LIVINGSTON, NJ – Alan Hammer of Livingston was honored Wednesday night by Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey for the funds he has raised, and his tireless devotion to those with the disability.
Hammer, an attorney with Brach Eichler LLC of Livingston, was honored during CPNJ’s 2011 Steps to Independence Celebration at the Crystal Plaza. More than 350 people attended the event to honor Hammer and to support CPNJ, which operates Horizon School and Horizon High School, both in Livingston; as well as after school and after work programs and three day programs that serve more than 180 adults to provide sensory stimulation, educational, vocation, social, recreation and community integration opportunities five days per week.
In his opening comments, Jim McCreath, president and CEO of CPNJ talked about the people he has met during his 10 months with the organization, including a six-month old girl; the parents of a child who took her first steps in a pool at Horizon School; a 70-year-old woman who was accepted into a group home after spending most of her life in an institution; an 89-year-old woman who moved into a group home when her eyesight failed and her caregiver could no longer care for her.
“These are stories created every day by the staff at CPNJ,” McCreath said. He showed a video, provided by board member Maxine Myers, that showed the various programs and the people it helps. CPNJ’s programs focus on functional learning and helping clients develop the skills they need to help them in their lives.
“Everyone participates,” the video’s narrator said. “All the students belong here. Here they are not non-ambulatory, they are not non-verbal… they are just kids.”
Barry Ostrowsky, president and CEO of Barnabas Health, introduced Hammer, who he said has been his friend for 41 years.
“What is most impressive about Alan is the type of connection he has to people,” Ostrowsky said. “I have not made a major decision in my life over the last 41 years without consulting Alan. He sits, he listens, he puts himself in your position. It’s never inconvenient for Alan to take my calls, to meet with me. His philanthropy is well-known.”
Ostrowsky added that when he told Hammer that CPNJ wanted to honor him, Hammer didn’t want to accept. When his turn at the podium came, Hammer admitted Ostrowsky was right. He said he is “truly honored” to be among those who have been honored in past years, but that when he considers the contributions others who came before him have made to cerebral palsy, it seemed ridiculous to honor him.
But, he said, then he was taken to the schools to see the children, to meet the staff and to see the difference CPNJ makes in the lives of those affected with cerebral palsy.
“I am especially honored by the words of my friends in the (ad) journal,” Hammer said. “I can’t tell you what this means to me.”
Hammer’s efforts helped raise $460,000 for CPNJ.
After the presentation, board member Helene Jaffe said the way the community rallies around CPNJ is heartening and touching.
“It’s amazing what the community does,” she said. “People come in and help and volunteer, it’s just wonderful. And I am constantly impressed with how good our teachers are.”
Jeff Korbman, who has cerebral palsy and came from Highland Park to attend the event, also said he is touched with the way the community supports those who have the neurological challenge.
“When you have CP, it’s so important to have support and a place to do,” Korbman said. “The challenge of CP is self-esteem, self-confidence, believing in yourself. Not just physically, which is a challenge for all people with CP, but it’s a challenge to be able to go out into the world and feel mentally confident.”
Korbman said schools like Horizon help give kids that confidence.
“And if you have that, you are able to get further in life than you ever thought you could,” he said. “Even with cerebral palsy.”