looking for ways to help out. While individual teachers can get small grants for programming, there’s not much available that can get the school larger amounts of money.
Enter the Friends of the North Syracuse Early Education Program at Main Street, a new 501(c)(3) group formed for the specific purpose of helping the school. The group includes school board members, administrators from the district, teachers from the school and parents of alumni and current students. The group is working on getting some larger grants for the school, but in the meantime, they’ve organized their first big fundraiser: the Therapy Ball, to be held from 6 to 9 p.m. March 26 at Barbagallo’s Restaurant.
“We thought it was a clever name — we use therapy balls in special ed, in OT and PT,” Cleary said. “And this is a way to get our name out there and let people know what we need.”
Numerous local dignitaries will be in attendance at the ball, including elected officials, business owners and community members. There’s also an impressive cache of prizes, all donated by local people.
“I’m involved in a lot of charity and nonprofit organizations,” Cleary said. “I go to a lot of these things. And I’ve never seen prizes as amazing as what we’re offering. We’ve got some really great stuff.”
Ticket sales are limited to 500, and Cleary said they’re going rapidly. To purchase tickets, contact Friends group member Bethany D’Alberto at 458-9460 or Bethany@fnseep.org. You can also check out the Friends’ website at fnseep.org.
After the ball, which Cleary said will likely become a major annual event, the Friends group will continue to work to raise money and awareness about the Main Street program, Cleary said. He anticipates that it will be a place for PTO members to go once their children leave the school, allowing them to maintain a connection with the place that made such a difference for their children.
“”We take the kid whose parents have been told they’ll never walk, they’ll never graduate, they’ll need care for the rest of their lives, and we give them the services they need, and when they leave here, the vast majority need nothing,” Cleary said. “Those who do still need services need far less than they would have had they not come here. We help them to become contributing members of society.”
It’s also a bargain for taxpayers.
“For every dollar you spend as a taxpayer on this kind of early intervention program, you get $17 back,” Cleary said. “Not only are we cutting back on the services they’ll need in the future — and everybody knows that the more special ed services you have to provide K through 12, the more it costs — but we’re also helping them to contribute. Because of what they get here, they can get jobs. They can do more for the world. Every taxpayer benefits from this program. You pay less throughout their lives because you invested in this program now.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.