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Community outings resume for St. Coletta's of Illinois participants

Mar 28, 2023

Accepting referrals for new students and adults with developmental disabilities

Having children and adults with developmental disabilities to interact with their community has been a hallmark of St. Coletta’s of Illinois since its inception in 1949 – that is, until COVID hit.


When the pandemic forced schools and businesses to close in 2020, routine trips to the grocery store and/or bank ended for St. Coletta’s adult participants. Jaunts to the hair salon or nail salon ceased. And fun excursions to the movie theaters stopped.


But now, three years after the life-threatening disease started sweeping across the country, St. Coletta’s is slowly, cautiously restoring the programs and activities that made life more fulfilling for the people it serves.


On March 21, more than a dozen individuals from St. Coletta’s Community Day Services program boarded two vans and headed to Marcus Cinema in Orland Park to see Champions, a movie about a former minor-league basketball coach who is compelled to manage a team of players with intellectual disabilities.


“It’s so much fun,” said one participant as he munched on popcorn and waited for the movie to begin. “Real fun,” agreed another.


“Excursions like this allow for the consumers to exercise choice in their lives and individual schedules,” said Jeremy Sheely, director of St. Coletta’s Community Day Services program. “It’s an opportunity to share like interests and experiences while integrating into the community.”


Based in Tinley Park, St. Coletta’s of Illinois is a non-profit social service agency that provides educational, residential and vocational training services to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities so they can achieve their greatest potential.


Going to the movies and, in this case, McDonald’s afterward, is not only fun but educational. Participants get to socialize, interact with community members and practice their budgeting skills by planning how much money they need to pay for the movie tickets and lunch.


When the pandemic first hit, St. Coletta’s shut its therapeutic day school for children as well as its Community Day Services program for adults. Students and teachers met remotely and residents from area group homes were told to stay home.


St. Coletta’s workshop floor, where participants package Minwax Wood Filler for Atlas Putty Products Co. and assembled I-PASS transponder boxes for Igor the Watch Dog Corporation, went silent.


Slowly, as schools and businesses began to reopen, St. Coletta’s welcomed students back to the classroom and adult participants back to the Community Day Services program for recreational therapy, clinical therapy and vocational training.


But while the workshop floor was back up and running, community outings were still on pause until March.


Now, to everyone’s delight, St. Coletta’s is slowly bringing back its community outings, including trips to the library, forest preserves and bowling alley. It’s also opening its doors to new students and adult participants.


“We’re back up and running,” said Heather Benedick, St. Coletta’s Chief Operating Officer. “The pandemic stymied our operations for a while, but now we’re eager to welcome new faces and further our mission to serve children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


“We’re excited to expand our program,” she added, “and we’re looking forward to offering additional services to a larger number of individuals from the south, southwest and western suburbs.”

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