‘Pursue your dreams’

Vraj Desai celebrates with the help of physical therapist Glenn Stackhouse and teaching assistant Holly Staul.

After 47 years in the packaging and display industry, Larry Thornton was wondering how he would fill up his days when he retired in 2008. He no longer has such worries. After moving to Peapack-Gladstone, NJ, in 2011, he discovered Matheny and started volunteering one day a week in a Matheny School science class. He now volunteers three days a week and serves on Matheny’s Board of Trustees and its Community Advisory committee.

For these reasons, there was no more appropriate keynote speaker for The Matheny School’s graduation ceremony June 12. Thornton’s affection for Matheny and its students was evident. Volunteering in the school, he said, “is inspiring to me.” As he relived his first tour of Matheny through a symbolic tour he gave the graduating students, he urged the graduates to “work hard and pursue your dreams. Never give up.”  Matheny, he added, “is an exceptional school and a model for the state and the nation.”

Sean Murphy, Matheny School principal, said the graduation ceremony “celebrates the achievements of the entire Matheny community. Their dreams and the dreams of their parents are our goal.” Other speakers included Chris King, Matheny vice president of operations; Daniel McLaughlin, chair of the Matheny Board of Trustees; Thomas Belding, president of the Matheny School Board; and William Horton, mayor of Peapack-Gladstone. The graduates were Catherine Aragona, Christopher Asbell, Bruno Correia, Vraj Desai, Mark O’Connell, Tasha Santiago-O’Keefe and Aaron Turovlin.

Larry Thornton congratulates Ana Correia and her son Bruno.

Graduation day

Graduate Sammy Heisler with Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey Maggie Redden.

The Matheny School’s Principal Sean Murphy congratulated the 10 graduates of the class of 2013 on June 18, pointing out that they “never said ‘I can’t’ or ‘I won’t.’”

And in an understatement, Yasin Reddick, the class valedictorian, said, “It took a lot of work to get to this point.” That work was recognized by those who spoke before diplomas were handed out. The students were congratulated by Steve Proctor, Matheny president; Daniel McLaughlin, chair of the Matheny Board of Trustees; William Horton, mayor of Peapack-Gladstone; and keynote speaker Maggie Redden, Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey 2013. And each speaker was introduced by a non-verbal Matheny graduate, who accomplished the task through switch activation technology.

Proctor paid tribute to Matheny’s founders, Walter and Marguerite Matheny and introduced their son Chuck, who still resides at Matheny. He also singled out some of the students’ accomplishments such as Sammy Heisler’s love of music, Bianca Mathis’ accomplishments with the Girl Scouts and Natalie Tomastyk’s job at a local yoga studio. Redden, who was part of the 2008 Paralympic Track and Field team in Beijing, encouraged the graduates to “persevere” and follow their dreams.

Physical therapist Erin Meineke, left, and teaching assistant Katie Wertheim help Bryan Desatnick 'walk' to receive his diploma from principal Sean Murphy.


From Valentine’s Day to graduation

When 17-year-old Samantha Entwistle of Tewksbury, NJ, spoke at the Matheny School graduation on June 15, she recalled her first experience with Matheny, delivering personalized Valentines with two of her friends to Matheny students. She said that experience “triggered for me how important it was to volunteer at Matheny whenever they need me and whenever I can.”

Here’s a photo of Samantha and her friends six years ago, presenting a Valentine’s card to student Aaron Turovlin. Thanks, Samantha! We are proud to have you as part of the Matheny family.

To find out more about volunteering at Matheny, email Gail Cunningham or call her at (908) 234-0011, ext. 282.

Congratulations, graduates!

Keynote speaker Jim Entwistle.

Nine students proudly graduated from the Matheny School on Friday, June 15. On hand to wish them well  was Jim Entwistle, the keynote speaker. His company, Village Office Supply, became one of Matheny’s vendors in 1989. Before long, said Entwistle, “We realized this was a special group of people we wanted to become more involved with.” Entwistle began his speech by asking for applause for the Matheny staff, whom he said one parent described as being “like angels.”

He was helped in his speaking duties by his 17-year-old daughter Samantha, who, as a fifth grader six years ago, had undertaken a school project to deliver personalized Valentines to all the Matheny students. That experience, she said, “triggered for me how important it was to volunteer at Matheny whenever they need me and whenever I can. Our family is proud to be part of the Matheny family.” Her father, referring to the phrase that appears on every page of the Matheny website, “Improving the Lives of People with Disabilities,” added that, “Matheny has improved the life of me and my family.” William Horton, mayor of Peapack-Gladstone, also spoke at the graduation and described Matheny as “a remarkable facility with a great history and a dedicated staff.”

The nine graduates were:  Dina Conturso, daughter of Lisa Conturso of Belle Mead, NJ; Samuel DeMarzo , son of Diane DeMarzo of Livingston, NJ; Carly Finley, daughter of Tom and Antoinette Finley of Flemington, NJ; James Formisano, nephew of Nicholas and Alice Crupi of Randolph, NJ; Bozena Geraghty, daughter of Michael and Liz Geraghty of Cranford, NJ; Zachary Ludlow, son of Tom Ludlow and Melissa de la Puente of Mattituck, NY; Allyson Merer, daughter of Barry and Donna Merer of Scotch Plains, NJ; Katie Miller, daughter of Carolyn Miller of Brookside, NJ; and Nicholas Perfeito, son of Rui and Sandra Perfeito of North Brunswick, NJ.

Donna Merer and her daughter Allyson.