Press ReleaseDate: 12-24-12
Name: Patti Verbanas Phone: 9739727273
Mom2Mom Creates a Special Holiday Celebration for the Students of John F. Kennedy School in Newark
But the power of the spirit is an amazing thing. After being diagnosed at age 2 with epilepsy seizure disorder and starting treatment, Arana progressed in a way that his mother said doctors told her “was a miracle.” And at age 10, Arana found what makes him happier than anything else: the gift of song.
On December 19, Mom2Mom hosted its 2nd annual holiday party at the John F. Kennedy School in Newark, a public school whose entire enrollment consists of children with developmental disabilities including autism as well as physical disabilities. At the party, Arana, now a 17-year-old student at the school, entertained his classmates and their families with his singing talents, which have taken him to the stage of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center as part of a JFK School group. Arana also sings solo at his church, in both English and Spanish. “He likes how it makes him feel,” Linares says. “He likes making others feel happy.”
Also headlining the event was a dance performed by 9-year-old Kai Rivera, son of Miyuki Rivera, the music therapist at JFK. Rivera is a champion of Stars of Tomorrow at the Apollo Amateur Night.
Also at the event: 6th grade students from Lester C. Noecker School in Roseland and members of the Parish and Philoptochos Society of Ss. Nicholas, Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church of Roseland distributed holiday gifts to approximately 140 students that they collected in separate campaigns.
Over the past two years, a unique bond has formed between Mom2Mom, a peer counseling organization for mothers of children with special needs operated by UMDNJ’s University Behavioral HealthCare unit, and the students, families and staff of John F. Kennedy School for parents of special needs children such as those at JFK, the ordinary burdens of raising a child are compounded to the point where they can become overwhelming. The toll these responsibilities take on parents can often go unnoticed. That is where Mom2Mom comes in, by offering resources that help parents to care not only for their children, but for themselves.
Mom2Mom has four primary services: a toll-free 24-hour help line (1-877-914-6662) that moms who feel this added stress can call; live online chat (at www.mom2mom.us.com) for moms who are more comfortable communicating that way; support groups; and outreach and awareness programs. Mom2Mom is staffed by specially trained peer counselors who themselves are moms of special needs kids and know the emotions and unique experiences that come with such extraordinary responsibilities. It was established in 2010 with headquarters in Piscataway, funded by a grant from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey awarded through the Foundation of UMDNJ.
Soon after Mom2Mom opened, it conducted a focus group at JFK, to gauge the needs of parents in Newark who face the added challenge of raising their children in a low-income urban environment. What they learned about the unique situations of Newark families with special needs children convinced leaders of Mom2Mom to add an office in Newark, funded by a grant from the Auxiliary of UMDNJ-University Hospital. The Newark office is a springboard for outreach efforts throughout Newark, including JFK.
Each month, the meeting room at JFK overflows with parents for whom the feeling that they are not alone in the challenges they face is a revelation. These support sessions are led by Mom2Mom program director Cherie Castellano and peer counselor Nakeishia Knox, who herself is the mother of an autistic child, 17-year-old Philip. Knox, in fact, first came in contact with Mom2Mom when she called the helpline as a mom needing support.
Now she has the strength and wisdom to share her own experiences with others. “I only wish there had been a Mom2Mom years ago, because I would have called it then and learned so much from moms in my position. So many parents of autistic children have nobody who can relate to their needs. It’s now my role to relate to the needs of parents at JFK and those of other children whose condition creates similar challenges.”
People interested in ways to support Mom2Mom are invited to contact Dale Timmons Evanson, Director of development, New Jersey Health Foundation Inc. Foundation of UMDNJ, at (973) 679-4686 or email her at devanson@NJHF.org.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 6,000 students attending three of the state’s medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health on five campuses. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, which provides a continuum of healthcare services with multiple locations throughout the state.