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Friends of Matheny Presidency Natural Evolution for Grateful Mom

Liz Geraghty and her daughter, Bo.
Liz Geraghty clearly remembers a conversation she had about seven years ago with her then-18-year-old son, Larry.  “We were in the car,” she recalls, “and he said, ‘Now, that I’m 18, if something happens to you and Dad, what happens to Bo?’”

Bozena Geraghty, the daughter of Liz and her husband Michael, was born with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS), a genetic disorder present from birth that causes a range of physical, cognitive and medical challenges. She had been living at home in Cranford, NJ, at the time of that pivotal conversation, but, at that point, Liz and her husband decided they need to develop a plan that included residency for Bo at a facility that specialized in caring for people with developmental disabilities.  “We looked at other places,” Geraghty says, “but we put her name on the waiting list at Matheny. We particularly liked the fact her school would be on the premises of the place that she lived.”

Bo was eventually accepted for residency in June 2009.  She had been at Matheny previously for respite visits, but this move represented a major milestone.  “We decided we would just follow her lead,” says Geraghty.  And very soon it became apparent that the Geraghtys had made the right decision.  “She was laughing, crying, being stubborn, giggling – all of her normal emotions,” Geraghty remembers. “That, to us, meant she was relaxed.  My biggest surprise,” she says, “is how much the recreation therapy department looked at my daughter as a teenager, who just happened to have this syndrome.  They said, ‘We want to take her camping – three days, two nights.’  I said, ‘You’re kidding!’

Bo, on a camping trip, with recreation
therapist Saori Cheth.
Because of the security and peace of mind that Matheny has given her and her family, Geraghty has become very involved in many of Matheny’s activities.  She began attending meetings of the parents advisory board, participated in her daughter’s classroom  and, after attending some Friends of Matheny board meetings, joined the board.  She is now the incoming president of The Friends, Matheny’s auxiliary group.

“It all kind of exploded,” she says, when she learned of the origins of The Friends of Matheny.  “I really, really wanted to help when I learned that the group was started by a small group of women who had no family connection to Matheny. The time, effort and energy they spent totally impressed me.  And they not only raise funds,” she continues, “but they tell Matheny how to spend those funds.”  The Friends of Matheny, which has raised more than $3 million since its inception in 1983, asks Matheny program directors to submit a wish list of items that could not acquired via the normal operating budget.  And then an allocations committee decides which ones of those projects The Friends will fund. 

As she begins her term, Geraghty is looking forward to recruiting new members to The Friends as well as working more closely with Matheny’s development department and its Board of Trustees. She has become so involved in Matheny, she says, because of what it has meant to her family.   When Bo comes home for a family visit, Geraghty says, “she’s bored in two days.  When we return to Matheny, she recognizes the bottom of the hill and starts laughing and waving her arms. My youngest child,” Geraghty continues, “has left home, and her future is secure. Now, I don’t worry about Bo, and my sons don’t have to either.”