Breakfast meetings resume this week

SRC Breakfast LogoIf you’ve been wondering when our Third Thursday breakfast meeting series will resume, wonder no more. We’ll be gathering at 7 a.m. this Thursday at the Greenbush YMCA for a one-hour session.

New President Roberto Martinez will speak on what’s in store for us in the 2017-18 Rotary Year. As always, host Shannon Romanowski will provide a continental breakfast, and attendees’ $5 fee will go toward supporting YMCA camping scholarships.

Please be sure to email Shannon or Terry Brewer no later than this Tuesday evening if you plan to attend, and feel free to invite a guest who you think may be interested in learning about Rotary.

A final evening by the pool

The final picnic-and-pool-party of SRC’s “Summer Casual” season was held under friendly skies Thursday night, co-hosted by Jim and Andy Leyhane at Jim’s East Greenbush residence.

A nice turnout with plenty of kids frolicking in the pool and hot tub, adults frolicking through the beverage bar, family and guests mingling with Rotarians, and a dinner of barbecued chicken, mac and cheese and broccoli salad plus a lineup of member-contributed appetizers and desserts filled the evening and our bellies. Many thanks to the Leyhanes for their hosting skills and energy.

Next Thursday will be our visit to the Mac Haydn Theatre in Chatham for a performance of “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” Then, on Thursday, August 24, Ray Hannan will host a picnic at Eastwyck Village. If you haven’t yet let him know whether you will or will not attend — and how many will be in your party — please email him no later than Monday, August 21 at one way or the other.

Meanwhile, here are some images from Thursday night’s event, courtesy of Bill Dowd, Roberto Martinez, and Carol Orvis.

Party 9
Mary, one of our new members — with a future Rotarian?
Leyhane munchies
Tending to the youngest Leyhane generation.
Is Len’s mind on his next distance running event?
Party 9x
Bill never could get the hang of the spoon-on-the-nose trick.
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Staking out poolside seats.
Party 10
A poolside confab.
Party 11
A refreshment break from the pool.
Party A
The cool table.
The Koshykars eyeball the appetizer table.
The Wave
Practicing the royal wave.
The Brewers with our newest member, Kevin Leyhane.
Hot Tub
Hot tub inhabitants.
Debbie in seasonally-appropriate finery.
Andy shows off a few of the school supplies collected for the annual drive.
OK, what are they looking at? …

SRC scholarship winner has play produced

Joshua Kenna, one of the recipients of Southern Rensselaer County Rotary Club scholarship awards this year, was featured in a story in the Times Union about his latest accomplishment — having his original short play produced at Capital Repertory Theatre.

Josh, who graduated this year from Rensselaer Junior-Senior High School as class vice president, still plans to enroll at Keuka College in the fall, but the experience has changed his plans for a major. Read on for the details.

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Joshua Kenna, foreground, watches a rehearsal of “Inside My Head” with Capital Rep’s Margaret Hall. Behind them are Kenna’s brother, Joe, and father, Jack. (Photos by Claire Hughes/Times Union)
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Actors rehearse “Inside My Head” at Capital Rep. At top is John McCorkle, 16, of Troy. At the table, from left are, Matthew Bonacci, 17, of Bethlehem, Caroline Skrebutenas, 13, of Niskayuna, Jayden Wojcik, 12, of North Greenbush, and Liesel Gerstenbreger, 19, of Clifton Park.


Inside his autistic brother’s head

Student wrote play in effort to understand sibling’s experience

By Claire Hughes
Times Union

ALBANY — When 18-year-old Joshua Kenna’s English teacher nudged him to write his first play, the high school senior knew what he wanted to create: words to help understand what his older brother Joe was going through as they grew up.

Joe Kenna doesn’t talk. The 19-year-old Rensselaer man has autism and is mostly nonverbal.

So Joshua put down on the page a character named Ethan who reveals what Joe might have said, if he could have, as his parents struggled with his diagnosis, where to send him to school and their divorce.

This weekend, Ethan will come to life on the stage as the completion of Capital Repertory Theatre’s Young Playwright Contest. Joshua’s drama, “Inside My Head,” is an effort of empathy that changed him in the process of writing it.

With a scant 10 minutes in which to pack the story of Joe’s life — that’s the limit for the plays entered into the Cap Rep contest — Joshua carefully chose four scenes, with the last one harkening back to the first.

He knew a key scene well. It’s a fight he and Joe had. But for two others — Joe’s diagnosis and his parents’ decision to place him in a school for special-needs children — Joshua had to do some research. So he interviewed his parents.

The result is an honest and heartfelt drama with a maturity that Margaret Hall, the assistant to the artistic director at Capital Rep, called rare for a teen playwright. Joshua doesn’t hold back on the tough scenes, but it’s not the anger in the play that’s unusual. It’s the fact that he moves through it, Hall said.

“It’s different in that it takes a positive spin, even when the moments are difficult,” Hall said.

The play begins with Ethan’s diagnosis at age 2 1/2, and with his parents’ struggle to accept it. Then it fast-forwards several years to a fight his parents have over where to send him to school. It’s the kind of conflict many parents will recognize, perhaps especially those who have argued over how to address a difficult-to-absorb diagnosis: It’s emotionally raw with lots of yelling.

It wasn’t easy to watch as a parent, who remembered the moment from a different perspective, said Joshua’s father, Jack Kenna. When he watched it, he thought the father was a jerk. But Jack, as well as Joshua’s mother, Mary, and other brother, John, thought it would be OK to see some rough patches in their family history on stage if it would help others understand autism.

Jack and Mary are divorced, and that decision has a role in the play, too. Ethan blames the fighting on his autism.

But the real emotional kicker is the scene from Joshua’s own memory. Teenage Ethan and his younger brother Edward are fighting over getting to use the computer, when Edward screams in frustration, “Ethan, will you listen to me for once?!” “ARE YOU EVEN IN THERE?!” Ethan replies with a note: “Sorry for autism.”

Then Edward cries and apologizes. And an older Ethan, narrating, says to the audience, “That was the day when I finally understood nothing could or would change me. I am autistic, and that’s OK.”

And that is the message of Joshua’s play: It’s OK to be autistic or disabled. Or as Edward says to Ethan, “You’re my brother, buddy. You’ve nothing to be sorry for.”

Joshua, who graduated from Rensselaer Junior-Senior High School in June, thought he wanted to pursue writing in college. But he changed his mind after writing “Inside My Head.” He’s going to Keuka College to study occupational therapy, with a minor in creative writing.

“I realized I wanted to do something to help.”

Where: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 North Pearl Street, Albany
When: 4 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 11 a.m. Saturday; 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission: Free
More info:


Rotary-Peace Corps connection a solid one

SRC’s Becky Raymond at Rotary-Peace Corps Partnership meeting in Denver.

Southern Rensselaer County Rotary member Becky Raymond attended the recent Rotary-Peace Corps Partnership meeting in Denver, CO, that preceded the annual National Peace Corps Association conference. Most of the participants were both Rotarians and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

The purpose of the meeting was to underscore the goals of the “Rotary-Peace Corps Memorandum of Understanding,” and for participants to leave with tools and resources that will help further strengthen the relationship between the two organizations.

At the conference itself, Becky led a breakout session entitled “Collaborative Partnerships.” It highlighted the collaboration between the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Northeastern New York, Rotary, the University at  Albany, and the Freedom From Fistula Foundation to raise funds for prevention and treatment of obstetric fistula.

Speakers included Victor Barnes, Rotary Director of Programs and Grants; Ashley Bell, Associate Director of External Affairs at Peace Corps; Ellina Kushnir, supervisor of the Rotary Service and Engagement portfolio; Ted Adams, Peace Corps Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships and Intergovernmental Affairs; several members of Denver area Rotary clubs, the District Governor, and a Rotary Scholar.

RSVP for final cookout/pool party

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 2.48.29 PMThe second and final cookout and pool party combo on our SRC “Summer Casual” calendar is set for 6 p.m. this Thursday at Jim Leyhane’s East Greenbush residence, hosted by Jim and Andy.

It’s a family-friendly event, so feel free to bring the kids, friends, etc. The only requirement: email Jim at by Tuesday evening to let him know if you plan to attend and how many will be in your party or even to inform him if you do not plan to join us.

(The latter request is to help us be assured all SRC members are receiving our periodic electronic communications and not missing an opportunity to socialize with fellow Rotarians and friends.)

Jim and Andy are taking care of the bulk of the meal, but we do ask attendees to bring a small appetizer or dessert to fill out the menu.


Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 6.09.15 PMIf you have not yet made your contributions to our annual school supplies drive for needy kids in the Rensselaer City School District, you can give them to project coordinator Andy Leyhane at Thursday’s social event.

(If you need a reminder of the shopping “wish list” items, check the club website for a complete rundown. Please remember we need plenty of backpacks so the volunteers at Circles of Mercy can package the supplies for individual students,)

This is a major annual effort that fits into Rotary’s avenues of service mantra — education being one of them. We encourage Rotarians to get their kids or grandkids involved in the shopping for supplies to encourage a mindset of “kids helping kids.”

If for some reason you’re not involved in any of your club’s “Summer Casual” activities but nevertheless would like to contribute school supplies, please contact Andy for pickup. Couldn’t be simpler.

The latest update on ‘Project Legos’

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Xavier Schmitt proudly shows off his latest Legos success.

Xavier Schmitt, grandson of Debbie and Chuck Rodriguez, has been the happy recipient of a wide series of Legos building kits to keep him occupied as he undergoes a lengthy, difficult regimen of chemotherapy for leukemia.

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Cole Schmitt a happy boy.

Debbie reports that Xavier sends his thanks from Connecticut after completing his latest Legos project — the futuristic fighter plane shown above — while he was in clinic.

Xavier now is in remission and out of the hospital, and, says Debbie, “The plan is for him to return to school in September. He also told me he would like to visit Rotary some day. Thank you to all for your support during this difficult time.”

And, of course, little brother Cole also says thank you for the Legos kits he received from our club as part of a project conceived by Jim Leyhane.

Thanks to all the individual SRC club members who have contributed financially to the effort.


A ‘Summer Casual’ event with a foreign touch

SRC’s latest “Summer Casual” event went off beautifully when more than 30 people showed up Thursday evening at Roberto Martinez’s residence for a picnic-style meal and a lot of socializing.

In addition to many of “the usual suspects,” we also had an international flavor to the evening when we welcomed former Rotary Exchange Student Jasmine Bromberg of Denmark who spent the 2011-12 academic year here. Jasmine was in town for a visit, and presented a Rotary pennant from a Danish club to us. And, we heard from Michaela Rossetti who recently returned home after spending the academic year in Italy under the Rotary Exchange Student program.

Our thanks to host Roberto for all his efforts, and for everyone who contributed food as well as donations to our annual school supplies drive.

The next “Summer Casual” event is a pool party and cookout — guaranteed family friendly, so bring the kids — to be co-hosted by Jim and Andy Leyhane at Jim’s East Greenbush residence, 6 p.m. Thursday, August 10. Look for details in an upcoming email.

Here are some scenes from the Casa Roberto event:

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