May-09-07 DCA Announces Honorees of the 28th Annual Governor's Conference on Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities
“Recreation benefits the lives of all people,” Commissioner Levin said, “This year’s award winners have made significant contributions to residents with disabilities in the field of recreation. I am pleased to recognize such an outstanding group of individuals and organizations.”
Six awards were presented at the 28th Annual Governor’s Conference on Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities, which took place on Wednesday, May 9 in Monroe Township.
Evelyn Aronow Dolan Citizen’s Award for Advocacy and Promotion of Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities The Evelyn Aronow Dolan Citizens Award for Advocacy and Promotion of Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities is given to an individual who - through legislation, education, public relations, technical support or financial support - has promoted growth and development and has made a lasting contribution to community recreation services for individuals with disabilities in New Jersey.
This year’s award was presented to Nick Karsko, an adaptive Physical Education teacher in the Lakewood Township school system. For more than 12 years, he has run a special year-round “fun night” program for students with disabilities, where participants learn basic sports skills such as kicking a ball, running bases or shooting baskets. Karsko makes exercise fun while the participants learn and improve their sportsmanship, teamwork and social skills.
New Jersey Distinguished Agency Recreation Services Award The New Jersey Distinguished Agency Recreation Services Award is given to an agency that has developed outstanding recreation programs and services that demonstrate a commitment to the integration of people with and without disabilities. Two categories are established within this award for nonprofit and governmental agencies.
This year’s Governmental Agency Award went to the Hillsborough Township Recreation Commission for Camp H.E.A.R.T., a collaboration between the Hillsborough Township Parks & Recreation Department and the Board of Education. Over 160 children attend Camp H.E.A.R.T. with a 1 to 1 ratio of special needs children to peer mentors. The camp provides opportunities to develop social skills and self esteem in an inclusive environment through weekly themes and a daily rotation of activities such as arts and crafts, sports and games, gymnastics and science exploration.
This year’s Nonprofit Award was given to the Children’s Specialized Hospital’s Recreation Therapy & Child Life Office, which provides a wide variety of recreation programs to over 180 children with special needs between the ages of 4 and 15. The extensive variety of programs includes aquatics, basic cooking, martial arts, horticulture, therapeutic horseback riding, and day and overnight camps.
Alvin Slootsky Exemplary Recreation Lifestyle for an Individual Award This Alvin Slootsky Exemplary Recreation Lifestyle for an Individual Award is awarded to an individual with a disability who exemplifies a lifestyle enriched through participation in recreation experiences, and who by that participation, has enriched the lives of others.
This year’s honoree was Charles Fleisher, a man who sustained a spinal cord injury at the age of 19. Recreation has made a huge impact on Fleisher, who stays active skiing, truck driving and sky diving. In an effort to share his passion for recreation and sports, he created Beyond Wheels, a nonprofit corporation that gives individuals with disabilities information about sports and recreation.
Ted Kaplan Exemplary Recreation Team Award The Ted Kaplan Exemplary Recreation Team Award is presented to a recreation group, club or sports team that has created unique ways to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.
The award was given to the BestBuds Club, a group of residents with disabilities from Hunterdon County that was established in 1999. The Best Buds Club has afforded its members the opportunity to take on and learn responsibility, sharing, planning and teamwork. Service is a key element of the Best Buds Club, and members regularly provide to the community and donate to a variety of charities. It has boosted their self confidence and morale as members of a group and as members of the community.
Ruth Hughes Innovative Accessible Recreation Facility Award The Ruth Hughes Innovative Accessible Recreation Facility Award is presented to a recreation facility where opportunities go above and beyond compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and encourages individuals with disabilities to engage in recreational activities and pursue once in a lifetime experiences.
This year’s award was given to the Hunterdon County Barrier-Free Wilderness Campsite at Teetertown Preserve, which was designed to allow campers with disabilities to enjoy independent access to a wilderness camping experience. The site was designed by Andrew Trontis of Lebanon Township for an Eagle Scout project and involved 498.5 hours of volunteer time to complete. Trontis and volunteers - including members of his troop and high school band mates - worked to install the barrier-free (wheelchair accessible) wilderness campsite, conduct pathway and site grading, and minimize the visual impact of parked cars in the remote, passive park area.
The Annual Governor’s Conference on Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities is sponsored by DCA’s Office on Recreation, the New Jersey Commission on Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities and the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association.