Dancing the night away

Ridge High students shared the dance floor with Matheny adult resident Yasin Reddick. From left, Emily Parker, Anna Hess and Sarah Desatnick.

Ridge High students shared the dance floor with Matheny adult resident Yasin Reddick. From left, Emily Parker, Anna Hess and Sarah Desatnick.

The theme was “Arabian Nights”; the music was provided by the B.D. Lenz Band and deejay Craig Soprano; the decorations were created by Matheny’s Recreation Therapy Department; and music therapists accompanied belly dancers as students and patients entered the Skylands in Randolph, NJ, for the Matheny Prom, held on Thursday, May 14.

The prom is widely anticipated by the teenagers and adults at Matheny. The girls and young women in attendance received a special beauty treatment earlier in the afternoon given by volunteers from Kaleidoscope Hair & Body Artistry in Basking Ridge, NJ. And the evening was enlivened by the attendance of several members of The Junior Friends of Matheny—students from nearby Bernards and Ridge High Schools—who brought a special community spirit to the event, serving as dancing partners and good friends to the promgoers.

The prom is an example of Matheny’s efforts to enrich the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities. The evening was coordinated by the Recreation Therapy Department, which is responsible for providing students and patients with a variety of recreation opportunities and resources to improve their physical, emotional, cognitive and social well-being. The event was funded by a donation from Novartis.

Raissa Rojas, left, and Emily Maheras of Bernards High on the dance floor with Matheny student, Mohamed El Yamany.

Raissa Rojas, left, and Emily Maheras of Bernards High on the dance floor with Matheny student, Mohamed El Yamany.

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Over the top

Brad Orton examines the merchandise under the watchful eyes of shop volunteers Lynn Nickerson, left, of Bernardsville, NJ, and Arlene Rafalko of Gillette, NJ.

Brad Orton examines the merchandise under the watchful eyes of shop volunteers Lynn Nickerson, left, of Bernardsville, NJ, and Arlene Rafalko of Gillette, NJ.

On April 24th, Brad Orton bought some shorts and a book at The Friends of Matheny’s Second Chance Shop in Gladstone, NJ, and the purchase put the thrift shop over the $100,000 mark for its current season, which runs until June 19.

Orton, who lives in Kendall Park, NJ, works at Komline-Sanderson in Peapack (Peapack-Gladstone is a twin borough).  “It’s nice to contribute in some small part to advance the great work the volunteers perform at Second Chance,” he said. “Frankly, I hate shopping, but I find the experience at Second Chance more like a treasure hunt.” Orton received a $25 gift certificate for breaking the $100,000 barrier, and he looks forward to spending it. “This would get me a t-shirt at the mall,” he said, “but at Second Chance, a suit and maybe shoes if the tag’s the right color.”

The Friends of Matheny is an organization dedicated to providing support to the students and patients at The Matheny School. Since its inception in 1983, the organization has raised more than $3 million to support Matheny’s programs and services.

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Day of beauty

Student Katherine Gaudio gets into the spirit by styling speech-language pathologist Emily Teed’s hair, while speech-language pathologist Sara Pisarchik works on hers.

Student Katherine Gaudio gets into the spirit by styling speech-language pathologist Emily Teed’s hair, while speech-language pathologist Sara Pisarchik works on hers.

Andrea Szott, whose son, Shane, is a resident at Matheny, organizes an annual Day of Beauty for female students and patients. Volunteers from the community and Matheny staff members set up stations for haircuts, hair coloring, manicures, and hand and shoulder massages.

Tea and snacks are served, and Matheny students and patients get an opportunity to not only meet people from the community but also to socialize with staff members in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. It’s another example of how Matheny tries to enhance the lives of people with disabilities, providing them with as many typical life experiences as possible.

Volunteers are always needed at Matheny to serve as recreation assistants, classroom aides, tutors or just friendly visitors. For more information, call 908.234.0011, ext. 282, or email volunteers@matheny.org.

Volunteer Renee Bloom gives a hand massage to student Tammy Boszczuk.

Volunteer Renee Bloom gives a hand massage to student Tammy Boszczuk.

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Raising awareness of artists with disabilities

“This Morning” by Ellen Kane.

“This Morning” by Ellen Kane.

Thirteen Arts Access artists will have their visual art on display at the annual Collaborative Art Exhibition held at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark from May 17 through the end of August. Besides spotlighting the work of Arts Access artists, the exhibit features art from three other organizations for people with disabilities that have adapted the Arts Access Program and its methodology: The Arc Mercer in Ewing, NJ; Hattie Larlham Creative Arts Program in Twinsburg, Ohio; and the WAE Center of Jewish Services for the Developmentally Disabled in West Orange, NJ.

A special Artists Reception will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 17 to launch the exhibition, which was coordinated by Noreen Gomez, facilities program specialist at New Jersey Medical School. Arts Access provides individuals with disabilities the freedom to create in the visual, literary and performing arts. The Collaborative Art Exhibition is one of three four-month shows at the New Jersey Medical School, ranging from paintings and photography to sculpture, jewelry and textiles.

“Friend” by Dion Alston.

“Friend” by Dion Alston.

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Three decades of ‘second chances’

From left, Maureen Prendergast, Andrea Soltesz and Lynn Nickerson demonstrate their aprons, transformed from napkins, pillowcases and shirts.

From left, Maureen Prendergast, Andrea Soltesz and Lynn Nickerson demonstrate their aprons, transformed from napkins, pillowcases and shirts.

The Friends of Matheny’s Second Chance Shop is celebrating its 30th anniversary, a milestone that lent a special festive atmosphere to Linda Horton’s annual “thank you” event for the shop’s volunteers. Horton, a Matheny trustee, manages the shop, which passed the $100,000 mark in sales for this season on April 24.

Each of the volunteers attending the annual celebration event is asked to wear or bring at least one item purchased at the shop that can be modeled or demonstrated for everyone else. This year’s “fashion show,” as usual, was very entertaining.  One volunteer wore a very unusual interchangeable item from Taiwanese designer Corinne Chen, and a group of volunteers showed how they could change napkins, pillowcases and shirts into aprons.

Matheny trustee and parent Edana Desatnick, left, models a coat purchased by Matheny student Raven Bennett, right. Bennett volunteers at the 2nd Chance Shop.

Matheny trustee and parent Edana Desatnick, left, models a coat purchased by Matheny student Raven Bennett, right.
Bennett volunteers at the 2nd Chance Shop.

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Home Depot gives back

Home Depot employees, Matheny staff and students gathered in the front lobby after the work and tour were completed.

Home Depot employees, Matheny staff and students gathered in the front lobby after the work and tour were completed.

On April 23, a group of about 20 employees from The Home Depot stores in Bridgewater, NJ, visited Matheny to plant gardens for a Matheny School science project and perform major makeovers for the nature trail and ball field. And that’s only the beginning. Plans are in the works for more projects in the near future.

After the work was finished, The Home Depot team toured Matheny with Dr. Kendell R. Sprott, our CEO, and had an opportunity to visit with many of the Matheny students and patients. Thanks, Home Depot.

The Home Depot team visited the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center and met adult day patient and Arts Access artist Natalia Manning.

The Home Depot team visited the Robert
Schonhorn Arts Center and met adult day patient and Arts Access artist Natalia Manning.

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Going the miles for Andy

Andy Lash at Miles for Matheny in 2013, with, from left, Dan ??, Melissa and Jack Lash, Morgan ?, and Fred Lash.

Andy Lash at Miles for Matheny in 2013, with, from left, Dan Kane, Melissa and Jack Lash, Morgan and Fred Lash.

Andy Lash will turn 44 in July, and, according to his brother, Justin, “his life has been immeasurably improved by his many years at Matheny. He’s truly a citizen of the community there and has build many long relationships with both his fellow residents and members of the staff.”

That’s why Justin, his wife, Melissa, and son, Jack, along with his parents, Fred and Sue Lash, and sister, Morgan and her husband, Dan, will all be walking with Andy in the Lu Huggins Wheelchair Walk at the 18th annual Miles for Matheny on Sunday, May 31, in Peapack, NJ. The Lash family members have been participating in Miles for 15 years, and Justin estimates they have raised more than $50,000. This year, their Andy “Flash” Lash fundraising team has a goal of raising $5,000, and they had totaled $2,000 as of April 30.

“We are reaching out to work colleagues and other associates,” Justin says, “to remind them of who Andy is, the life he leads and how even a small donation means so much to him and his fellow Matheny residents. The response is always touching and reminds us of how many good people there are in our midst.”

In addition to the Wheelchair Walk, which proceeds one mile around downtown Peapack, Miles activities include five Cycling rides, a Kids Fun Run, and a new one-mile Fitness Walk, which is stroller-friendly and precedes the Wheelchair Walk. There is also a “Breakfast of Champions” sponsored by The Friends of Matheny.

The premier sponsor of Miles is The Poses Family Foundation. Other major sponsors are: The Golub Family, Mariner Wealth Advisors–Madison; Partlow Insurance Agency, Peapack–Gladstone Bank, Porzio Bromberg & Newman P.C. Attorneys at Law, and WCBS Newsradio 880. For more information or to register, log onto www.milesformatheny.org. To support Andy Lash, go to Search for Participant and type in Andy “Flash” Lash.

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Hitting the right notes

Adult residents Luis Rodriguez, left, and Andy Lash enjoy the music along with music therapy intern Kaitlyn Anastasi.

Adult residents Luis Rodriguez, left, and Andy Lash enjoy the music along with music therapy intern Kaitlyn Anastasi.

“That was fun!” That comment by a Matheny adult resident pretty much summed up the feeling of Matheny students and patients after the Florian Schantz Jazz Combo’s hour-long afternoon concert on Sunday, April 19.  Florian Schantz is 12 years old and was joined by his 14-year-old sister Margaret on trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn. Their father, Lowell, played guitar, with two other adults, Cory Ackerman on drums and Rup Chattopadhyay on trombone, tuba, flute and sousaphone.

Pointing out that, “Jazz can come from anywhere,” Florian and his bandmates played selections that ranged from standards such as “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” to jazz versions of such unlikely selections as “Beer Barrel Polka” and “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay.” Several of the Matheny students and patients moved their wheelchairs in rhythm with the music, and one adult resident, Bianca Mathis, performed a song for the band members before they departed.

Florian has been playing the trumpet since he was six years old. Last year, he received the Louis Armstrong Award from the New Jersey Workshop for the Arts in Westfield. The Schantz family and Ackerman are from Westfield. Chattopadhyay is a resident of Scotch Plains.

The Florian Schantz Jazz Combo featuring, from left on brass, Margaret Schantz, Florian Schantz and Rup Chattopadhyay; Lowell Schantz is on guitar. (Not pictured: drummer Cory Ackerman.)

The Florian Schantz Jazz Combo featuring, from left on brass, Margaret Schantz, Florian Schantz and Rup Chattopadhyay; Lowell Schantz is on guitar. (Not pictured: drummer Cory Ackerman.)

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Cycling for support

Stephen Mauriello.

Stephen Mauriello.

When Stephen and Lurdes Mauriello’s son, Danny, was diagnosed with a rare heart disease called Long QT syndrome, the couple was told he would probably not live to see his first birthday. Danny lived until age six, and when he died, the Mauriellos were devastated. “I took up cycling as a way to work through my grief,” Stephen says, “and it just seemed fitting, on the two-year anniversary in the month of Danny’s passing, that I can do something to honor his life and for the children and adults who attend Matheny.”

Having a special child like Danny, he says, “has made me see the world with a more compassionate set of eyes. When I saw the flyer for Miles for Matheny, it seemed like this was an opportunity to use my abilities as a cyclist to help those who are not as fortunate as me. It’s really a privilege and an honor, not just to ride, but to raise money for this wonderful school and hospital!”

Stephen has created a fundraising page on the Miles for Matheny website.  His original fundraising goal was $1,000, but he has already surpassed that, reaching $1,750 as of April 29. His message: “When I see the children in their wheelchairs, it breaks my heart. I think of my own son, Danny, who was often hospitalized but kept smiling as a lot of these Matheny kids do. Please join me in raising money. Kindly give whatever you can—I’ll put the 50 miles in.” The Mauriellos live in Morris Township with their two other sons, six-year-old Robby and 10-month-old Tommy.

The 18th annual Miles for Matheny will feature five Cycling rides, a Kids Fun Run, a new Fitness Walk and the signature event, the Lu Huggins Wheelchair Walk, in which more than 100 wheelchair participants, with walking partners, will travel one mile around downtown Peapack. All funds raised at Miles will benefit programs and services that enhance the lives of the patients and students at Matheny.

Premier sponsor is The Poses Family Foundation. Other major sponsors are: The Golub Family, Mariner Wealth Advisors—Madison, Partlow Insurance Agency, Peapack-Gladstone Bank, Porzio Bromberg & Newman P.C. Attorneys at Law and WCBS Newsradio 880.

For more information or to register, log onto www.milesformatheny.org. To support Stephen Mauriello, go to Search for Participant and type in his name.

Danny Mauriello.

Danny Mauriello.

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‘This is where Sara fits in’

Barbara and Sara Hoffman.

Twelve-year-old Sara Hoffman was enrolled in The Matheny School in September 2013, and her parents, Barbara and Jeff Hoffman of Califon, “feel so blessed that she’s able to attend. We absolutely love the school.” To demonstrate their appreciation, the Hoffmans have created a fundraising page to raise money for Miles for Matheny, the annual fundraiser and community event that will be held on Sunday, May 31, in downtown Peapack. As of April 27, they had raised $695.

The fundraising page is called “Pikkle’s Posse” and its origin can be traced to Sara’s early childhood. “When she was an infant,” Barbara explained, “she had a hard time sleeping, and we would be up late at night with her. We just said, ‘She’s a little pikkle.’”

Sara was born with a neurological disorder called Aicardi syndrome, which results in frequent seizures beginning in infancy. The typical lifespan for an Aicardi syndrome patient, Hoffman pointed out, is 10 years. “We’ve already surpassed that by two years!”

Prior to coming to Matheny, Sara attended the Valley View Elementary School in Califon, part of the Lebanon Township school district. According to her mother, she had a good experience there, but Matheny “is a better fit. Every parent wants their child to fit in, and this is where Sara fits in. These kids are her peers. When we’re out in public, she stands out, people stare. But at Matheny, everybody is so welcoming—plus we have the therapies and the outdoor pool in the summer. They are better equipped to handle her here.”

Matheny, Hoffman feels, is like a family. Her older daughter, Amy, volunteers in the summer, and “because of her sister, she wants to get into pediatric nursing.” And the Hoffmans also appreciate the opportunity to interact with other Matheny families.

At Miles for Matheny, they will be walking with Sara in the Lu Huggins Wheelchair Walk in which friends and families, along with Matheny staff members, travel alongside more than 100 Matheny children and adults who “wheel” through the streets of downtown Peapack to the cheers of community members and other supporters. Other activities include a new Fitness Walk, five Cycling rides and a Kids’ Fun Run, all preceded by The Friends of Matheny’s “Breakfast of Champions.” Title sponsor is the Poses Family Foundation.

Funds raised at Miles for Matheny will benefit programs and services that enhance the lives of children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities and serve people with disabilities in the community. For more information or to register, log onto www.milesformatheny.org or call 908.234.0011, ext. 260. To help support Barbara and Jeff Hoffman’s fundraising efforts, go to the Miles website and click on Search for Participant. Then type in Pikkle’s Posse.

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