The Inspiration Behind the Maressa Center for MS Wellness
The Maressa family is no stranger to life with multiple sclerosis, a progressive autoimmune disease that presents with a wide range of symptoms. In 1994, Julian Maressa, DO, received his diagnosis, which he kept to himself for many years. Little did the Maressas know this would change their lives more than they could have ever imagined.
A graduate of Nova Southeastern University College of Health Care Sciences, Julian has practiced family medicine for more than 20 years. He first realized something was “off” when his vision became temporarily impaired, due to an inflammation of the optic nerve, common in people with MS. After his eyesight returned to normal, he developed a drop in his left foot, the progression of which has led him to need a wheelchair.
Over the years, Julian, his brothers Joseph Maressa Jr. and Anthony, and his sister JoLynne, have learned how essential stress reduction is in managing the disease. For people with MS, stress is known to exacerbate symptoms and cause overwhelming fatigue. Daily activities geared toward physical, emotional, and spiritual health can make a monumental difference.
With this in mind, Joseph – a member of the Jefferson Health New Jersey Board of Directors and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees – envisioned an innovative, comforting, and educational program in which anyone with MS, and their caretakers, could come and spend the day with people who walk similar paths in life.
With the help of Joseph; Julian; Brian Duffy, Director of Rehabilitation; Carmen Ciervo, Executive Vice President and Chief Physician Executive; Joanne Sabatini, Director of Leadership Giving & Donor Relations; the Jefferson Health Foundation – New Jersey; and many others, the Maressa Center for MS Wellness was established.
“Growing up, our parents instilled in us a passion to give back to the community as much as possible – which we are truly blessed to be able to do. We wanted to create a program like the Maressa Center that could make an immediate impact in the lives of people living with MS,” said Joseph.
Each retreat at the Maressa Center, hosted at Jefferson Cherry Hill Hospital, was to offer a new, therapeutic learning experience. Throughout fall 2019, during its pilot program, this proved to be true. Participants were provided with health classes, mind and body exercises, day spa experiences (including haircuts, manicures, and massages), art therapy, cooking demonstrations, support group and mental health discussions, breakfast and lunch, and more – all for FREE!
Lisa Galda, Cherry Hill resident who was diagnosed with MS in 1999, says the Maressa Center has helped her regain her sense of freedom. “It’s a great forum to meet people and share your own stories. The spa experiences make me feel ‘normal’ again; not that I am not ‘normal,’ but I don’t usually find time to pamper myself. Lately, I’ve felt more relaxed, and I’ve noticed my sleep quality has improved.”
“We believed that this would help people feel better, but we never realized how close-knit of a community it would become,” explained Joseph. “We are in awe at how much participants enjoy confiding in one another, and how much they look forward to coming back.”
The Maressa Center for MS Wellness will host retreats on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month, through 2020.
To learn more about the Maressas, click HERE.