Sharing his knowledge

Larry Thornton, helping out on a science project with, from left, student Tasha Santiago-O’Keefe; teaching assistant Kim White; and teacher Peggy Zappulla.

Larry Thornton started out volunteering one day a week in a classroom at The Matheny School. That one day has turned into three. The retired paper manufacturing executive lives in nearby Gladstone, and says, “Obviously, I enjoy this immensely. Coming here has been a real eye-opener for me to see this marvelous institution and what the staff members do to make the lives of these children as normal as possible.”

In addition to his classroom duties, Thornton had volunteered at Miles for Matheny, is a former member of the Board of Trustees at the now defunct McAuley School in North Plainfield, NJ and is a past Grand Knight at the Knights of Columbus Council of Blessed Sacrament Church in Martinsville. The KOC Council recently donated $720 to Matheny. Earlier this spring, Thornton helped out at Matheny’s “March Madness” event to raise money for the American Heart Association. During the event, our front parking lot was closed off and transformed into several adapted basketball courts.

Since the majority of Matheny students and patients are full-time residents, volunteers such as Larry Thornton are needed days, evenings and weekends. Individuals can serve as classroom aides, recreation assistants, tutors or just friendly visitors. For more information, call (908) 234-0011, ext. 282; or email

Thornton at Hoops for Hearts with student Yasin Reddick.


Volunteer recruiter

Patrick Frain working on communications skills with student Savannah Conrad.

Students at Somerville, NJ, High School who sign up for either the Amnesty Club or the Model UN Club are immediately told of a special requirement – they must volunteer at Matheny.

That’s because Patrick Frain, the teacher who runs both clubs, has been teaching at the Matheny School summer program for four years, and he feels it’s important for his students to meet some of the Matheny students and learn about the work being done here.

According to Gail Cunningham, Matheny’s coordinator of volunteer activities, the student volunteers from Somerville High “are terrific. That’s because Pat has already told them a little about our residents, so they’re comfortable and ready to relax and have fun.”

Frain, a special education history teacher, enjoys working at Matheny for a simple reason – “the kids.”  He looks forward each day to “seeing the smiles on their faces. And there’s a sense of camaraderie here, a great rapport between the teachers and the therapists and between the teachers and the support staff.”

Sean Murphy, Matheny School vice principal, says Frain is “more than just a summer program teacher. He is part of the Matheny community. Patrick is very quiet and modest about himself, but ask him about the kids, and he lights up.”

Patrick Frain with student Michael Taurozzi.


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.

WANTED: volunteers

Since most Matheny students and patients are full-time residents, we need volunteers to serve as recreation assistants, classroom aides, tutors and friendly visitors. Our volunteer office tries to place people in positions that meet both their interests and availability. In addition, we invite volunteer groups to host parties for residents or participate in other special projects, including fundraising activities.

Matheny students and patients have medically complex developmental disabilities. Practically everyone is in a wheelchair and many are non-verbal. Yet, underneath their physical difficulties, they like the same music, games, sports and movies as everyone else. For those willing to discover each person’s personality, the rewards are great.

If you’re interested in more information, contact the volunteer services office at (908) 234-0011, ext. 282, or email

Above: Centenary College students share a laugh with a Matheny student.

Below: Junior Friends of Matheny help Matheny patients enjoy Valentines Day.  The JFOM volunteers are students at Bernards High School in Bernardsville and Ridge High School in Basking Ridge.


1 2