Michael White is the volunteer that every nonprofit organization desires. He is outgoing, dedicated, and always willing to pitch in. To the students at Matheny School and Hospital in Peapack, where he has been visiting weekly since 1994, White is more than a volunteer – he’s a role model. This is mainly because White has Spina Bifida, a congenital malformation of the spine, which is a disability shared by many of the students at Matheny School.
White became involved with Matheny through a design project. He quickly expressed an interest in volunteering, and was matched as a friendly visitor to Jim Lane, a nonverbal young man who did not receive many visitors. White learned all he could about his new friend from speech therapists and other staff at the school. Today, White and Mr. Lane are old friends, and Lane beams with happiness at the mention of Michael White.
When Alex Stojko and Todd Dupre asked about White’s specially adapted vehicle, he demonstrated how he drives, and the three motor enthusiasts often had their heads buried under the car’s hood, studying the engine. Alex has since expressed an interest in learning to drive, and White has spoken to his parents about it on his behalf.
White spends Christmas Day at Matheny, teaching the students to play board games and chess and baking pies and cooking with them. At Matheny, White also:
- Assists the Arts Access department with evening classes
- Attends fundraisers to sell raffle tickets
- Chaperones trips to local eateries
- Visits former students who have left Matheny and moved to group homes
- Assists the Matheny athletes at Special Olympics
- Wears a tuxedo and feeds students at Matheny’s annual “Elegant Dining” event
- Keeps the students informed on advocacy issues
- Ties shoes, cleans eye glasses, and consults with students on appropriate wardrobe for special occasions
Michael White’s desire to be involved with the student at Matheny School and Hospital at every level coupled with his positive, upbeat attitude have had a profound impact on the students’ lives, and his tireless dedication has been an asset for the staff as well.