Making holiday shopping easier

From left, adult services instructor Jodi Miguel, Friend of Matheny Andrea Szott and Matheny resident Aaron Turovlin.

The Friends of Matheny raises money throughout the year to provide Matheny’s students and patients with extras that enhance their quality of life. For example, during the holiday season, The Friends’ Holiday Boutique makes it easier for them to buy presents for family members.

The Boutique, set up in the children’s dining room on December 8, gave Matheny’s students and patients an opportunity to shop for good, inexpensive holiday gifts. It was stocked with items from The Friends’ Second Chance thrift shop, and, for very reasonable prices, the patients and students could purchase gifts and have them wrapped.

Since its inception in 1983, The Friends of Matheny has raised more than $3 million to support Matheny’s programs and services.

From left, Friend of Matheny Helen Fallone, Matheny resident Lauren Nelson, personal care assistant Claudett Brown and adult services instructor Imelda Schroeder.

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Season’s greetings

Music therapist Megan Chappius helps Jamie Formisano use a switch to activate a bell sound.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Hanukkah Dance” and a “Santa Claus Medley” were just some of the holiday songs performed by the Matheny Choirs on December 3 and 4 in the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center.

The vocal choir and midi bell counterparts (for nonverbal participants) are part of Matheny’s unique music therapy program. The music therapy staff consists of five full-time, board-certified music therapists. The choirs perform throughout the year at a variety of venues. Their appearances this year included both Holiday Express benefit concerts, December 11 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ, and tonight (December 18) at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ; the Peapack–Gladstone tree lighting ceremony; and the annual Festival of Trees at the Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge, NJ.

Matheny’s music therapy program also facilitates trips by students and patients to outside concerts and musical performances.

The vocal choir in full holiday swing.

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Adapting to ‘adapted sports’

Matheny School teacher Peggy Zappulla watches as a visitor to the Matheny booth tries out the adapted baseball pitch game.

Children accompanying their parents at the recent New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) convention in Atlantic City were introduced to the world of adapted sports when they visited the Matheny School exhibit.  They were invited to participate in an adapted baseball pitch game, which would be part of a “pitching center” in a Matheny physical education class. Students could throw a ball or grasp and release a ball that was attached to a sklz trainer. The target was the mouth of a bulldog, which is the Matheny mascot.

In addition, a visual and/or physical impairment was added, according to Jim Hintenach, Matheny School supervisor of elementary education. “Some participants covered their eyes; others may have used only one hand or used their thumb, elbows or other body parts to propel the ball, just as our students do.” The idea was to help people understand that students with special needs and all people with disabilities are able to participate in various sports activities, with some adaptions.

The NJEA convention attracts thousands of educators throughout the state who are looking for high-quality professional development and the latest in educational technology.

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Matheny Muses ‘roar’

Matheny residents Jameir Warren-Treadwell and Tasha Santiago-O’Keefe perform “Roar,” assisted by personal care assistant Cathy Ibarrondo.

Art can’t save a life, but it can always enrich one.

While suffering from bone cancer in her teens, Naomi Cohain used art as a vehicle for self-expression, an emotional outlet and a source of comfort. Sadly, she died at age 15. In Naomi’s memory, the Englewood, NJ-based organization ArtWorks: the Naomi Cohain Foundation was formed. It serves children and young adults who suffer from chronic and life-threatening illnesses, giving them and their siblings access to creative and performing arts programs that encourage the use of the creative process as a vehicle for healing, communication, self-expression and personal development.

Every November, ArtWorks presents “Express Yourself,” a creative and performing arts exhibition that provides a forum for artistic expression. The Matheny Muses, a group of Matheny students and patients who share their love for singing, dancing and playing music, led off this year’s “Express Yourself” performances with their rendition of Katy Perry’s “Roar.” As the program stated, the Matheny Muses “remind us not to sit in defeat but to move to the music.”

The Muses are participants in Matheny’s music therapy program, which uses various types of music to aid students’ and patients’ cognitive, physical, emotional and social skills, helping them realize their potential in society. Other hospitals providing performers at “Express Yourself” included the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackesack, NJ; St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Paterson, NJ; and PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ.

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Firehouse fun

Matheny student Mohammed Ayman Hosain and teaching assistant Glenn Wey.

Matheny School students made their annual visit to the Peapack-Gladstone Fire Department, and this year school staff created a scavenger hunt with 13 questions relating to fire safety and prevention. “The students would identify key vocabulary answers,” explains Jim Hintenach, supervisor of elementary education, “and then locate the manipulative item in the firehouse.” Once the item was found, students would stamp a checklist, and when it was completed, they got a chance to spray the hose with volunteer firemen Ed Badger and Kevin Fagan.

The fire department visit is an example of how skills and behaviors learned in the classroom are practiced and used during interactive trips to various community resources.

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Therapy can be fun

Elizabeth Simpson of Gladstone tries out a wheelchair.

Children and adults from Peapack-Gladstone and surrounding communities recently experienced riding in wheelchairs, met some of the Matheny students and patients, and learned about Matheny’s Arts Access Program and how it works.

It was all part of an informal, activity-filled afternoon in the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center on Sunday, November 2, designed to introduce some of the entertaining aspects of the various therapies that play such a central role in Matheny’s mission of improving the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities.

It also was a time when community residents and Matheny staff members could get to know each other better in a very informal, open atmosphere. Those in attendance thought we should do it again, and we are already planning another event for the spring.

Debbie Infusino of Gladstone rides on the therapy horse.

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‘All the doctors here take care of him’

Nicholas Barros with Sara Osman MD, physiatrist, and J. Andrew Bowe MD, pediatric orthopedist.

Eleven-year-old Nicholas Barros was born with a condition called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. As a result of this condition, Nicholas has major medical issues relating to his weak joints and the need for support.

His mother, Estela Perez of Bernardsville, NJ, brings him to the Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry (MCMD) to see the pediatric orthopedist and physiatrist, as well as the dentist. “If the clinic weren’t here,” she says, “I would have to go from hospital to hospital. All the doctors here take care of him.” And if there’s a service Matheny doesn’t have, “the put me in touch with other doctors,” says Perez. “They don’t just leave me alone.” Nicholas also makes regular visits to the MCMD’s seating and mobility clinic, where adjustments are made to his wheelchair, and where, says Perez, “they have provided me with information that helps us make our house more accessible.”

The MCMD specializes in healthcare for people with mild to severe developmental and intellectual disabilities in an outpatient setting. It gives more than 800 New Jersey kids, teens and adults with disabilities the best outpatient medical, dental and therapy care possible.

Nicholas attends The Matheny School, and his school physical therapist, Elizabeth Hess, accompanies him and his parents during visits with the orthopedist and physiatrist. “It prevents important information from being lost,” Hess explains. “It allows me, after hearing what the doctor says, to go over it with Nicholas’ parents later, because sometimes it’s hard to take in all at once everything the doctor says.”

Insurance covers less than 50% of the cost of care in the Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry. Your contributions to Matheny’s #GivingTuesday campaign will make certain that those with the greatest need continue to get the support and services they deserve.

Click here to DONATE NOW.

Estela Perez and Nicholas in the waiting room.

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Honors for an outgoing CEO

From left, Matheny trustees Peter Holloway and Brian Foley and Judy and Steve Proctor.

“In the future, when people come to the front desk and want to know where the medical and dental clinics are, we will direct them to the Proctor Center of Medicine and Dentistry.” That announcement was made at a farewell party on November 20 for retiring Matheny CEO Steve Proctor. And it was a fitting tribute to the man who was determined that Matheny inpatients and outpatients from the community would receive their medical and dental care in an appropriate and comfortable setting, something that he accomplished in 2003. To make sure everyone remembers him, The Friends of Matheny announced that the auxiliary group was having a portrait of Proctor painted and that it would hang in the center.

There were lots of other speakers at the event, held in the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center. State Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman described Proctor as “a great man who has made such a difference in people’s lives.” Then, he introduced his colleague, Assemblywoman Donna M. Simon, who read a proclamation about Proctor signed by her, Bateman and Assemblyman Jack M. Ciattarelli. Also in attendance were Jennifer Velez, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, and Dawn Apgar, deputy commissioner. Addressing Proctor, Velez said he deserved “every bit of praise and accolades you receive. You are truly a champion. Your partnership with the state could not have been stronger.” Added Apgar: “You provided so much leadership. Your input goes far beyond this facility.”

Thanking everyone who attended, Proctor, who has spent almost 16 years at Matheny, said his job was simply “to try to normalize lives for people who years ago would have been shut away somewhere.” The evening concluded with a performance by Matheny music therapists of a medley of songs made popular by Earth, Wind & Fire, one of Proctor’s favorite music groups.

Assemblywoman Donna Simon reads the proclamation while Senator “Kip” Bateman, left, and Dan McLaughlin look on.

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Compassionate care

Larissa Garcia with Mengchi Steven Yang, DDS.

When Larissa Garcia was born, everything seemed normal.  Then, a few days later, she had difficulty breathing. Genetic tests revealed that she had trisomy 13, a chromosomal condition associated with severe intellectual disability and physical abnormalities in many parts of the body. Because of the life-threatening medical problems that present themselves shortly after birth, many trisomy 13 patients don’t survive past infancy, but Larissa is now nine years old and attending school in Mount Olive, NJ.

Finding dental care for someone with Larissa’s condition, however, was a problem until her family discovered the dental clinic at the Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry four years ago. “I was crazy,” her mother, Rosemary Wood, recalls. “I was wondering, ‘Where am I going to take her for a dentist?’”

Going to the dentist can be stressful for any of us, but for someone with Larissa’s disability it can be frightening.  At Matheny, says Wood, “They’re so caring. Everybody makes her comfortable. Dr. Yang, the dentist, is so patient. If she starts screaming, he says, ‘All right, Larissa, we’ll give you a break.’ He’s a really great guy. It means a lot to me.”

The Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry provides more than 800 New Jersey kids, teens and adults with disabilities  the best medical, dental and therapy care possible. Dental services include X-rays, cleanings, fillings, extractions, restorative dentistry, oral surgery and root canals. Services are provided in partnership with the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine.

Unfortunately, insurance covers less than 50% of the cost of care in the Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry. Your contributions to Matheny’s #GivingTuesday campaign will make certain that those with the greatest need continue to get the support and services they deserve.

Click here to DONATE NOW.

Says Rosemary Wood: “We just love it at Matheny. Everybody is so compassionate. It makes a difference in  kids’ lives because they have gone through so much.”

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Learning from a ‘Retail University’

Book signing at It’s All Good. From left, Matheny teacher Darlene Tammara, Raven Bennett, Matheny speech-language pathologist Brynna Cunningham and It’s All Good store manager Diane Gerber.

Matheny School student Raven Bennett has written a book called “Heart Attack” that tells the story of a relationship through poetry. Bennett’s poems reflect different stages of a typical relationship and the journey a person takes through a relationship.

Bennett’s accomplishment, in and of itself, is quite impressive, but now that the book has been written, she wanted to market it more aggressively. Enter It’s All Good, a store in Somerville, NJ, operated by Bridges to Employment, the supported employment division of Alternatives, Inc., a nonprofit social service organization that has been providing a variety of services to those with special needs in the community since 1979. Through a grant from the Kessler Foundation, Alternatives was able to create a “Retail University” to provide job training and readiness assessments to individuals with brain injuries, neurological impairments and other disabilities.

Through the Retail University program, Bennett learned about event planning and was able to hold a book signing at It’s All Good on October 24. She also learned how to create an email campaign using a professional email server in order to market the event and create a list of followers. At the signing, Bennett sold 16 books, and she donated the proceeds to her church in Bound Brook, NJ

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