County Recognizes Disability Advocates Awards Winners

SOMERVILLE - The Somerset County Office on Aging and Disability Services recently selected winners of the 2013 Disability Advocates Awards.

“It’s important to recognize individuals and companies that contribute to persons with disabilities,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Patrick Scaglione, Office on Aging and Disability Services liaison.  “These awards recognize those people and organizations that work in the areas of advocacy, service and inclusion.”

Dina Trunzo of Byram Township was selected in the individual category and the Midland School in Branchburg was selected in the business and organization category.  For the first time this year, a lifetime achievement award winner was selected. The winner is Philip Gartlan of  Morristown.

Winners will be recognized at the Dec. 10 Freeholders’ Meetings.  Ms. Trunzo’s award will be presented at the 4:30 Work Session and Midland School and Mr. Gartlan at the 7 p.m. Regular Meeting.  The presentations will be made in the Freeholders Meeting Room of the county administration building, located at 20 Grove St., Somerville, NJ 08876.

Ms. Trunzo was nominated for her 25 years of dedication in providing recreation and leisure opportunities for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Through the Somerset County Park Commission Therapeutic Recreation Program, she has promoted an active leisure lifestyle for participants that improves social, physical, cognitive and emotional functioning and health. She promotes out-of-state trips to build participants’ independence and programs that are age appropriate.

Ms. Trunzo also manages Camp Okee Sunokee, which is a six-week summer day camp for children who have a learning disability or Aspergers Syndrome – a form of autism, and Summer Adventure, which is a camp for teens with developmental disabilities.

In addition, the Therapeutic Recreation Department works with the Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center on a horticultural program designed to enhance each patient’s treatment plan.

Ms. Trunzo has assisted local communities in including people with disabilities in their recreation and sports programs; she is active in the state, regional and national recreation and park associations; and has held leadership roles on all three levels.

The Midland School was nominated for its dedication to providing a comprehensive special-education program encompassing individual, social, emotional, academic and career needs of each of its students.

Midland operates group homes in Somerset County through the Midland Adult Services Residential Program and promotes employment through the Midland Adult Services branch.

The Midland School was founded in 1968 with one full-time and two part-time students. It currently serves approximately 190 students from public-school districts throughout northern and central New Jersey.  Students who are eligible for special education at Midland School have multiple disabilities, are cognitively impaired, communication impaired and autistic.

Mr. Gartlan was nominated for his 40 years of service and dedication to the Midland School.  He retired in June 2013. 

Mr. Gartlan began his journey at Midland School as a school psychologist, became principal in 1984 and in 1994 became the executive director.  During his tenure, he was passionate that youth and adult graduates of the Midland School lead full, productive and rewarding lives.  This included opening several group homes for the adult population and developing and implementing award-winning programs to address the needs of students, taking into consideration concerns of parents and teachers.

While principal, Midland was awarded the Blue Ribbon Award for Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education, and Mr. Gartlan was awarded a National Association of Elementary School Principals award for Excellence in Education.

As executive director, Mr. Gartlan was responsible for the overall operation of all Midland School programs; the Midland Foundation, which is the fund-raising arm for the school; and Midland Adult Services.

Mr. Gartlan implemented his belief that individuals with disabilities can achieve beyond expectations when provided with support and academic and social programs.

For more information, contact Disabilities Coordinator Mark Malone at the Somerset County Office on Aging and Disability Services at (908) 704-6334 or malone@co.somerset.nj.us.