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Owens offers seniors Medicare information as Seniorama hosts first ever Senior Idol

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MASSENA - When Diana C. Dufresne began work on the first ever Senior Idol competition, she wasn’t sure what to expect.

But what she got on Thursday afternoon was a 20-act show that was perhaps a bit too much of a success.

“I didn’t think there would be this many people here for Senior Idol,” she said. “I’m not usually nervous, but I’m kind of nervous.”

As the acts, all 20 of them took the stage, the seating area at the front of St. Lawrence Centre Arena was packed with few empty seats available.

For those participating in the show, it was great.

This is pretty cool. It’s great actually” said Bob DeCarr, of Parishville, who sang a song and played his guitar.

Mr. DeCarr said the show included more acts than he thought it would, admitting to not even realizing it was a competition until the event got started.

“There’s a lot of musicians. There’s more musicians than I first thought,” he said. “I didn’t really know it was a contest.”

While the majority of the acts were musicians, the show also included a group of cloggers from Franklin County, who actually brought home the day’s top prize.

Lory LaPiene, of Malone is a member of the Kickin’ Kountry Cloggers.

“I think there was more people than I thought there would be,” she said. “I knew there would be a lot of people at the Seniorama, but I didn’t think they would all be sitting down.”

When asked if she planned on coming back again next year, Ms. LaPiene said, “I think so, absolutely. I’ll come back next year and celebrate my 70th birthday.”

Second place went to Sue Robideau, who sang “Somewhere Tonight,” a hit from the group Highway 101. Third place went to Bill Melchior who sang the Lionel Ritchie hit “Still.”

Seniorama Chair Mary Jane Barnes said she was pleased with the show, but noted there will likely be changes for next year.

“I thought it was excellent,” she said, adding next year she would like to break Senior Idol out into its own event.

“We may tie that in with a dinner,” she said, noting that she feels like the talents show kind of took over the event.

“I don’t want to take away from the vendors,” she said. “I appreciate all of them and many of them are repeat vendors who never let us down.”

The problem, she explained, was everyone was sitting down and watching the show, rather than making their way around the arena and visiting the more than 100 vendors and exhibitors who were set up at Seniorama to provide them with information or services.

“I think we need to get back to the basics of what Seniorama is all about,” she said. “Seniorama started 21 years ago as a health and information fair for seniors to provide them with information about Medicare, patient rights, National Grid and other types of information they may need, but not know how to get.”

Among those dispersing information was Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who said his office has been bombarded with calls and letters from concerned senior citizens about potential changes to Medicare.

“The seniors are a very important group and our office has had a lot of requests for information about the Medicare conversation that’s going on, so I thought it was important to be here and let people know what I think about that,” he said. “People need to understand that what the Ryan budget and the Romney/Ryan plan is trying to do is cost shift. They’re going to shift the cost of Medicare to seniors. It’s not going to improve Medicare and it’s not going to reduce Medicare costs, it’s just going to shift them to seniors.”

He continued, “There is a way to reduce Medicare costs and improve health care outcomes. It is a two-step process. The first is to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug purchases and the second is to implement the preventative care provisions, because that will keep people out of the hospital and prevent readmissions which are two of the highest costs to Medicare.”

Mr. Owens noted this was his first time attending the Seniorama and he was impressed with what he saw.

“It’s very well attended. A lot of people who provide very helpful services to seniors come here,” he said. “It’s beneficial to seniors to come to a place where it’s one stop shopping.”

Although Mr. Owens had an informational table set up at the event, that table was manned by his staff, while he made his way around the arena speaking with various exhibitors and seniors he encountered along the way.

One of the exhibitors was Virginia Galligan, who serves as the St. Lawrence County Chapter Coordinator for Project Linus, an organization dedicated to providing blankets to children in need.

“In order to get the word out, I’ll go wherever I have to go,” she said. “We’ve gotten some people who have said they’ll donate fabrics and material.”

Ms. Galligan said those donations help to keep Project Linus running in St. Lawrence County.

“People don’t need to make blankets, we can make them ourselves,” she said, adding volunteers who can make blankets are also needed.

Over the past five years, Ms. Galligan said Project Linus has distributed just over 200 blankets. She said it’s her goal to “cover all of St. Lawrence County.”

“That’s more than 2,000 blankets,” she said. “I’m on a mission. I have a 5-year-old who has a Linus blanket and I think every child should have that.”

To help Ms. Galligan reach her goal, she was also distributing information about the organization’s first ever “Let’s Cover St. Lawrence County’s Children” all-day sewing event.

That will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 21 at St. Lawrence Centre.

“Right now we have approximately 20 volunteers,” said.

If you would like to contribute to Project Linus or volunteer for the all-day sewing event, contact Ms. Galligan at 608-7974.




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