Programs For The Disabled Range From Ceramics To Swimming, Cooking To Yoga

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UNION COUNTY—It may only last an hour, but it is an hour they so look forward to.

Some of their parents even joke that they dare not mention it until a few days prior because they will be bombarded—“How much longer until ceramics?”—and the questioning will be relentless.

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“There’s just such joy. They’re so happy. As soon as we leave here, they all start talking about the next class,” said Nancy Furnari, whose sister, Maria Furnari, lives with her at her Westfield home.

Ceramics is one of nearly 20 recreation programs for people with disabilities offered by the Union County Department of Parks and Community Renewal.

At Linden’s recreation center, where the ceramics class is held, Furnari waits in a lounge area with many of the parents of other participants.  They’ve become an extended family and these evening classes afford them some time to catch up with each other.

They’ve also witnessed how things have changed for their adult children and siblings.

“They’re not left out the way they were years ago,” said Furnari.

Doris Bonavitacola believes the ceramics class is such a hit with her daughter, MaryAnn, because there is “a sense of accomplishment.”
“It helps to keep their minds active,” she said, noting that they also attend other activities, like the annual barn dance at the county’s Watchung Stable and the fishing derbies at Echo Lake Park.

Union County’s recreation programs for the disabled also include cooking classes, horseback riding, gardening, and a myriad of sports, from golf to ice skating to wheelchair tennis and karate, said Margaret Heisey, who coordinates the county’s programs for people with disabilities.

But the popularity of programs like ceramics also has its consequences.

“I’m running out of space for all these projects,” joked Angela Myers, who drives her son Joseph to the various programs.
“He’s been doing this for years,” Myers said. “He enjoys it and they need things to do, and to socialize.”

“I think it’s the best thing they ever had,“ said Rita Mellito, whose son Jimmy is a regular at many of the programs.  While Jimmy enjoyed making an Easter bunny at a recent class, he still has his favorite from a few years ago.

“My son loves the Christmas tree he made,” Myers said.

At a recent cooking class, Allen Chang watched as his son, Kevin, made lasagna roll-ups.

The cooking classes have encouraged his son to be more independent and cook at home, Chang said.

“This is a really, really big deal,” he said. “At home, Kevin will now cook chicken noodle soup, or make a fruit salad. He will now make a very good soup base by himself—and all that comes from this group.”

More information on Union County’s programs for people with disabilities is available by calling 1-908-527-4806, or by visiting www.unioncountynj.org/parks


PAINTING THE BUNNY… at a ceramics class for people with disabilities was Steve Krall, left, and Sandy Giordano, both of Roselle Park, who are regulars and many of Union County’s recreation programs for people with disabilities. The programs range from yoga to volleyball to horseback riding.


A LITTLE MOZZARELLA…is the finishing touch for Jimmy Mellito of Clark as he makes his lasagna roll-up during a cooking class for people with disabilities, as  Kevin Chang looks on.  The cooking class is one of nearly 20 Union County recreation programs for people with disabilities ranging from yoga to volleyball to horseback riding.

BON APETITE…Kevin Chang  digs into the lasagna roll-up that he made during cooking class.  The class is one of nearly 20 Union County recreation programs for people with disabilities ranging from yoga to volleyball to horseback riding.  The cooking classes have sparked an interest in cooking  for Kevin, who will now do some basic cooking at home, said his father, Allen Chang.


APPLYING THE FINISHING TOUCHES…Joseph Vallone, left, of Roselle, and Louis Zglobicki, of Linden, work on their ceramic Easter bunnies. The ceramics class is one of nearly 20 Union County recreation programs for people with disabilities ranging from yoga to volleyball to horseback riding.

PATIENTLY HE PAINTS…Ron Myers of Union paints a ceramic bunny as his mother, Angela Myers, works with him.  The ceramics class is one of nearly 20 Union County recreation programs for people with disabilities ranging from yoga to volleyball to horseback riding.


READY FOR EASTER…Maria Furnari, left, holds the ceramic “chocolate” Easter bunny that she made while her sister, Nancy, holds the other.  Nancy Furnari, who lives in Westfield and cares for her sister, said that programs for those with disabilities, like her sister, have come a long way over the years.  The ceramics class is one of nearly 20 Union County recreation programs for people with disabilities ranging from yoga to volleyball to horseback riding.


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