Giving back

From left, volunteers Lauren Iannaccio, Shaun Queen and Erin Hageman with Matheny adult resident Dion Alston.

The Hartford insurance company believes in giving back to the communities in which its employees work and live. Through its Community Service Program, employees are granted eight hours of paid time off to volunteer.

On December 16, four employees from The Hartford’s Rockaway office arrived at Matheny to help make holiday decorations with our adult residents. It was a reunion of sorts as the residents and volunteers recognized each other from a similar event in 2013. The task was to build a giant Santa Claus.

Matheny adult resident Misty Hockenbury with volunteer Greg Freisen.

‘I trust the doctors here’

Occupational therapist Maura Mirecki makes an adjustment to Bari-Kim’s new wheelchair.

When Bari-Kim Goldrosen, who has diplegic cerebral palsy, moved from Matheny into one of Matheny’s community residences in 1997 at age 27, “the original thought,” her mother, Sheila Goldrosen, recalls, “was that if you’re living in the community, you go to doctors in the community.” But Bari-Kim and her family soon realized that the best doctors, dentists and therapists, for people with disabilities, are located at the Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry, and so Bari-Kim travels the 20 miles from Franklin Township, NJ, to Peapack, NJ, to see the therapists and rehab technicians in the MCMD seating and mobility clinic and to receive primary medical care, eye exams and dental care.

The Center of Medicine and Dentistry was started, according to Christina P. Mand, MD, because “we understand the culture of disability. Anyone who comes to our center will feel comfortable in our waiting room—no one will stare or comment, as can happen in a regular physician’s office.” Bari-Kim has an annual physical exam with Dr. Mand and comes for periodic visits in between as needed.

The seating and mobility clinic recently helped Bari-Kim acquire a new wheelchair, something she desperately needed. “The process for obtaining Medicare and secondary insurance authorizations is involved and cumbersome,” explains Kevin McCormick,  director of rehabilitation technology. “However, everyone from the group home manager to the clinician to the rehab staff to Bari-Kim’s parents worked together to get the authorizations.” The new wheelchair was delivered December 18.

“Bari-Kim likes going to the doctors here,” says Sheila Goldrosen. “They know how to handle everything. I trust them.”

The Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry gives more than 800 children, teens and adults with disabilities the best outpatient medical, dental and therapy care possible. But insurance covers less than 50% of the cost of care. Your contributions to Matheny’s #GivingTuesday campaign can help make certain that those with the greatest need continue to get the support and services they deserve.

Click here to DONATE NOW.

Bari-Kim with, from left: Gary E. Eddey, MD., Matheny vice president and chief medical officer; her brother, Neal; mother, Sheila; and father, Dr. Richard Goldrosen.

Music to our ears

Madrigal singer Maggie Fischer with Matheny resident Rasheedah Mahali.

The Madrigals, a vocal ensemble at Bernards High School in Bernardsville, NJ, is in demand for performances outside of its regular school concerts. The group regularly places in the top tier in regional and national competitions—in fact, the Madrigals reached the finals in this year’s NJ101.5 FM Christmas Choir Contest. Their recording aired on the radio on December 17.

On December 9, the Madrigals visited Matheny, sang for our students and patients and participated in some holiday festivities. According to Matthew J. LaPine, BHS director of choral music, the group “is dedicated to service through music, and they try to make it a point to perform for those who are unable to come to their regular performances.”

Matheny resident Yasin Reddick with, from left, Matheny teaching assistant Joanna Alfone and Madrigal singers Christiane Krimmel and Maitlyn Engleby.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

‘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.