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News Release: 7/9/2019

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July 07, 2019
JUNE 6, 2019: Giant Steps, an organization serving children and young adults on the autism spectrum, celebrated the unveiling of a new life-skills kitchen at its Canopy adult program facility in Sugar Grove by thanking the many volunteers who helped create the space. The kitchen is the result of years of work and collaboration between the Giant Steps staff, interior design students at the College of DuPage and many local business owners.

The team included Jacob Karamol of Development Solutions, Inc., Dan McFadden of PB Kitchen Design, Michael Slusarz of Slusarz Corporation, Frank Esterle of Climate Service Inc., Suzann Nordstrom an Interior Design instructor at College of DuPage and her two students Kelly Cone and Connie Imler.

Other contributors included Jerry and Keith Rich of Rich Harvest Farms, Susan Kimala of The Kitchen Studio of Glen Ellyn, Ricky Abt of ABT Electronics, Hal Nagel of Peerless Flooring, Mike Roberson of Regency Tile, Matt Weisz of MVP Plumbing, Tiffany Moscicki of Hart Travers and Associates, Sherry Schultz of Crawford Supply, Balta Gutierrez Jr. of Cranked Construction, Noe Perez of Trim-Tex, Damian Banasik of Ultimate Stone, Nathan Wheeler of Terrazzo & Marble Supply Companies, Brett Strohl of Lankford Construction, Ken Smith of Vortex Commercial Flooring, Rich Prendergast of CECO Inc. and Ruel Bransford.

“To be able to work with other members of the business community to come together and build something for a group that will truly appreciate it, really means a lot. It was a special opportunity to give back in a meaningful way,” said Karamol, who is on the Giant Steps board and served as a general contractor on the project.
Every person involved donated time, materials and expertise to transform a storage garage into a fully-functional life-skills kitchen that will become an integral part of the Canopy programming.

"Daily tasks such as doing dishes and folding laundry are skills many of us take for granted but don’t always come easy to some of our adult participants. This addition to the Canopy facility will provide an environment that enables us to teach and practice those skills in a meaningful and more individualized manner. The expansion of the Canopy space to include a full operating kitchen and laundry facilities, will not only allow us to enhance programming in these areas, but will give us the opportunity to increase the number of participants we serve overall. As we are able to serve more individuals and support each of those individuals in gaining progresses both large and small, the more fulfillment we see in their lives, not just at Canopy, but at home and with their families, " said Lillian Peterson, Director of Canopy Adult Services.

Giant Steps Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which is comprised of a specialized, therapeutic day school – K-12 – and programming for adults living with autism, launched the Canopy Adult Day Program in 2017 to meet the needs of the many Giant Steps students who were aging out of state-funded programming.
Canopy is a re-imagined community offering hope for a safe, fulfilled, purposeful and happy life for adults with autism. The program serves individuals who are no longer eligible to receive school-based services and support, which ceases on their 22nd birthday. The Canopy programming is designed to meet the individual and specific needs of adults with autism, providing community inclusion opportunities, as well as life skills. This helps participants to continue to grow and develop throughout their lives. 

“Serving the adult autism community is an area where we as a society need to answer the call for help,” said Giant Steps’ Executive Director, Dr. Sylvia Smith. “At Giant Steps we strive to be a leader in this area by creating an innovative environment that will serve as the blueprint for successful, autism-specific, adult programming.”

A long-term goal in the development of Canopy is the creation of a vocational training program. Around 94 percent of adults with autism are either unemployed or underemployed.

“Our new life-skills kitchen is the next step as we look to eventually expand Canopy to include a vocational training program. Currently this new facility will offer our participants the opportunity to practice life-skills. Down the road they will be able to work on tasks such as folding napkins or towels to prepare them to work at a restaurant or hotel. By giving them the skills to be more independent and even find employment, we are helping them to achieve their fullest potential to lead a purposeful and fulfilling life,” Smith said.

For more information on the Canopy program or the open house, please contact Lillian Peterson, Director of Canopy, at 630-864-3830
Christina Isherwood
(708) 309-3328

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