LYNDHURST, N.J.– Deborah Wertalik was leaving for vacation when she received a call from the Lyndhurst's mayor's office.
Mayor Robert Giangeruso nominated Wertalik's organization Special Angels Recreation for the state Commission on Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities' Ted Kaplan Exemplary Recreation Group award.
"It was really shocking," Wertalik told Daily Voice. "After he heard about the award, my name was the first name he thought of. I was very surprised and very honored."
The award is given to a group, club or sports team that implements a unique team activity or activities to enhance the leisure lifestyle of individuals with disabilities through recreation or sports activities, according to the NJCRID website .
Special Angels Recreation – also known as Putting the Pieces Together – was born out of Wertalik's desire to raise money for children with autism, like her grandson, Tyler, who was diagnosed at 4.
It was founded by Wertalik and her daughter – Tyler's mom – Tara Banuls 11 years ago.
The organization offers dance, cheerleading, flag football, soccer, t-ball, softball and more for special needs children.
"I'm happy just to be nominated," Wertalik said. "If your mayor respects you that much, it's a big deal."