Loudonville, N.Y. — The Siena Men’s Basketball Team was conferred the 2020 Autism Action Award by New York State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara Thursday afternoon at the Alumni Recreation Center. The award was presented to the Saints for their ongoing support towards individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“I’m proud to support great partners in our community who are helping bring more awareness to the obstacles and challenges that families living with autism face each day,” said Santabarbara, who is the Assemblyman for the 111th Assembly District representing Albany, Montgomery, and Schenectady Counties, and who serves as the Chair of the State Assembly’s Sub-Committee on Autism Spectrum Disorders.
“The sensory-friendly game with the Siena College Basketball team is a special day for the many families living with autism,” Santabarbara said. “It has become an annual event that supports the goals of my Autism Action Plan, creating a new opportunity for those affected by autism to see the Siena Saints play in a special game just for them.”
Siena Basketball hosted its Second Annual Sensory Friendly and Autism Awareness Game last Dec. 29, in which special accommodations were made to create a more sensory-friendly environment for fans with autism and other special needs. Head coach Carmen Maciariello and the team – along with Assemblyman Santabarbara, Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region and others – spearheaded the effort both to bring awareness to this important cause as well as promote this special game.
“We are honored to receive the 2020 Autism Action Award,” explained Maciariello. “We value the opportunity to raise awareness and provide a sensory-friendly environment for all.”
In an effort to create a more sensory-friendly environment, slight in-game adjustments were made to the lighting, public address, and music levels, and flashing ads on the video scoreboard, ribbon boards, and scorer’s table and media table LED displays were eliminated. Additionally, public address reads and video features were conveyed during the game to help raise autism awareness for those in attendance, and coaches and bench personnel from both teams wore signature autism puzzle ribbons. Moreover, special group rates for designated sensory-friendly seating sections were offered to accommodate spectrum guests and others with special needs and their families. A total of 6,202 fans saw the Saints defeat Holy Cross 74-62 that Sunday afternoon in a sensory-friendly environment.
“This is a tremendous honor bestowed upon our men’s basketball program, and I’m proud of our Saints for all that they have done to bring awareness to this important cause,” noted Siena College Vice President and Director of Athletics John D’Argenio. “I’d also like to thank Siena College Associate Director of Communications Lisa Witkowski for originally pitching the idea of a sensory-friendly basketball game, and playing an integral role in the annual success of this event.”
The Siena Men’s Basketball team was initially scheduled to be presented with the 2020 Autism Action Award during Santabarbara’s annual Autism Action Day at the State Capitol on Apr. 22, but the event was postponed due to the shutdown imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to Santabarbara, Coach Maciariello, several members of the men’s basketball team and D’Argenio, Santabarbara’s teenage son Michael, who is on the spectrum, and Siena College President Dr. Chris Gibson ’86, Ph.D. were also in attendance for Thursday’s presentation.
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