Community spirit

Standing, from left, Bob Zaborowski, Somerset County freeholder; Steve Proctor; Jean Wadsworth; Casey Crabill, President of Raritan Valley Community College; Mark Caligure, Somerset County freeholder; Anita & Jim Ventantonio of Bridgewater, NJ; front, Patrick Scaglione, Somerset County freeholder.

“Matheny needs to grow in order to take care of those families who need them.” With those words, the Rev. John Graf, co-chair of the Spirit of Somerset Awards, introduced Matheny president Steve Proctor and The Friends of Matheny recording secretary Jean Wadsworth to accept their Spirit of Somerset Awards, given June 13 at a special ceremony at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.

Proctor talked about the origins of Matheny and how the original school was founded by Walter and Marguerite Matheny, whose son Chuck had cerebral palsy. He described how Matheny has evolved into a special hospital for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities and how difficult it is for parents to decide that their child would be better off living at the hospital, rather than at home.

Wadsworth, a past president of The Friends of Matheny, recalled how, “nearly 30 years ago, a small group of relative newcomers to the Somerset Hills organized a fundraising group to support what was then the Matheny School. In the intervening years, The Friends has raised over $3 million to support the work of what has become the Matheny Medical and Educational Center.”

She then described the many contributions the group has made over the years. As an example, she invited members of the audience to, “be there on the weekend, and you will see residents enjoying entertainment that has been funded by The Friends. Know that these residents can also go skiing or ice skating using adaptive equipment, again funded by The Friends.”

Funds raised at the Spirit of Somerset event will benefit Somerset Treatment Services, an agency based in Somerville, NJ, that provides treatment and preventive services to persons suffering from substance abuse or HIV-related illnesses.