Summit resident Eileen Forman Ludden was named the recipient of the 2012 Evelyn Aronow Citizens Award at the recent New Jersey Commission on Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities Conference. This is the most prestigious award of the Commission and is bestowed upon an individual, who through legislation, education, public relations, technical support, or financial support has promoted the growth and development, and made lasting contributions to the community services for individuals with disabilities in New Jersey.

Eileen was recognized for her drive and determination in creating the SummitCAN, now TryCAN Program for children with special needs. This program is run by the Summit Department of Community Programs in collaboration with other area communities. What started as a one city program, spread to three and now to seven communities with Summit at the hub. Grant funding through the Department of Community Affairs funds the staffing and some expenses of the programming. Hundreds of teen Peer Mentor Volunteers have participated in the program since its inception in 2007.

Ms. Forman Ludden serves as President of the TryCAN Parent’s Association which does fundraising and advocacy for the programs. TryCAN offers programs in each sport that is offered to “typical” children in Summit. Joining with the neighboring communities, teams are fielded in just about every interest. Coaches from the “typical” sports programs volunteer to coach and the kids get shirts just like all the kids in town that participate in sports.

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Teen Peer Mentors volunteer to assist Coaches as well as certified Teachers and Behaviorists that lead the programs. From sports, to social skills, reading to singing and digital drama; there is something for everyone. The Teen Peer Mentors have also volunteered at special events and at area agencies providing services to children. Although the Teen Peer Mentors get Community Service credits for their time, many of them have now chosen career paths in working with children and adults with physical and mental challenges. They also become better citizens as their understanding and compassion for others grows.

Eileen Forman Ludden also serves on the Summit Department of Community Programs Advisory Board. She was also recognized by the Union County Commission on Women and the TryCAN program has received the Excellence in Therapeutic Programming Award from the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association.

Teens or parents interested in learning more about the program are asked to call Kevin Taylor, TryCAN Program Coordinator for more information. He can be reached at 908-277-2932.