Volunteer recruiter

Patrick Frain working on communications skills with student Savannah Conrad.

Students at Somerville, NJ, High School who sign up for either the Amnesty Club or the Model UN Club are immediately told of a special requirement – they must volunteer at Matheny.

That’s because Patrick Frain, the teacher who runs both clubs, has been teaching at the Matheny School summer program for four years, and he feels it’s important for his students to meet some of the Matheny students and learn about the work being done here.

According to Gail Cunningham, Matheny’s coordinator of volunteer activities, the student volunteers from Somerville High “are terrific. That’s because Pat has already told them a little about our residents, so they’re comfortable and ready to relax and have fun.”

Frain, a special education history teacher, enjoys working at Matheny for a simple reason – “the kids.”  He looks forward each day to “seeing the smiles on their faces. And there’s a sense of camaraderie here, a great rapport between the teachers and the therapists and between the teachers and the support staff.”

Sean Murphy, Matheny School vice principal, says Frain is “more than just a summer program teacher. He is part of the Matheny community. Patrick is very quiet and modest about himself, but ask him about the kids, and he lights up.”

Patrick Frain with student Michael Taurozzi.


The beat goes on

During the summer, Matheny’s music therapists, all of whom are talented musicians, have been hosting mid-week programs during lunch time for the enjoyment of staff, students and patients.

On Wednesday, July 11, the instrument of choice was the drum, and several of the music therapists performed in a drum circle located in the rotunda section near the dining rooms. Everyone was invited to “please stop by, play an instrument, if even for a minute or two.” Adult patient Cindy Shanks, shown above, took up the challenge, playing the drums with her feet, accompanied by music therapist Megan Chappius.

Music therapists use various types of music to positively impact students’ and patients’ cognitive, physical, emotional and social skills, helping them realize their potential in society. Activities and techniques include improvisation, rhythm, songwriting, songs, chants, instrumental activities, live music and recorded music.

Spreading our knowledge

Karen Weber, left, with Matheny teacher Peggy Zappulla and student James Wild.

Karen Weber is a third grade teacher at the Bragg School in Chester, NJ, and is currently pursuing an MA in Special Education at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ.  As part of her summer course work, Weber wants to learn about the resources and/or agencies that serve the special needs population.

So on July 11, she visited Matheny, observing all the classrooms and activities. She has a special interest in assistive technology, fueled by one of her College of Saint Elizabeth professors, Dr. Brian S. Friedlander, who is coordinator of the MA in Special Education program and teaches several courses dealing with assistive technology.

Matheny School vice principal Sean Murphy guided Weber on her tour, and they stopped to visit with some students and faculty members who were outside by our organic garden. While Weber, a resident of Rockaway, NJ, is not planning a shift into special education, she believes the special education knowledge will help her with all her interactions in the classroom. She admitted to being somewhat familiar with Matheny by reputation, but was surprised, she said, to learn that we care for and educate adults as well as children.

A special art exhibit in Bernardsville

Michael Martin, at an opening reception on July 9 with his parents, Alan and Linda Martin of Morris Plains. Behind them is Michael’s untitled painting.

Michael Martin can’t speak or walk, but he can communicate, using his eyes and head. For nearly 12 years, as an adult medical day student at Matheny, he has been participating in the Arts Access Program, which enables people with disabilities to create fine art, assisted by professional artist-facilitators.

Martin is one of 15 Arts Access artists displaying paintings through the end of July at the Bernardsville Library in an exhibition entitled “Amalgamation.” Twenty paintings are on display. All proceeds from artwork sales are split 50/50, with half the funds going directly to the artist and the other half going to Matheny to cover the cost of art materials, stretching and framing of the work.

A birthday tradition

From left, Kelly, Kara, Sue and Matthew McDermott, with Matheny student Bryan Desatnick.

Eleven-year-old Matthew McDermott of Basking Ridge, NJ, has made Matheny students the beneficiary of his birthday for the second consecutive year. He asked his friends and relatives to give him games and toys that he could donate to Matheny, and he, along with his sisters, Kelly and Kara, and mother Sue, delivered the presents on Friday, June 29.

Thank you, Matthew!

Wheelchair wash

Volunteers Sam Dillard, left, and his brother Henry of Oldwick, NJ.

It’s extremely important to keep wheelchairs clean, and with that in mind, Matheny held its first ever Wheelchair Wash recently. Thirty-five wheelchairs used by Matheny students were cleaned by staff members with the help of volunteers from the community.

The project was organized by Kim Siara, acting director of occupational therapy, who urged everyone to, “work together to keep our residents’ wheelchairs spiffy!”

Volunteer Kim Collichio of Mountainside, NJ.

Based on its success, another Wheelchair Wash is being planned for those used by adult patients.


Food for art

Janice Kriegman and 3West manager Ryan Harris.

For the past few years, 3West and Ciao, two Basking Ridge, NJ, restaurants owned by Morris Plains, NJ-based Harvest Restaurants, have donated food-tasting stations at Full Circle, the annual celebration of Matheny’s Arts Access Program. Recently, Janice Kriegman, Matheny development officer, presented both restaurants with special plaques expressing our appreciation for their generosity.

Harvest Restaurants began in 1996 with the opening of Trap Rock Restaurant & Brewery in Berkeley Heights, NJ. Other restaurants in the group include Urban Table in Morristown, NJ, and Roots Steakhouse in Summit and Morristown, NJ. Matheny’s Arts Access Program enables people with disabilities to create fine art, assisted by professional artist-facilitators.

Janice Kriegman, left, with Ciao manager Lora Doherty-Caldi.


From Valentine’s Day to graduation

When 17-year-old Samantha Entwistle of Tewksbury, NJ, spoke at the Matheny School graduation on June 15, she recalled her first experience with Matheny, delivering personalized Valentines with two of her friends to Matheny students. She said that experience “triggered for me how important it was to volunteer at Matheny whenever they need me and whenever I can.”

Here’s a photo of Samantha and her friends six years ago, presenting a Valentine’s card to student Aaron Turovlin. Thanks, Samantha! We are proud to have you as part of the Matheny family.

To find out more about volunteering at Matheny, email Gail Cunningham or call her at (908) 234-0011, ext. 282.

Dancing for dollars

Matheny adult patients Cindy Shanks and Dion Alston take a turn on the dance floor.

The Immaculate Conception School in Annandale, NJ, raised $10,000 for Matheny at its annual Dance-A-Thon, held April 20 and 21. Matheny parent Debbie O’Connor, whose son Ryan is a Matheny student, was instrumental in having Matheny designated as a recipient of funds from this event.

“Matheny,” she says, “tries to provide these children with every opportunity to experience life at the highest quality possible.”

To read more about the ICS Dance-A-Thon, look for the spring/summer 2012 Matheny Matters newsletter, arriving in your mailbox soon. Or find Matheny Matters online on the homepage of the Matheny website. If you’d like a copy sent to you, call (908) 234-0011, ext. 273, or email sjosephson@matheny.org.