The Friends Network


Friends Off to the Races Once Again

The Friends Network’s second annual “Night at the Races” fundraiser was held April 27th at Vista on the Hill, Temple Beth Elohim in Brewster, and was once again a big success. Just a week before the Kentucky Derby, the event set the tone for horse racing’s Triple Crown season for veteran gamblers and novice bettors alike. Following a cocktail hour and buffet dinner guests enjoyed wagering to win on six previously recorded races, with second chance raffles and a grand prize basket up for grabs at the conclusion of the program.

Thanks to the generosity of Mark Franzoso (Franzoso Contracting, Inc.) the event’s grand prize featured four box seats to a 2013 Yankee game, among other prizes. Mark has been one of The Network’s biggest supporters for a long time – he also sponsored a race and reserved a table for the festivities. Additional race sponsors included the Peekskill Rotary Club and ITI Strategies, Inc. (Peekskill, NY).

Of course, there are many more people to thank for helping to make the night such a great success. Chief among them is Joe Lippolis of Prudential River Towns Real Estate (Peekskill and Croton). Joe graciously acted as the evening’s emcee, keeping the crowd involved and entertained while calling out odds and announcing race winners. Our tireless volunteers included the Henke family, the Galgano family, Charlie Gruetzner, George Grey, Cathy Oakes, and Leah Decker, who made everything run like clockwork. Also many thanks to the members and their families who attended the event or donated money or prizes that contributed to its success. A complete list of donors can be found on page five.

The Friends Network would like to make “Night at the Races” an annual sensation. One member who attended remarked afterward, “That was soooo much fun! I don’t even know how to bet on horse races and I had the best time. Everyone should go!”  We agree! Anyone can come to enjoy the evening and root on your favorites, no matter your gambling experience. Just bring a lucky attitude, a healthy appetite, and a maybe a hunch on a winner, and we’ll do the rest. With the continued support of our Friends Network family and our community, we hope to make this event bigger and better next year!

Biggest Loser Success!

Showing off to the right is another Friends Network workout success story – Bernadette T. Beginning in mid-March, Bernadette decided that she didn’t feel good about herself and wanted to lose a few pounds. She was often tired and never felt like exercising, especially after a day at work. But with help from Network staff, Bernadette set out to change. By committing to a healthier diet and a regular exercise regimen, she did just that, managing to shed almost seventeen pounds in just four months. She reports feeling much better these days and is even in the market for a new bathing suit before summer’s end. A new bikini, perhaps?

Hard Rockin’ in the DR

The Spring 2013 Friends Network vacation was a six-day, five-night stay at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, a brand new luxury resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Thirteen members and three chaperones stayed, played, and partied the week away on the eastern edge of the island and right on the Caribbean Sea.

Of course, there were pools, beaches, and hot tubs. In fact, there was a hot tub in every room! The resort also featured a full size golf course and an eighteen hole miniature golf course. But who has time to play golf in the blazing island sun? Most members opted for a leisurely float down the lazy river in the heat of the afternoon. Poolside bars served lunch and snacks whenever you were hungry, and waitress service was available under the huge thatched huts on the beach as well.

Evenings began with dinner at one of the resort’s nine gourmet restaurants, and though we could not sample all of them we certainly had our fill. Mexican cuisine one night, Italian or Japanese the next, a specialty seafood restaurant and a good old steak house were among the dinner choices. After dinner there was plenty more to do and see. The Hard Rock has its own theater, where each night they put on an internationally themed performance. Of course there was also the casino, which included its own exclusive and very chic nightclub, Oro that the girls visited on ladies night. There was also a karaoke bar, ice cream shop, café, and music by the many pools. Enough to keep everyone happy, and looking forward to next year’s trip!

Summer Educational Outings

For extended day-habilitation programs on select summer Wednesdays, The Friends Network has decided to have a little fun and learn a thing or two along the way. Accordingly, they have embarked on an exploration of historic sites in our very own Hudson Valley. Two of the most recent outings include a trip to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in Vails Gate, NY and day at Stony Point Battlefield and Lighthouse near Haverstraw. Members enjoyed a day out while learning about these sites from experienced tour guides.

Six members, along with director Linda Kiss-Gruetzner, found much to discover at Stony Point. The Stony Point Battlefield is an 87-acre promontory commanding the Haverstraw and Stony Point Bays. In July 1779, the American Corps of Light Infantry, led by General Anthony Wayne, surprised British forces during a successful 33-minute midnight assault and captured the site. It is home to Stony Point Lighthouse, the oldest extant lighthouse on the Hudson. Built in 1826, it was in operation for 99 years until it was replaces by an automatic beacon. The Stony Point Battlefield also features a museum with original
weapons and outstanding views of the Hudson River.

A few weeks later the group was off the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. The Hall offers visitors the chance to journey through military history and commemorates the extraordinary sacrifices of America’s service men and women who were killed or wounded in combat. The mission of the Hall is to collect and preserve the stories of recipients from all branches of service and across generations to ensure that everyone is represented. Incredibly, although there have been approximately 1.7 million Purple Hearts awarded since the Revolutionary War, the Roll of Honor currently numbers only about 189,000. So, if you or anyone you know has received a Purple Heart, please contact the NPHHH. They are proud to continue recognize as many veterans as possible who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and their freedom.

Nashville Nights…

In keeping with the country-western concert theme of late, Friends will be on the road again in October for a mini-vacation in Nashville, Tennessee. From October 3 through 7 the group will stay at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, one of Music City’s premier vacation destinations. Many exciting activities are in store, including (of course!) a trip to the Grand Ole Opry, America’s longest running live radio program, complete with a backstage tour. Also planned is a Nashville City tour showing off the homes of many of today’s most popular country music stars. Members will go on the General Jackson River Cruise and experience the best of the city’s nightlife during a Nashville Nights and Lights excursion. There will be much to do during this short trip, but all are looking forward to breaking out their boots and cowboy hats and experiencing some down home southern hospitality!


Led by Maria Polhemus, day-hab members practice Hatha Yoga. Those who participate find it a peaceful and relaxing way to begin their day, one that focuses their energy for the rest of the program and leaves them feeling rested and in control. Yoga combines balance and strength and gives participants a good feeling about themselves and their ability to control their breathing and emotions. Maria is a patient teacher who has adapted her class to accommodate all members, no matter their physical abilities or limitations.


For a more serious workout Michelle Dugan leads members in a high-energy class in aerobic kickboxing. Not for the weak of will, kickboxing combines fast, physical exercise with classic boxing moves to get members’ limbs moving and hearts pumping. Kickboxing is one of the most popular and enduring activities offered to Friends members. All who participate enjoy the upbeat music, the physical benefits, and Michelle’s good natured encouragement to “work it” with a smile!


Forget the Food Network – we are The Friends Network! In a cooking contest worthy of its own cable network time slot, day-hab members teamed up in a bake off to see which group could create the best looking, most well presented, and of course most delicious cupcake. Three teams did the baking, while three other members served as judges. Director Linda Kiss-Gruetzner acted as host/cooking coach for each team. Jessica M. and Justin made a peanut butter and jelly cupcake from scratch. Ashley, Ariel, and Bernadette went with chocolate cake mix filled with chocolate chips and Oreos, topped with chocolate icing and jellybeans. Mike, Regina, and Sam decided on a Spring theme, making a chocolate cupcake topped with vanilla icing, crushed Oreos as dirt on top, gummy worms coming out of the earth, and jelly beans as bird’s eggs. Judges were Chrissy, Lina, and Scott. The winner? Spring takes the cup cake prize – congratulations Mike, Regina, and Sam


One of the most popular extended days at The Friends Network is the shopping/cooking/bowling league combination. The day-hab program continues after two o’clock, when participants go out grocery shopping for the ingredients for that night’s meal. When they return, everyone takes a part in preparing the meal, setting the table, enjoying a group dinner, and of course cleaning up after. Cooking classes are led by Diane Yvars, who teaches members important daily living skills in the kitchen. Then everyone heads to Carmel Lanes for a night of exciting league bowling action. Bowlers learn the value of teamwork, enjoy the camaraderie of organized sports, and delight in the competition. Currently the league has seven full teams and a growing waiting list of members eager to join. The league runs from September through April, followed by a dinner banquet and league awards presentation.


Local artist Jim Sparks leads Friends day-hab participants in art classes. Jim uses different mediums, from watercolors to chalk to markers, to teach members various styles and techniques. All day-hab members have a chance to participate in art classes, and once each year Jim and his wife arrange to have Friends Network art on display at the Mahopac Library. Look for notice of their next exhibit!