‘Just Like Hanging Out With Friends’

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Patrick Dizon visits with adult resident Rasheedah Mahali.

Volunteering at Matheny, says Patrick Dizon, is “just like hanging out with friends.” Dizon, a senior at West Morris Central High School in Chester, NJ, started volunteering in the fall of 2012. “I began helping out with recreation activities and made some good friends among the students and patients. We listen to music and watch TV together.” During the school year, Dizon volunteers once a week, but during this past summer he was at Matheny about three times weekly.

Dizon discovered Matheny because his mother knew about it, but he urges “people who don’t know about Matheny to ask about it and try volunteering. The staff is very friendly, and the schedule can be very flexible.”

Volunteers are needed at Matheny weekdays, evenings, and on 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 volunteers@matheny.org.


Gotta Dance

At Full Circle 2015 Perspectives, the annual celebration of Matheny’s Arts Access Program, Dani Urso King will be performing in a dance she also choreographed. It’s called “Zip A Dee Doo Dah”, and she promises that, “It is like nothing you have ever seen before. It’s got a lot of zip to it.”

King, who will be 25 on October 20, was born with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, due to an accident at birth. She is non-verbal, but communicates via a Dynavox augmentative communications device. According to her mother Robin, Dani has always possessed “a can do attitude. She is a lightning bolt; nothing gets in her way, and she always finds new ways to shine. She really has no idea what the word disability means. She knows her body does not always work the way she would like, but that has never stopped her.”

Dani has always loved dance. “My favorite,” she says, “is The Nutcracker. I’ve seen it many times, and I love the Christmas Spectacular at Rockefeller Center because you can feel the music, and your body just moves.” When Dani was 14, she saw a performance by Kitty Lunn, a professional dancer who had become a paraplegic as the result of an accident. “She saw me in the audience, and, after her show, she brought me up and danced with me. I never thought I could do anything like dancing before that.”

Three years ago, Dani’s teacher at the Lakeview School in Edison, NJ, told her about Matheny’s Arts Access Program, which enables individuals with disabilities to fully express themselves in the creative arts. She looked the program up online, and, according to her mother, “She came home and told me she was going to Matheny.” Now, she says, “Thanks to Matheny, I can dance, create, and express myself through dance.” She is looking forward to Full Circle because “It is amazing to be part of something that has so many talented people with disabilities in it. We are all different, yet still part of a unique community that links us together. Shows like this make us the rule, not the exception we so often find ourselves in.” Dani also paints and will have three Munny doll designs as part of the Full Circle visual arts exhibit. (Munny dolls are small action figures with moveable joints).

Full Circle will be held from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday, November 7, in the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center at Matheny. The visual arts exhibition, curated by Arts Access project and event coordinator Haeree Park will begin in the Arts Center gallery at 3 p.m. That will be followed by a multi-media stage presentation, produced by dance facilitator Heather Williams, that will feature original works in dance, drama, poetry, and creative writing.

Food and beverage sponsors are: Café Azzurro in Peapack; Gladstone Tavern in Gladstone; 3 West and Urban Table in Basking Ridge; cocoLuxe Fine Pastries in Peapack; and Village Office Supply in Somerset. Tickets to Full Circle are $40 and can be ordered by phone at (908) 234-0011, ext. 260; by email at pcats@matheny.org; or by registering online at events.matheny.org/FullCircle2015. All event proceeds will benefit the Arts Access Program at Matheny.


Friends and Families

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Adult resident Andy Lash, with, clockwise from lower left: his nephew Jack, sister Morgan Kane, brother Justin and sister-in-law Melissa, holding newest addition to the family, Sam.

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Adult resident Amanda Kochell with her mother, Laura Lyttle.

The annual Matheny picnic is an occasion that brings families of students and patients and friends from the community together to visit with each other, enjoy a barbeque prepared by the Matheny culinary staff and savor the end of the summer season outdoors in a stress-free, spontaneous atmosphere. The weather on Saturday, September 12, was cloudy but mostly rain-free. The outdoor pool was open, and musical entertainment was provided by the singing of Geri Brewer, mother of adult resident Rasheedah Mahali;

Deli Delivers

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From left, Larry Thornton, Cesar Guerra, and Kendell R. Sprott, MD, JD.

Cesar Guerra, owner of Cesar’s Corner Deli in Peapack-Gladstone, also owns a landscaping company. During this past summer he brought a crew of volunteer workers to Matheny to do some weeding and general gardening work in the courtyard outside the Center of Medicine and Dentistry.

Kendell R. Sprott, MD, JD, Matheny’s CEO, and Larry Thornton, a Matheny trustee, visited Cesar’s recently and presented Guerra with a plaque that gratefully recognized him for his “dedication and commitment to our children and adults with special needs. The volunteer service you have performed has greatly enhanced their quality of life. Thank you for your support!”


Community Plunge

Each semester, Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ, conducts a day-long community service project for all incoming students. It’s called Community Plunge and offers students an opportunity to volunteer and learn the value of community service.

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Stewart Lester of Middlesex, NJ, and Kayla Gonzalez of Secaucus, NJ, visit with Matheny student Shane Szott.

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Vincent Picarelli of Roselle Park, NJ, helps Matheny student Jamil Jones compete in a ‘musical wheelchairs’ game.

On August 31, several Centenary students visited Matheny and participated in recreation activities that included wheelchair relay races, swimming, and a variety of competitive games and contests. Matheny’s Recreation Therapy program provides  students and patients with recreation opportunities and resources that improve their physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being.

Arts Access in the Park

Matheny’s Arts Access Program will exhibit at Peapack-Gladstone’s Art in the Park event on Sunday, September 20, in Liberty Park. Mugs, scarves, neckties, and books featuring artwork and writings of Arts Access artists will be available for sale.

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A painting by Arts Access artist Kevin White is highlighted on this scarf.

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This mug features the artwork of Arts Access artist Mike Martin.

Art in the Park began in 2000 as a showcase for arts and crafts from local artists and provides an opportunity for attendees to meet and talk with individual artists. Arts Access is a unique fine arts program enabling artists with disabilities to fully express themselves in the creative arts.

Like a ‘Second Family’

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T.J. Rasmussen helps out in a Matheny School classroom, assisting student Nicholas Barros.

Four years ago, a family friend suggested to T.J. Rasmussen that she might want to volunteer at Matheny. “I came to visit,” Rasmussen says, “and I fell in love with it.” To Rasmussen, a resident of Bedminster, NJ, Matheny is like a “second family.” She visits regularly, helping out in Matheny School classrooms, participating in recreation therapy activities or just socializing with the students and patients.

Matheny is just one of Rasmussen’s volunteer activities. She’s also a member of the Far Hills-Bedminster Rescue Squad and volunteers at Mane Stream, the Oldwick-based facility that offers adaptive horsemanship for individuals with disabilities. An added plus at Mane Stream is an opportunity to interact with Matheny School students when they go there for weekly therapeutic horseback riding sessions. Rasmussen is currently studying for her associate’s degree online and plans to either continue her education at Raritan Valley Community College or join the Air Force and become a paramedic.

Volunteers are needed at Matheny weekdays, evenings, and on 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 volunteers@matheny.org.



In the Swing

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Bonnie Gould chooses her golf shirts.

The Second Chance Shop, the Gladstone thrift shop operated by The Friends of Matheny, was packed by mid-morning on August 19, for “First Chance at Second Chance”, a one-day opening of the shop from 8:30 am. to 5:30 p.m. Located adjacent to the United Methodist Church on Jackson Avenue, the shop will reopen for the 2015-16 season on Wednesday, September 1. Among the early shoppers was Bonnie Gould, a resident of Basking Ridge, who was making only her second visit. Gould said she was impressed by the selection of golf shirts and was having trouble making a selection.

All proceeds from sales at Second Chance support the children and adults at the Matheny.



A Very Special Day


Zoey Mitzner, a student at Wiliam Annin Middle School in Basking Ridge, NJ, was always aware of Matheny, but, admittedly, “didn’t know much about it.” When she started thinking about a project for her bat mitzvah, she recalled that,“I wanted to help others and try to put a smile on as many faces as I could. I started researching, and Matheny looked like a perfect fit!” Mitzner met with Gail Cunningham, coordinator of volunteer activities, and David Curcio, volunteer assistant, and decided to create a “day of beauty” for some of the female students and patients.

“I then gathered my sister, Maddie, and two close friends, Adriana Giordano and Kathleen Finn,” she said. “Together we purchased all the supplies and extras to make this day as special as possible and, hopefully, unforgettable. We all can’t stop talking about our amazing experience at Matheny and our new friends. We only hope it was as meaningful for them as it was for us.”

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Zoey Mitzner and Matheny adult resident, Misty Hockenbury, during the ‘Day of Beauty’ event.

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From left, Maddie Mitzner, Adriana Giordano, Zoey Mitzner, and Kathleen Finn.

Mitzner’s bat mitzvah will be held August 15 at the Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, NJ. “As part of my speech,” she said, “I plan on sharing our special day at Matheny and encouraging all of my friends to volunteer in the future. I will certainly be volunteering again at Matheny, with even more friends, possibly at Halloween and during the holidays. Trust me, this is only the beginning!”

Lowe’s Heroes

Each year, as part of the Lowe’s Heroes program, employees from the Lowe’s home improvement chain volunteer thousands of hours of their time to help out with projects that benefit communities.

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Lowe’s Heroes, from left: Ronald Gagliociello of Andover Twp.; Brandon Neuman, Long Valley; Anthony Defrancesco, Budd Lake; Sean Temple, Mount Arlington; Jordan Holman, Budd Lake; and Colin Depuy, Hackettstown.

At Matheny, we have our own Lowe’s heroes – volunteers from the Flanders, NJ, store, who have weeded our vegetable garden and constructed cedar planters. They’re also planning to do some heavier work in other garden areas at Matheny – removing overgrown bushes and pruning the trees

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