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Fall Fest fun at St. Coletta's of Illinois

Sep 22, 2023

Students, adult participants celebrate autumn with games, prizes and food

Deciding which activity station to visit first at St. Coletta’s Fall Fest was no easy feat.

Participants had more than a dozen stations to choose from on Sept. 22, including a pumpkin decorating table, a candy corn ring toss and a face painting booth.

“Let me see you throw,” Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professional (QIDP) Arlene Perry told a participant as he lined up for the bean bag toss. “Let me see what you’ve got.”

Organized by Psychology Director Lauren Mock, the Fall Fest brought students, staff, adult participants and their families together for a few hours of fall fun.

“We wanted to do something that the whole agency could enjoy,” said Mock, as she handed out hot chocolate and Hay Bale Rice Krispies Treats to participants.

Planning got underway several months ago when Mock and her team of clinical therapists planted pumpkin seeds with St. Coletta’s adult participants.

Together, they tended to the seeds, keeping the patch watered and weed free. They had fun watching the seeds sprout, form vines, flower and, finally, produce fruit.

The mini pumpkins were harvested at the Fall Fest and given to St. Coletta’s students and adult participants to decorate.

Scott H., a Community Day Services participant, headed straight to the pumpkin patch to select his pumpkin for decorating.

“We grew them,” he said proudly.

Based in Tinley Park, St. Coletta’s of Illinois provides educational, residential and vocational training services to more than 300 developmentally disabled children and adults from Will and Cook counties.

Its school, the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. School for Exceptional Children, serves students ages 3-21 while its Community Day Services program works with adults, helping them build adaptive learning skills, economic self-sufficiency, independence and integration into the community.

The nonprofit was founded 74 years ago by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.

Assisting at this year’s Fall Fest were more than a dozen representatives from PKF Mueller of Orland Park – a community partner that routinely volunteers at St. Coletta’s in conjunction with CPA Day of Service.

“We’ve been doing work with St. Coletta’s for a long time,” said Senior Accountant Jacob Podczerwinski as he helped students pick pumpkins from a small inflatable pool, reveal a number on the bottom of each pumpkin and claim prizes from a corresponding bin.

“It’s a good organization,” added Auditor Supervisor Nate Apathy. “And, (these events) are fun.”

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