Miles of love and community spirit

Neighbors at 23 Mendham Road cheer on the wheelchair participants. From left, Laura and Leah Simpson, Morgan and Debbie Infusino and Spencer Sorge.

“Finally, it’s not pouring rain or 51 degrees. You earned this.” With those words, Wayne Cabot, news anchor for WCBS Newsradio 880, sent the 5K runners on their way during the 17th annual Miles for Matheny, the Matheny Medical and Educational Center’s annual fundraiser and community event, held Sunday, June 1, at Liberty Park in Peapack-Gladstone. Matheny is a special hospital and educational facility for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities.

The weather, as Cabot indicated, was perfect. But so were the atmosphere and  overall sense of community spirit, highlighted by the festivities at 23 Mendham Road, located along the route of the Lu Huggins Wheelchair Walk in Peapack-Gladstone. Thanks to Heather Santoro, who lives there with her family, that stop, just before the home stretch of the 1.5-mile journey, served as an incredible rallying point for the wheelchair participants, their friends, families and caregivers when they saw signs that read, “We Love Matheny” and “Roll On, Matheny,” and heard the enthusiastic cheering and noisemaking.

The day, which also featured five cycling routes and a kids’ fun run, attracted an outpouring of supporters from  communities throughout New Jersey. And all the running, walking and cycling, as Cabot and WCBS-TV meteorologist Elise Finch reminded everyone, was being done for one purpose: to support the Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry, where more than 800 of New Jersey’s children, teens and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities have access to the best possible medical, dental and therapy care.

Community resident Chet Cheesman gets some assistance from his sister Amber in the Lu Huggins Wheelchair Walk.