Former Knicks star shows how Spectrum designs change lives | SehndeWeb

Former Knick John Starks visited Spectrum Designs in Pleasantville on Tuesday to tour its Pleasantville facility, which primarily employs workers with autism and related conditions. Starks is pictured with Spectrum Designs CEO Patrick Bardsley, left, and COO Tim Howe, right.

Former New York Knicks star John Starks knows how to overcome obstacles.

Starks was passed over by every NBA Draft team out of college, but managed to shape a successful 13-year career, including a trip to the 1994 Finals and other memorable moments with the Knicks.

On Tuesday, he visited Spectrum Designs in Pleasantville, a custom apparel and promotional products organization that trains and employs neurodiverse workers, most of whom are on the autism spectrum, to see firsthand how staff have become a valued member of the operation.

“They do a wonderful job, and like I said, their goal is to get them to do things for themselves and you have to commend Spectrum and their mission statement for giving every individual the opportunity to do something of his life, and for them to take people with disabilities is amazing,” said Starks, who visited Spectrum’s Pleasantville warehouse on Tompkins Avenue in recognition of Autism Awareness Month.

About 60% of Spectrum Designs’ 70 employees across the organization have disabilities, said co-founder and CEO Patrick Bardsley. Its original location is in Port Washington on Long Island with approximately 20 workers in Pleasantville.

There is no shortage of work to do. Currently, staff are busy producing the rally towels and t-shirts that will be distributed to fans attending home playoff games this spring for the Brooklyn Nets and New York Rangers. They need to produce around 20,000 for each game.

Bardsley said the work could get a little intense if at least one of the teams has a long playoff streak. There may be instances where there will be less than 48 hours notice to produce a game’s assets if a series is extended.

“We are doing everything we can do,” he said. “We always used to say yes and find out later. But it’s with the greater mission in mind to create even an extra hour of employment for people on the spectrum that’s worth it to us.

Spectrum got the job through a Long Island-based sports branding company, Coyote Promotions, Bardsley said. The staff must produce the goods in time for each game. The nonprofit is not a place that offers busy work just to make its employees feel good about themselves, he said.

“It’s not charity, it’s not a game,” Bardsley said. “We want to be seen as a real business and that’s what we are. So it’s a good message.

Working for the Nets and Rangers isn’t the only job Spectrum currently handles. They are also in the process of producing 60,000 face masks for the State Department of Transportation and it is the official approved supplier to New York State Parks for all of their retail merchandise.

Spectrum also embroiders the garments of state school districts and some colleges.

Tim Howe, Spectrum’s COO, said the job allows employees to become more self-sufficient while giving them purpose. For many people with autism, they’ve been told since high school that they might never find a job, forcing them to be on Medicare or Medicaid their entire adult lives, he said.

With unemployment rates among people on the spectrum above 70%, the organization is trying to change the life prospects of its employees.

“Next comes Spectrum Designs and says, ‘We see you, you are capable and you can thrive in this environment because we built it for you. We built it around what we think you can do, so come show us,” Howe said. “Being part of that is just beyond that.”

Starks, who works in the Knicks’ front office in marketing and runs its foundation that provides scholarships to high school students in the tri-state area, said it was inspiring to see the work of Spectrum and its employees.

“Spectrum Designs is amazing,” he said. “Coming here and seeing the workers and being productive, these guys are doing amazing things to help people with disabilities.”


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