Siracusano and Backhaus team up for Saugerties ambulance fundraiser

Bob Siracusano (right) and Ward Backhaus (center) along with Larry Siracusano (left), with toys distributed during a past Holiday in the Village celebration. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

The Diaz Memorial Ambulance Service needs money. There’s probably nobody in Saugerties more skilled in raising money for worthy local causes than Bob Siracusano of Sawyer Motors. He and Ward Backhaus of Ward Backhaus Collision are now teaming up on a benefit on Friday, August 4 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at Bella Luna restaurant on Partition Street.

The Michael Dell band will perform. Proceeds of the $75-per-person event (including two cocktails and hors d’oeuvres) will go to Diaz Ambulance. If you plan to attend, send your check payable to Diaz to Sawyer Motors at 166 Ulster Avenue in Saugerties.


Siracusano agreed to join the Diaz board this June, according to board president Steve Thornton. Nobody on the board had experience in fundraising prior to Backhaus and then Siracusano joining it. They immediately suggested the event at Bella Luna on August 4, entitled “A night out with Michael Dell.”

With three rigs and a flycar staffed by a dozen or so paramedics and ten EMTs (plus a couple of volunteers), Diaz responded to 2643 service calls last year. With up-to-date technology and constant training, the Saugerties ambulance service has managed to retain the state certification for quality it needs to operate. It prides itself that its rigs are out the door within one minute of dispatch requesting a call.

But it’s not been easy. Payment delays and reductions in insurance and Medicaid reimbursements are exacerbated by time lags in customer or third-party payment. The Saugerties ambulance service’s assets have been slowly diminishing.

“People have always supported us,” said Thornton. The Saugerties town government formed an ambulance district that contract with the service for about $500,000 a year. That has helped a lot.

Diaz needs to replace one of its aging ambulances (all have 100,000 miles or more on the odometer). Delivery is scheduled for three or four months from now. The new rig will cost $130,000. Thornton is hopeful that the event at Bella Luna will cover several payments on it.

The Michael Dell Orchestra, led by Michael Del Vecchio of the Rondout district in Kingston, has been a hit at various Saugerties events, most recently the day before the recent Saugerties Auto Show put on by Siracusano.Del Vecchio is expected to feature his twelve-piece band with two vocalists to Bella Luna on August 4.

Siracusano said more than100 tickets have already been sold so far, and his goal is 200 in all. “It’s a great response,” he said. “Saugerties is such a supportive place for good causes.”

Like the Diaz Ambulance Service itself, the new board member never rests. “This could be an annual event,” Siracusano said.


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