Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mom's Years of Work Bears Fruit; Center for Disabled Breaks Ground

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mom's Years of Work Bears Fruit; Center for Disabled Breaks Ground

Article excerpt

Jo Knott had a dream.

Her dream was to establish a place for young, profoundly disabled adults like her 22-year-old daughter, Rhonda, to go during the day, to enjoy activities and social stimulation and to receive therapy.

For those young people, no such place existed after they turned 21 and were no longer eligible for school district programs.

So for the past several years, the Orange Park woman has been on a crusade to see that dream become a reality, for her family and others. She wrote grants, approached foundations for donations, solicited support everywhere she could.

Her work paid off.

On Thursday, as Rhonda and her companion dog, Scripps, in attendance, Knott took part in a ground-breaking ceremony for her dream -- the DAYSTAR Center at the Dye-Clay Family YMCA in Orange Park.

The center, which will be the latest addition to the variety of community services offered by the YMCA, will provide day treatment and rehabilitation for severely disabled adults across North Florida.

Knott said the center will fill a critical need for disabled young adults, improving the quality of their lives immeasurably.

"What this program is going to mean to them, the excitement of the Y is going to be very stimulating for them," she said.

It also will fill a need for their parents.

"The pain that won't go away," she said, "it has started to ease. This is a very special program."

Creating very special programs has become a habit for Knott.

When Rhonda was a child, Knott could not find a preschool to meet her needs. So she cofounded Lighthouse Learning Center, which 20 years later is still in operation in Orange Park, serving mentally and physically disabled children.

"What an impact that has had on Clay County and the surrounding area," said her husband, Tony Knott.

Jo Knott co-founded the Baptist Association for Special Children and Adults, a non-profit organization that provides a day camp for disabled children. But as Rhonda grew, her parents realized there was no continuation of schooland privately-run programs for disabled children. …

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