Pope John Football Team helps SCARC in walk-a-thon that raises more the $100,000.
By ERIC OBERNAUER
FRANKFORD — When Gordon and Ginny Shelton’s daughter began at an early age to exhibit symptoms of Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder that halts and ultimately reverses normal development in girls, an educational
seminar offered by SCARC was what ultimately alerted them to their daughter’s condition.
Having had their daughter Bonnie’s condition go undiagnosed for the first 10 years of her life, the Sheltons soon
became devoted advocates of the nonprofit’s work on behalf of the developmentally disabled.
In memory of Gordon Shelton, who passed away five years ago, more than 500 people came Sunday to honor his contributions to SCARC and, in so doing, raised more than $100,000 for the organization’s ongoing work, which directly benefits more than 750 Sussex County residents with developmental disabilities.
Among the organization’s clients is Bonnie Shelton herself, now 37, who continues to attend one of the day programs
for adults offered at SCARC’s Sparta Center.
“Although Gordon (Shelton) may not be here with us today, he’s here with us all in our hearts and in his spirit,” said Ginny Shelton, who — accompanied by her daughter Bonnie — addressed the marchers as they began their 1.8-mile walk at the Sussex County Fairgrounds. Along the route, the marchers passed a bench inscribed with Gordon Shelton’s name and the words, “I’m still here.”
The annual event, which four years ago was renamed the Gordon Shelton Memorial Walk-a-Thon, remains the SCARC Foundation’s largest annual fundraiser and a vital lifeline for the organization’s ongoing support and guardianship services.
Since its humble beginnings in 1957, SCARC has become Sussex County’s most comprehensive organization dedicated to serving developmentally disabled adults and their families, with programs that today include 22 group homes and 12 individualized and supportive living arrangements throughout Sussex County. The organization also provides recreation, family support, and job training and placement services for developmentally disabled adults.
Sunday’s event began with a rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “This Land is Your Land” performed by members of the SCARC choir and was accompanied by food, live music and kids’ activities that included a bounce house and face-painting performed by Newton High School juniors Ella Wermuth and Supritha Dugyala, both 16, and residents of Green.
Also on hand were about 15 members of the Pope John XXIII High School football team, among them sophomore Sekayi Rudolph, 16, of Morristown, who provided company to SCARC client Bryan Corrigan, of Wantage, while accompanied by members of Bryan’s family.
With them were Bryan’s mom Linda Corrigan, of Wantage, and her 10-year-old granddaughter Sierra Woloszyn,
For Bryan Corrigan, who also attends one of SCARC’s day programs for adults, the services offered there — which include crafts, community excursions, music and medically trained staff — go a long way toward keeping his spirits up and keeping him engaged with others, said his mom.
“He enjoys going there very much,” Linda Corrigan said. “He’s all smiles each day when they come to get him.”
The SCARC choir, which has about 20 members, is one of many recreation programs offered by the organization.
“It’s a demanding job, but honestly what makes it worth it is the guys,” said SCARC choir director Louis Pieri, who also participated in Sunday’s walk. “Even if you’re in the worst of moods, they’re always smiling and in little ways are reminding you that whatever’s going on in your own life might not be so bad and that if they can keep a positive outlook on life, so can you.”
Pieri said members of the choir, in addition to the other community events they do throughout the year, will be performing this August at the New Jersey State Fair/Sussex County Farm and Horse Show.
For some of the choir members, who have trouble verbalizing their thoughts and emotions, music provides another
way of communicating.
“They’re very passionate and enthusiastic about music,” Pieri said. “In my mind, it’s the one common language that every person speaks, and you can see it in their expression and the way they carry themselves.”
Gordon Shelton, in whose memory Sunday’s walk-a-thon was held, served for many years on SCARC’s board of trustees and also, for a time, as its president. During that time, he also became a founder of SCARC Guardianship Services, which provides legal guardians to look after the interests of developmentally disabled adults whose parents have either passed on or can otherwise no longer look after their adult children.
Chris Hemmer, director of development for SCARC, said he expected the funds raised Sunday to top the nearly $100,000 raised last year.