Trying out adaptive equipment

Peapack-Gladstone resident Donna Brooten learns about an alternate positioning device from Matheny School director of curriculum Jim Hintenach.

Although virtually all Matheny students and patients are in wheelchairs, they can often benefit from spending time in adaptive tricycles, standers and other alternate positioning devices developed by our physical therapists.

At a recent meeting of Matheny’s Community Advisory Committee, some local residents had an opportunity to try out some of this equipment and learn about its benefits. They also heard about Matheny’s adaptive physical education program which enables Matheny students and patients to play adapted versions of traditional sports such as basketball and soccer.

Judy Silacci, a resident of Peapack-Gladstone, tries out a stander and learns about it from Matheny director of physical therapy Cindy LaBar.

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Versatile volunteer

Amy Bell with Matheny student Tasha Santiago-O’Keefe.

Shortly after her family moved from Atlanta to Peapack, NJ, in August of last year, Amy Bell noticed the Matheny sign at the intersection of Main Street and Highland Avenue.  “I looked Matheny up online,” she recalls, “contacted the Volunteer Services Department and came up for a tour.”

In September, Bell began volunteering “wherever they needed me.” That includes helping out with the Tea Time Café, a snack bar run by Matheny students for employees; assisting with the students’ sandwich shop sales; and providing assistance to the Transportation Department when students are preparing to go on special trips.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know the staff,” she said, “and seeing what they do on a day-to-day basis. I’m amazed at what the students get to experience.” Bell’s husband works for Verizon, and the move from Atlanta was triggered by a transfer to the company’s Basking Ridge, NJ, office. So far, Bell loves living in Peapack, where she says “everyone is very welcoming.”

Matheny needs volunteers from the community during weekdays, evenings and weekends. Individuals can serve as recreation assistants, classroom aides, tutors or just friendly visitors. To get more information, call (908) 234-0011, ext. 282, or email

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Generous support

From left, Larry Thornton, past grand knight; David E. Adams, trustee; Steve Proctor, Matheny president; Robert J. Warren, financial secretary; and Harry Vernon Smith, grand knight. Adams, Warren and Smith are residents of Bridgewater, NJ; Thornton lives in Gladstone.

The Knights of Columbus Council 5959 at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Martinsville, NJ, is known for its generosity and support of nonprofit organizations and causes. On July 2, four members of Council 5959 visited Matheny to deliver a check for $1,594.80 to Steve Proctor, Matheny president. Matheny is a very grateful that we are one of the groups receiving the Knights’ support.

In addition to Matheny, the Knights aid such causes as feeding the homeless, providing coats for the needy and sending packages to men and women in uniform.

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Summer extravaganza

Walter Droz, Salvation Army of Morristown commanding officer, visited Matheny recently to pick up the donated items. With Droz, from left, are Rasheedah Mahali, Matheny adult resident, and Deanna Willard and Claire Torsiello, adult instructors.

Matheny’s Adult Services program hosted a Summer Extravaganza to collect items that the Salvation Army of Morristown, NJ, can use in its children’s daycare program. Intended for children from six months to four years old, the items included bubbles, sidewalk chalk, sunglasses, sunblock, flip-flops, beach towels, diapers and beach toys.

Nearly 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through a broad array of social services ranging from providing food for the hungry to helping underprivileged children. The Salvation Army of Morristown serves 17 communities in Morris County.

Adults in Matheny’s Adult Services program are encouraged to strive for life goals, continue their education and be better able to manage the challenge of community living.

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End-of-school celebration

Matheny student Sara Hoffman enjoyed a visit from her mother Barbara and sister Kim.

As students at the Matheny School prepared to take a break before the start of the summer program, staff members, family members and friends from the community helped them celebrate the successful ending of another school year.

Activities included several adapted physical education games, a sing-along conducted by music teacher Paul West and face painting provided by volunteers. And there was a special double-birthday celebration for volunteer Larry Thornton and student Raven Bennett.

Students presented volunteer Larry Thornton with a giant birthday card.

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Healthy hoops

Teaching assistant Glenn Wey and student Shane Szott.

In what has become an annual tradition, Matheny closed off its front parking lot on Friday, June 20, and converted it into several adapted basketball courts so Matheny students could compete in games designed to raise money for the American Heart Association as part of the AHA’s Hoops for Heart program. The idea was to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease among women and to encourage women to reduce their risks. The day was a success, as $370 was raised from Matheny staff members, friends and families.

Matheny’s adapted physical education program promotes fitness by modifying traditional sports such as basketball to encourage students to create their own independent movements. In addition to basketball, adapted sports include soccer, bowling, football and many others.

Lori Bertoline, regional director, youth market, American Heart Association, standing second from right, visited Matheny to thank everyone for their support and to receive the funds raised through Hoops for Heart. Also standing, from left, Matheny School curriculum supervisor Jim Hintenach, speech-language pathologist Emily Teed and physical therapy aide Meghan Hoskins. Front row, from left, Matheny students Sara Hoffman, Vraj Desai and Mary Rita Tortorello.

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Our special athlete

Shaleena, wearing her medals, celebrates with Matheny staff members. Clockwise, from left, recreation therapist Stephanie Reale, nurse Pearl Chiang, director of recreation therapy Sean Bielefeldt and social worker Kelly Haldaman.

Congratulations to Matheny adult resident Shaleena Tomassini, who won gold medals in the 400-meter and 200-meter wheelchair races at the USA Special Olympic Games held in Princeton, NJ! Tomassini, the first Matheny athlete to qualify for the national games, also won a silver medal in the shot put and 4th place in the 100-meter race.

“It really hit me during the opening ceremony that I had made the team,” she told her fellow residents and staff members at Matheny. “I started to cry. I knew that as long as I tried my hardest, that’s all that mattered. Now I want to go to the World Games.” The next Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held in July 2015 in Los Angeles.

Participation in Special Olympics is an important part of Matheny’s recreation therapy program, which provides a range of recreation choices to improve physical, emotional, cognitive and social well-being. Students, patients and community residents are encouraged to partake in several adaptive sports teams throughout the year, including track and field, adaptive karate and power wheelchair soccer.

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Weekend volunteers

St. Thomas Syro Malabar volunteer Amal Benny of Basking Ridge with adult resident William McGrory.

Weekend mornings and afternoons at Matheny are always filled with a variety of activities for our students and patients, provided by Matheny’s music and recreation therapy staffs. And those activities are always enhanced by the presence of volunteers from the community.

On a recent Saturday, two different church youth groups participated in recreation and music programs. In the morning, volunteers from St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Somerset helped Matheny students and patients with a variety of activities. In the afternoon, volunteers from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Bernardsville participated in a game of musical chairs.

Volunteers are needed at Matheny during weekdays and evenings and on weekends. Individuals can serve as recreation assistants, classroom aides, tutors or just friendly visitors.

Our Lady of Perpetual Church volunteer Lisa Lamaire of Bernardsville with student Katherine Gaudio.

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Ceramics celebration

From left, Chara Rodriguera, a resident of Bridgewater, Jodi Miguel, an Adult Services instructor, and ceramics artist Dion Alston. Miguel coordinated the ceramics project.

Functional pottery and sculptural works created by students in Matheny’s Adult Services program are currently on display in the Bridgewater Public Library in Bridgewater, NJ, and an opening reception on June 16 drew an enthusiastic crowd of families, Matheny staff members and friends from the community.

Matheny’s adult education programs are designed to instill a sense of self-respect and foster self-expression for adult residents and adult day health services patients, and the ceramics program teaches them the fundamentals of working in clay, incorporating the elements of design and principles of art. The pottery and sculptural works are created through hand building techniques of pinching, coiling and slab building. Students also produce works thrown on the wheel with the use of adaptive equipment. Working processes also include communication books and hand-over-hand methods.

Hand-built stoneware by Dion Alston.

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‘Community partners’

Megan Hanson, a volunteer from Goldman Sachs’ Parsippany, NJ, office, shares a laugh with Matheny student India Jones.

Investment banking firm Goldman Sachs has a global volunteer initiative called Community TeamWorks, which enables its employees to take a day out of the office and spend it volunteering with local nonprofit organizations. Last year, 50 Goldman Sachs offices linked up with more than 900 nonprofit “community partners” worldwide.

On Friday, June 6, several volunteers from Goldman Sachs offices in the New Jersey-New York area visited Matheny to spruce up the grounds and help out Matheny School students who were planting vegetable gardens as part of a science project. Last year, the students planted corn; this spring they are expanding the project to include several other vegetables.

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