Creativity with clay

Matheny ceramics display at recent Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Fall Arts Festival

Matheny’s ceramics program continues to grow. Twelve pieces created by Matheny adults were displayed as part of the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Fall Arts Festival in Newark, which ended on January 7. And the ceramics program will have its second exhibition at the Bridgewater, NJ, Public Library in June. A reception will be held June 3 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Matheny’s adult education programs are designed to instill a sense of self-respect and provide an opportunity for self-expression for adult residents and adult day health services participants. The ceramics program teaches them the fundamentals of working in clay, incorporating the elements of design and the 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 use of adaptive equipment. Working processes also include communication books and hand-over-hand methods. The program is coordinated by Jodi Miguel, a Matheny adult services instructor.

Volunteering and giving back

Stefanie Wolff holds one of many boxes of art supplies she donated to Matheny. At left is her mother, Susan Wolff; at right is Janice Kriegman, Matheny development officer.

Stefanie Wolff, a seventh grader at the Marlboro Memorial Middle School in Marlboro, NJ, learned about Matheny when she visited her cousin, Jenna Polyeff, a Matheny resident. As a result, Stefanie volunteered at Matheny, participating in music and storytelling events.

Recently, as her bat mitzvah project at Temple Beth Ahm in Aberdeen, NJ, Stefanie spoke about her volunteering experience and collected art supplies, which she then donated to Matheny. Stefanie had also attended Jenna’s bat mitzvah, which was held last May in Matheny’s Robert Schonhorn Arts Center.

Our teacher who ‘rocks’

Dawn Williams with Joshua Rincon at the Peapack-Gladstone firehouse.

Dawn Williams, preschool teacher at The Matheny School, has been selected as one of the “Teachers Who Rock, Class of 2015” by radio stations WDHA 105.5 FM and WMTR 1250 AM. These Greater Media stations recognize 24 outstanding New Jersey teachers every year for their important contributions to society. Each Friday two winners are announced on the air, and their stories are read on both stations’ morning shows. Williams’ name was announced on Friday, January 9. She and the other 23 honorees will be feted at an awards banquet in April.

According to Annie Rodriguez, Greater Media New Jersey regional events coordinator, the judges loved Williams’ “creativity and willingness to have fun with her students. She really deserves the honor.” Williams believes the best teachers “are those who inspire us, who believe in us until we believe in ourselves, who push us, open up our minds, show us different worlds, help us understand, help us break barriers and truly bring out the best in us.”

Sean Murphy, Matheny School principal, says Williams is “a very patient and compassionate individual who takes each student’s unique goals, needs and interests into account every day.” Hillsborough, NJ, resident Jairo Rincon-Galeano, whose son, Joshua, is in Williams’ class, describes her as “caring and loving. We are so glad she is our son’s teacher and his caregiver. She rocks!”

Dawn Williams with student Kimberly Alarcon at the Matheny Prom.

Mardi Gras for Matheny

Rick St. Pierre with customer Frances Fago of Raritan, NJ, at last year’s Mardi Gras celebration.

Every year, the Verve Bistro in Somerville, NJ, raises money for Matheny as part of its annual Mardi Gras celebration. This year there will be a twist.

Usually the Verve Mardi Gras festivities begin on the Thursday preceding Fat Tuesday and finish with a mask auction on the evening before Ash Wednesday. This year, however, the Saturday before Fat Tuesday is Valentine’s Day, so Rick St. Pierre, Verve’s owner, has decided to start the Mardi Gras celebration on Fat Tuesday and have a special Matheny Mardi Gras party afterward, concluding on Sunday, February 22, with a gumbo cookout.

A portion of the proceeds, including funds raised from the mask auction, will go to Matheny. Many of the masks on display will be made by Matheny students, patients and staff members. Anyone wishing to donate a mask, however, should drop it off by February 14 at Verve, 18 Main St., in Somerville.

Last year, Verve raised $2,219 for Matheny. Since the restaurant’s opening in the late 1990s, St. Pierre has given back to the community. He was named Somerville’s Citizen of the Year in 2011 and was presented with the Somerset County Business Partnership’s Economic Vitality Award in 2008.

To make reservations during the Mardi Gras celebration, February 17–22, call (908) 707-8655 and be sure to mention Matheny.

Green Wave rolls in

The Delbarton basketball team and Matheny staff members. In front, from left, Matheny students Shane Szott, Jamil Jones and James Wild.

The Delbarton Green Wave basketball team came to Matheny on December 22 for its annual visit, which included a variety of basketball contests, to the delight of Matheny students and patients. This is an event eagerly anticipated every year, and the 2014 edition did not disappoint.

The Delbarton players took part in several skill competitions with Matheny staff members and helped students and patients compete in adapted versions of the sport. They also tossed Delbarton T-shirts into the seats, arena-style.

Sports are a major activity at Matheny. Students and adults participate in a variety of adapted sports, compete in Special Olympics and often attend high school, college and professional games. The Delbarton School is an independent Roman Catholic learning center in Morristown, NJ, for young men in grades 7–12.

Dance dedication

Sharanya delivers a check to Chris King, Matheny vice president, operations and administrative services.

When Pingry School student Sharanya Pulapura gave her classical Indian dance graduation performance, the Bharatanatyam Arangetram, at the Watchung Hills Performing Arts Center in Watchung, NJ, she decided to dedicate the program to Matheny. The printed program pointed out that Matheny’s mission is “to provide exceptional care and an optimal quality of life for children and adults with special needs and medically complex developmental disabilities. All donations are voluntary.” Pulapura, a resident of Bridgewater, raised more than $2,000.

Bharatanatyam is the term for a style of dance that originated in the temples of south India thousands of years ago. The style incorporates precise hand gestures, facial expressions and sophisticated body and foot movements. Arangetram means “ascending the stage.” Pulapura danced for three hours accompanied by live music from a south Indian classical music vocalist, drummer, flutist and her guru/teacher, Renuka Srinivasan, who operates the Tala Shruti School of Dance in Fords, NJ.

Here we come a-caroling

Frances Steele and Matheny student India Jones.

For at least 10 years now, Jane Steele of Far Hills, NJ, has gathered family members, friends and neighbors to sing Christmas carols to Matheny students and patients. This year, her singing group arrived on the afternoon of December 23 and visited all three residential zones, taking requests and inviting Matheny residents to join in the singing.

The selections ran the gamut of popular songs of the season, but the most requested selection by far was “Jingle Bells.” Many of the younger carolers have also been volunteers through the years, so, in addition to celebrating the holidays, it was an opportunity to renew old acquaintances.

Volunteers are needed at Matheny throughout the year during weekdays, evenings and weekends.  Individuals can serve as recreation assistants, classroom aides, tutors or just friendly visitors. For more information, call (908) 234-0011, ext. 282, or email

Charlotte Steele with Matheny student Bianca Mathis.

Special gifts

Matheny student Katherine Gaudio displays her gifts as Skanska employees look on. From left, Kim DeRocca, Lisa Mancuso, Young Moon and Stacey Sturrock.

Employees from Skanska USA’s Parsippany, NJ, office have been visiting Matheny during the holidays since 2010, bringing gifts for the students and patients. This year, the Skanska visitors decided to personalize their presents. They asked Matheny staff members to provide a list of items on Matheny residents’ Christmas lists. So, when they arrived, they had specific gifts for specific people.

The new system worked perfectly, and the Matheny students and patients were amazed that the Skanska employees somehow knew what they wanted. Since the same Skanska employees come every year, there was also an opportunity for some holiday socializing with familiar faces. Sweden-based Skanska AB is one of the world’s leading construction companies.

Lisa Mancuso and Matheny adult resident Chris Saglimbene.

An annual birthday tradition

Matt McDermott delivers a check for $500 to development officer Janice Kriegman.

Matt McDermott’s donations to Matheny have become a yearly tradition. The Basking Ridge resident asks those attending his birthday party every year to bring a toy, game or money to donate to a worthy cause. This year, the toys and games were given to the Neighborhood House in Morristown, and McDermott, a seventh grader at the Delbarton School in Morristown, presented a $500 check to Matheny to be used to supplement Matheny’s recreation therapy budget.

McDermott also has formed a group called Athletes in Motion, designed to raise funds for special athletes in the community. Matheny’s recreation therapy program provides our students and patients with a variety of recreation opportunities and resources to improve their physical, emotional, cognitive and social well-being.