Trenton, NJ - Inspiring hope for those who believe they have no voice, Rutgers student Matt Cortland has been working to improve the lives of people living with autism since his first charity walk nine years ago. He recently initiated the BrosUniteD (B.U.D.) program with his fraternity mates to mentor and build lasting bonds of friendship with a group of teenage boys who have autism. In recognition of that work, First Lady Mary Pat Christie today announced the selection of Matt Cortland as a New Jersey Hero during her visit to the Rutgers Zone in Piscataway.
"This young man is making a remarkable contribution to the autism community here in New Jersey," said Mrs. Christie. "I'm so impressed by Matt's leadership and his commitment to this cause. He is a positive role model for these teen boys and their families and I am proud and inspired to name him a New Jersey Hero."
Cortland, a senior at the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences and his fraternity brothers at Theta Delta Chi (TDX) developed the BrosUniteD program in collaboration with Autism Speaks. The primary focus is to provide teenage boys with autism, ages 12-19, a positive mentoring relationship and to experience the benefits of brotherhood bonds.
All TDX members participating in BrosUniteD underwent a 2-hour training session on autism prior to the start of the program. There are 40 fraternity brothers ("Big Bros") in the program and 13 teenage boys ("Little Bros") with autism. Each participant is paired with up to three "Big Bros" from TDX.
Every Sunday for seven weeks from January through March, the groups participate in structured activities that are fun, safe and promote social interaction and meaningful friendships. Recent activities have included rock wall climbing, ice skating, scavenger hunts and basketball.
"The TDX brothers wanted to share the rich experiences of our fraternal bonds with these boys who sometimes struggle to fit in or feel accepted with their peers. We hope to leave a special and lasting positive influence in their lives. Without question, they have already impacted us," said Matt Cortland.
Autism awareness is an advocacy area being embraced by First Lady Mary Pat Christie to bring greater understanding of the developmental disability. During Autism Awareness Month, she is highlighting the innovative work being done by individuals and organizations throughout the state to serve people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
In addition, Mrs. Christie's New Jersey Heroes initiative showcases the positive ways people and organizations are impacting New Jersey in their own unique ways. Every month, a new local hero will be designated from nominations submitted by residents through the First Lady's website.
To nominate a hero, go to the bottom of the page at www.nj.gov/governor/firstlady and click the NJ Heroes tab. Follow the application instructions and submit the person you believe is a true New Jersey Hero.