My brother Andy, who is four years older than me, was born with severe cerebral palsy. He's never been able to walk or even talk, but the palsy attacked his physical capacities only -- he's as mentally sharp as any of us, probably more so. Andy appreciates sports talk, going to games, and dirty jokes/euphemisms. As you might imagine, growing up (and to this day) one of my goals has always been to make him laugh.
Andy has spent the majority of his life as a resident at a fantastic place in NJ that specializes in caring for, treating and educating kids with CP and other similarly debilitating afflictions. That place is the Matheny School and Hospital. Andy has worked with social workers over the years who constantly are coming up with new and creative ways to help him enjoy life, to communicate with others and to keep his brain active. This isn't a "home" that you fear it could be -- people aren't left to waste away. They are constantly stimulated and everyone has a "program" -- a daily schedule of activities, often off-site, that keeps them stimulated, happy and hopefully for a little while every day, feeling "normal."
My brother, as I said, is as sharp as anyone else. Yet despite having the mental capacity to understand just how short a straw he drew in life, he's never seemed bitter or angry. In fact, he smiles more than almost anyone I know. We go to games together whenever possible and while I was living far away, we web-cammed with Andy so that he could see not only us, but our son (his nephew). We're brothers, plain and simple.
Andy currently lives in a group home owned by Matheny, which allows older residents (Andy turned 40 last year) who really aren't still going to school (Andy got his HS diploma long ago) the opportunity to live in a house where they have their own quarters and some semblance of privacy and adult living. There is full time care, of course, but Andy's not around all the youngsters and their loud music as much anymore.
Without places like Matheny, the people (from young children to adults) who live there would either become wards of the state or would have to live at their families' homes, most of which are of course not equipped to handles severely handicapped individuals. In the more heartbreaking instances, some children don't have family to go to since their family has abandoned them for being defective (not joking).
Matheny runs a charity event each year to supplement the funding this fantastic place needs to stay in business. The event is known as Miles for Matheny and is this Sunday, April 22. It includes multiple bike rides, a 5K and a terrific Wheelchair Walk through the downtown area of the town Matheny is in. The residents love the event and the locals enjoy it as well. Andy has participated in every Miles for Matheny event ever and my family has been involved in one way or another for all those years as well. Even while living in Texas and unable to participate, my wife and I worked hard to raise money through donations. Over the years, my family has raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000 for Matheny and we hope to keep that number climbing. I don't generally like to hit people up for money, as I know how tight it can be, but this is the one charity where I will cross that line and ask. However, I've never used the BS pulpit for that. Until now.
If you have $1,000 burning a hole in your pocket, here's a worthwhile -- and tax deductible! -- cause for you to donate to. But seriously, even a donation of $10 makes a difference and matters very much to me and my family. To donate in support of my brother Andy -- and our family, since we're all participating -- just go to Andy's page and click to support him.
I will be riding in one of the cycling events, my wife and her sister will be participating in the 5K and my parents, Andy and my son will be participating in the "Wheelchair Walk."
Thanks for reading this far and for considering helping us out.
|J and his lifelong pal.|