Walkway ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash press confSpecial Ability Fun Run/Walk Through Downtown Poughkeepsie Kicks Off Walkway Marathon Weekend

Poughkeepsie, N.Y.—This year’s Walkway Marathon Race Series will again feature the ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash on Saturday, June 10, which celebrates individuals in our community with special needs. The one-mile fun run/walk is open to everyone and takes place in downtown Poughkeepsie, organizers announced at a press conference this week.

Walkway Marathon Race Series partners, Walkway Over the Hudson and Dutchess County Government, were joined by representatives from several participating organizations in presenting information concerning the ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash, a popular element of the Walkway Marathon Race Series. Additional Walkway Marathon events include 5K, Half-Marathon and Full-Marathon races the following day on Sunday, June 11.

Held at Mural Square on Main Street in Poughkeepsie, officials at the press conference also introduced several individuals as Grand Marshals of the ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash. These Grand Marshals will represent several of the partnering agencies participating in the ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash, including: Abilities First, Anderson Center for Autism, Arc of Dutchess, Cardinal Hayes Home, Devereux Foundation, Down Syndrome Association, Greystone Programs, Maplebrook School, Mid-Hudson Association for Persons with Disabilities, New Horizons, Taconic Innovations and Taconic Resources for Independence. 

“We are extremely pleased this year to be building upon the ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash, which debuted last year to tremendous accolades,” said Walkway Executive Director Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart. “Our new Grand Marshals exemplify all that the ThinkDIFFERENTLY movement in Dutchess County stands for: inclusiveness, openness, community and spirit!”

Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro said, “While I’ll again run in the Walkway half-marathon race, perhaps my greatest source of pride will come from participating in this second annual ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash. We in Dutchess County are proud to ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ about our neighbors with special needs. Instead of focusing on what differentiates us, we look for the innate potential of each individual – and the Dash invites participants of every age and ability to excel.”

City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Robert Rolison said, “The City of Poughkeepsie is honored to hold this exciting event on Main Street once again. We welcome all participants and encourage residents, business owners, family members and friends to come out and show their support for our ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash athletes and the entire Walkway Marathon Race Series.”

This year’s Dash is co-chaired by Toni Ciarfella, Dutchess County Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs, and Linda Campbell, ARC of Dutchess Director of Marketing and Employment Services. Linda Campbell said, “We thank all of our partner agencies for their commitment to the ThinkDIFFERENTLY movement in Dutchess County, and we applaud all of our Grand Marshals, race participants and the agencies they represent for their energy, enthusiasm and will to succeed!”

Edward “Buddy” Sommerfield, the Grand Marshall representing Abilities First who finished the ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash in first place in 2016 said, “Come run with us, we’ll have a great time! Thank you for putting on a great event.”

Jessica Rainey, the Grand Marshall representing Cardinal Hayes Home, said, “I would really like for you to come out and watch us walk and run. We may have disabilities, but we all have the same heart.”

The ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 10th on Main Street near Hamilton Street and proceed down Main Street to a finish line at Mural Square, east of One Civic Center Plaza. As a result, Main Street between Market Street and Hamilton Street will be closed to vehicle traffic from 6 am to 12 pm. Additionally, Academy Street will be closed northbound from Cannon to Main Street, and Catherine Street will be closed southbound from Mill to Main Street. All parking for this event will be in the Crannell Street parking area beginning at 8:00 a.m. Those interested in participating in the ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash can register in advance by visiting walkwaymarathon.org. A fee of $10 will be charged for each race participant. Day of registration will also be available.

Grand Marshals of the 2017 ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash

  • Edward “Buddy” Sommerfield, Abilities First
  • Jarrett Russ, Anderson Center for Autism
  • Elizabeth “Lizzy” Ramsey, Arc of Dutchess
  • Jessica Rainey, Cardinal Hayes Home
  • Kathleen Rivera, Cerebral Palsy of Ulster County
  • Kenny Schaeffler, Devereux Foundation
  • Sarah Harrington, Down Syndrome Association of the Hudson Valley
  • Karena Baez, Greystone Programs
  • Nabil Lopez-Reyes, Mid-Hudson Association for Persons with Disabilities


Organizations partnering with Walkway Over the Hudson on this year’s Walkway Marathon Race Series and the ThinkDIFFERENTLY Dash include:


·       Dutchess County Government

·       City of Poughkeepsie

·       Abilities First

·       Anderson Center for Autism

·       Arc of Dutchess

·       Cardinal Hayes Home

·       Devereux Foundation

·       Down Syndrome Association of the Hudson Valley

·       Greystone Programs

·       Maplebrook School

·       Mid-Hudson Association for Persons with Disabilities

·       Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club

·       New Horizons

·       Taconic Innovations

·       Taconic Resources for Independence



 The following sponsors were recognized:

·       Health Quest

·       M&T Bank

·       Arnoff Moving & Storage

·       Mobile Life Support Services, Inc.

·       iHeart Media

·       Rifton Equipment

·       Clark Patterson Lee

·       Greystone Programs

·       Orthopedic Associates

·       Sims Podiatry

·       Mediacom

·       Altice

·       Arc of Dutchess

·       Abilities First

·       Down Syndrome Association of the Hudson Valley

·       Poughkeepsie Journal

·       Safeguard

·       Hudson Valley Shred

·       Dyson Racing


Registration for the Walkway Marathon Race Series is still open -- visit walkwaymarathon.org


Photo credit: Irv Solero


Photo Caption:


Back row, L-R:  Grand Marshall Kenny Schaeffler, Devereux Foundation; Chris Matson, Cardinal Hayes Home; unidentified woman; Kristina Mukherjee and Melissa McCoy, Abilities First; Marc Molinaro, Dutchess County Executive; Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart, Executive Director, Walkway Over the Hudson; Rob Rolison, City of Poughkeepsie Mayor; Richard Swanson, Greystone Programs; Jason Gehlert, Down Syndrome Association of the Hudson Valley; AJ Beephan, representing NYS Senator Sue Serino; Dash Co-Chair Toni Ciarfella, Dutchess County Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs; Ben Traudt, representing the Dutchess County Legislature.


Front row, L-R: Staff member and Grand Marshal Jessica Rainey, Cardinal Hayes Home; Grand Marshal Edward “Buddy” Sommerfield, Abilities First; Grand Marshal Kathleen Rivera, Cerebral Palsy of Ulster County; Grand Marshal Sarah Harrington, Down Syndrome Association of the Hudson Valley; Grand Marshall Karena Baez, Greystone Programs; Grand Marshall and Walkway Ambassador Jarrett Russ, Anderson Center for Autism; Patricia Lucio-Penn, Mid-Hudson Association for Persons with Disabilities; Dash Co-Chair Linda Campbell, Arc of Dutchess Director of Employment Services.



Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart, Executive Director, Walkway


Steve Densmore, Press Relations