Hometown Heroes Naperville's Little Friends Helps People with Developmental Disabilities

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 3, 2008 | Go to article overview

Hometown Heroes Naperville's Little Friends Helps People with Developmental Disabilities


Little Friends Inc. has spent more than 40 years serving children and adults with developmental disabilities in DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Will, McHenry and western Cook counties.

During that time, the Naperville-based organization has worked hard to empower its clients to live, learn, work and participate in the community.

The fruits of that labor will be on display May 18 when dozens of its clients showcase their artistic talents during the inaugural Expressions of Us: Art & Interpretive Creations exhibition and auction.

The event will run from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Naperville Art League gallery, 508 N. Center St.

Hosted by Little Friends Family Council, it aims to highlight the artistic talents of the many individuals served by the organization, said Carolyn Hamilton, director of marketing and public relations.

Selected clients from across the agency's 14 programs will be invited to participate in hopes of generating awareness about the importance of artistic expression.

The event will feature original paintings, sculptures and other one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted creations, she said. Guests can enjoy wine and hors d'oeuvres while bidding on the items in the exhibition.

Proceeds will benefit the organization's art therapy programs.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. They can be purchased online at www.littlefriendsinc.org; by contacting Special Events and Volunteer Manager Cally Edwards at (630) 281-1882; or via e-mail, credwards@@lilfriends.com.

Hamilton recently discussed Little Friends with the Daily Herald.

Q. What's your group's mission?

A. It's the mission of Little Friends, Inc. to empower children and adults with special challenges to live, learn, work and participate in the community.

Q. How do you work toward accomplishing that goal?

A. Little Friends operates 14 programs, including early intervention, alternative schooling, family support and consultations, vocational training and community-based residential services.

Q. Who do you serve?

A. Little Friends is a private, nonprofit organization serving children and adults with developmental disabilities, including autism. Located in Naperville, Little Friends serves more than 800 people each year throughout DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Will, McHenry and western Cook counties.

Q. When and why did Little Friends start? How has it grown?

A. Little Friends was founded in 1965 as a nursery school for five children. Since its founding more than 40 years ago, the Naperville-based agency has continued to evolve, consistently introducing new and dynamic programs and services to meet the needs of the surrounding communities.

Little Friends now operates three alternative schools, providing unique educational opportunities for children with special needs from across the state of Illinois.

More than 120 students from more than 60 school districts attend Little Friends' Krejci Academy, which is in Naperville's historic district.

Students at Krejci Academy, 90 percent of whom have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, benefit from individualized therapies, small class sizes and high staff-student ratios.

Area families looking for assistance for infants and toddlers with developmental delays turn to the agency's Parent-Infant Program, which specializes in early intervention for children under 3 years old.

Founded in 1975, the Little Friends Parent-Infant Program was the first of its kind in the nation to offer a specialized class for children under 3 with autism.

Q. What kind of successes have you had?

A. Recognizing the need for residential services for children with autism, Little Friends opened a group home for six children in 1980.

One of the first of its kind in Illinois, the Life Skills Training Center for Children with Autism is a two-year intensive residential training program that focuses on improving communication and behavior, while enhancing skill development. …

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