• Evelyn Aronow Dolan Citizen’s Award for Advocacy and Promotion of Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities

    Scott Simpkins and Karen Bourque-Scott, Chairperson of the NJ Commission on 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 given to Scott Simpkins.  Scott sustained a sporting accident in 2000 that resulted in a spinal cord injury. Since sports were always a part of his life and there was nothing locally for someone with injuries as severe as his, Scott convinced a rehab. facility to add a power soccer team to their wheelchair sports program and then became the founder/coach of the Power Kixx.  He became politically involved in the rights of the disabled and became a representative to Gloucester County to the Advisory Council. As a member of the Budget Sub-committee he testified before the NJ Senate, assembly and Division of Human Services Budget committee, which helped lead to a $3.5 million budget increase for 2008 for the PASP program that enables the physically disabled to lead a normal life by providing grants to hire home assistants.  Scott has also traveled to Washington a number of times as an advocate for spinal cord injury and stem cell research.  Scott began working at the Legal Clinic for the Disabled which provides free legal assistance to low income individuals with disabilities and is now enrolled at Rutgers University School of Law. 

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  • Alvin Slootsky Exemplary Recreation Lifestyle for an Individual Award

    Patrick Connelly, Director of Marketing at The Family Resource Network (accepting on behalf of Mike Simmel) and Karen Bourque-Scott

    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 award was given to Mike Simmel.  As a child, “Mighty Mike” Simmel had limited motor skills due to epilepsy and seizures. His father gave him a basketball at the age of 7 to help develop his coordination. This worked and Mike attended a basketball camp when he was 16.  At that camp Mike had his first major seizure and the camp wanted to “bounce him” out of camp. Mike and his father would not let that happen and Mike stayed, vowing that if he could ever help young people, who felt as isolated as he did in that situation he would.  So was born “The Bounce Out the Stigma” Project, a youth outreach campaign geared toward giving all children and young people a chance to learn using basketball as the primary vehicle to overcome obstacles in life. In partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation of NJ, Mike offers Mighty Mike Basketball Camps, which are weeklong basketball camps for children with disabilities.  The basic goal of the camp is to provide each child with a strong core belief in their ability to overcome everyday challenges without frustration. 

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  • New Jersey Distinguished Agency Recreation Services Award - Governmental

    (l to r) Eileen Forman Ludden, a founding member of SummitCan Pathways, Karen Bourque-Scott, and Melinda Jennis, Founder and President of Pathways for Exceptional Children

    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 award was given to the Township of Montville and City of Summit.  “Pathways for Exceptional Children” was founded in Montville Township in 2002 as an organization devoted to advocating for educational and social reform for children with disabilities, providing parent and family support services and education, developing recreation and life skills programs for children with special needs, and providing community service opportunities through mentoring programs.  The latest satellite program was founded in Summit.  What began as an idea and a dream of a mother of a special needs child has become in four short years a statewide program that has helped hundreds of children with special needs, inspired hundreds of teenage volunteers, and educated and sensitized communities. 

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  • New Jersey Distinguished Agency Recreation Services Award - Non-profit

    (l to r) James Fell, Executive Director of the Hamilton Area YMCA, Kathy Rhead, S.K.O.R. Director at Hamilton Area YMCA, and Karen Bourque-Scott

    This year’s award was given to the Hamilton Area YMCA.  The Hamilton Area YMCA created the SKOR (Special Kids Organized Recreation) program in 1999 and has seen it grow from 40 to over 163 individuals.  While all programs are open to everyone, SKOR offers sport, instructional, and recreational programs and services to individuals with disabilities and tailors the programs to meet individual needs.  Based on a three-tier theory, the program first offers basic skill instruction, then enhances basic skills and finally the participant uses the skills in a non-competitive in house league.  SKOR has created programs in basketball, softball, soccer, bocce, track & field, aerobics, golf, strength training, bowling, aquatics and dance and a summer camp.  Many participants are able to integrate into other programs offered in the YMCA after becoming comfortable with their new abilities learned through SKOR.

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  • Ruth Hughes Innovative Accessible Recreation Facility Award

    (l to r) Maggie O’Brien, Middletown Arts Center Director, Karen Bourque-Scott, and Gregg Silva, Middletown Parks and Recreation Director 

    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 Middletown Arts Center.  Middletown Arts Center opened its doors to the public in March 2007.  In response to resident feedback, the decision was made to covert a dilapidated commercial space into a flexible recreation space with unique accessibility, suitable for a wide range of artistic and cultural activities for people with and without disabilities.  The proximity to the train station allows easy access, especially for those who rely on public transportation.  Some of the renovations made to the building include a specialty seating system with theater seats that retract like bleachers, a wheelchair lift that connects to the seating system to allow access to the upper level and the theater tech booth, and dressing rooms that handicapped accessible bathrooms, countertops, and make-up mirrors. 

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