The Millstone Valley Columbiette’s from St. Joseph RC Church in Hillsborough recently nominated GiGi’s Playhouse Hillsborough program participant Jason Tyukody for the 2020-2021 State Humanitarian Award. And guess what? HE WON!
In her letter nominating him, then-President Lisa Rossi wrote..
Jason is a 44 year old with Down Syndrome. For more than 20 years, he has served as an altar server for St. Joseph’s Church in Hillsborough, New Jersey. He is sure to keep our Fr. Hank Hilton on his toes with following the schedule, rules, etc., during mass and to not forget the birthday month people at the end of mass! Not only does he serve the parish in this capacity, he also participates in many other activities. He cleans, prepares tables and serves food at the SAGES luncheons, the Veterans lunches/events and at the parish picnics, where he can be counted on to spontaneously get the crowd laughing, singing along, clapping and swaying to his ‘trademark’ “Sweet Caroline”! Shhhh… don’t tell anyone, but he’s been known to play Santa at the Knights of Columbus’ pancake breakfasts!
When the Millstone Valley Knights of Columbus and the Columbiettes teamed together to bag groceries at the local Shop Rite to raise money for the Drive for People with Disabilities, Jason was there, and he took it upon himself to hand out chocolate kisses to the customers who donated money to the cause! In fact, this simple act of kindness brought in more donations!! It must be noted here that Jason has worked at ShopRite as a bagger for 20 years and the customers and staff all love him! In fact, his manager says that when customers see him, they will migrate over to his line, no matter how long of a wait it is because they know they can count on him to take special care in packaging and bagging their groceries as he would his own.
He is known to many around Hillsborough Township as “The Mayor.” In fact, a past Mayor of the town was quoted as saying that he would not want to run against him! Not only does Jason have this reputation around our town, but he is also an Ambassador, or a/k/a “The Mayor” at GiGi’s Playhouse, which is a Down Syndrome Achievement Center. Jason has learned and excelled in his studies there and is also extremely active at this Center, doing whatever they need him to do. When several New Jersey Catholic High Schools welcomed GiGi’s into their schools to speak about Down Syndrome, Jason was well received by the students and staff members. Everyone wanted to talk to/with him! His family and friends can always be counted on to rally around “Team Jason” to fundraise for the Playhouse and Jason is always happy and eager to get on stage behind a microphone to get an event crowd hyped up. In fact, his love of playing Santa really started here, and it has continued for many years. This year, their Christmas party was virtual, but that did not stop Jason, he still “showed up” (albeit virtually!) as Santa! He is seen every year representing GiGi’s Playhouse at the town’s Memorial Day parade waving a flag, playing to the crowd, and putting a smile on so many faces!
In 2018, Jason received the Corrine Ann Hanko Memorial Achievement Award in recognition of his dedication and involvement in Special Olympics. Jason has competed in Special Olympics in Somerset County in the track and field and bowling events for 35 years. He has medaled many times and he is as enthusiastic about cheering on others as he is about winning himself. Hence, his “Mayor” status also applies here!
Jason is truly a “special” person. He has proven time and time again what a person with a disability can do to bring sunshine and happiness to others. In fact, the definition of a humanitarian is a person who cares about people and participates in charity or does good work to show that care. Jason, with his contagious spirit and kind heart is a perfect candidate for this award and we appreciate your consideration.
Jason further showed his greatness by donating a portion of his cash prize to the Columbiettes and to GiGi’s Playhouse Hillsborough. Everyone at the Playhouse is proud of him and together we all celebrate Jason for his accomplishment!