Hospital Receives Gift From Maximilian Foundation to Educate Students on Dangers of Substance Abuse

Project Aware Will Expand
May 23, 2018
Courtesy of: Southern Ocean Medical Center (From left)  John K. Lloyd, co-chief executive officer, Hackensack Meridian Health; Dean Q. Lin, regional president, Hackensack Meridian Health; Rick Schmid, founding board president, The Maximilian Foundation; Joanne DiNapoli, corporate director, Foundation and Government Grants, Hackensack Meridian Health; Jim Young, executive director, Southern Ocean Medical Center Foundation; Don Myers, board member, The Maximilian Foundation; Lisa Musarra, board member, The Maximilian Foundation; and Ken Rodenbaugh, project coordinator, Project Aware.

“Project Aware” is a mission of substance abuse education that is important to be aware of. The program informs and educates sixth-graders about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse through realistic, dramatic presentations. Selected students act out a story involving peer pressure, drugs, alcohol and death.

“During the impactful presentation, students learn the consequences of making bad choices and discover that they have the power to make smart decisions,” adds one project description.

The project meshes with the goals of The Maximilian Foundation, which recently gave a monetary donation to support Project Aware. Project Aware has been in existence for nearly two decades in the Stafford Township School District with the aid of healthcare workers in the local medical center, police officers and local anti-drug abuse leaders.

On Friday, April 27, officials of Southern Ocean Medical Center received a $5,000 gift from The Maximilian Foundation to further expand Project Aware in Ocean County. Maximilian’s contribution combined with grants obtained by Meridian will allow the program to be expanded.

“Drug and alcohol abuse is a serious concern in our communities, and Ocean and Monmouth counties are among the hardest hit for substance abuse in the state,” said Dean Q. Lin, regional president of Hackensack Meridian Health. “Project Aware is an impactful way to demonstrate how to make the ‘right’ choice and aims to reduce the incidence of overdoses and deaths in Ocean County.”

“It takes a community to educate students on the dangers of substance abuse, and I am delighted that Hackensack Meridian Health Southern Ocean Medical Center is a proud supporter of Project Aware,” said Kenneth Rodenbaugh, a certified addiction registered nurse who is project coordinator. “By expanding to additional schools throughout Ocean and Monmouth counties, we will collectively make a difference in the lives of thousands of children.”

A presentation was held recently for Stafford Intermediate School students and included a visit to the Southern Ocean Medical Center’s Emergency Department. The event concluded with a debriefing session in the Beach Plum Conference Room at the center. Local police department LEAD (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) officers (formerly DARE) and local anti-abuse leaders were involved in the event.

The Pinelands Regional school district is next – Project Aware is scheduled for May 21 and 22 there. This year, Project Aware expanded to the Little Egg Harbor School District and Pinelands Regional Junior High School.

For more information on Project Aware, email Rodenbaugh at

The Maximilian Foundation was formed in memory of Maximilian Schmid, a Southern Regional High School graduate who died Nov. 16, 2014, as a result of heroin use.

As the website says, “Educate our children before it’s too late.”

“Our mission for The Maximilian Foundation will be focused on drug education in hopes of preventing what happened to our family happening to other families,” says Maximilian’s father, Rick Schmid, on the website. “Our goal is to inform children of the consequences of doing heroin as well as trying to identify children who are the most susceptible to trying drugs. I want to reach parents and let them know it can happen in their homes, no matter how happy or loving their home may be.”

Specifically, The Maximilian Foundation was founded in 2014 with the purpose of preventing self-destructive behavior through substance abuse. The foundation is dedicated to supporting programs designed to strengthen individuals and build character and confidence, thus allowing children and adolescents to better cope with life’s challenges, develop strong life skills, and learn to believe in themselves.

— Maria Scandale













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