Little City Creates a Sense of Community for People with Disabilities

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By Marie Lazzara, Manager for Linked Local Network Schaumburg

Driving up to Palatine for the latest “LLN Reports with Mike Boehler and Marie Lazzara”, I would never imagine how physically big Little City Foundation really is. The first building isn’t where you go; you have to wend your way to the back of this 56-acre campus to get to the main offices.

Starting with three buildings and 16 residents, the nonprofit has truly grown since opening its doors in 1959. Little City has been serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. While the nonprofit’s main campus is in Palatine, it also has offices in Chicago which serve as the foundation’s headquarters for foster care, adoption and other therapeutic and clinical support services for families.

Currently, it assists more than 350 children and adults who have disabilities such as such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and epilepsy, as well as visual, behavioral, hearing and emotional challenges.

Shawn E. Jeffers, the nonprofit’s Executive Director, is very passionate about helping his clientele as he explained on our show. Back in the 1950s, the pervasive view of dealing with individuals with disabilities was, in Jeffers’ words, that “they needed to be out of sight, out of mind. They weren’t living a life in our communities.”

Living in the 1950s, Jeffers explained that children with disabilities were sent to large state-operated facilities throughout rural Illinois.

“The parents of the individuals who helped to pioneer Little City wanted to create something different—still away from the community but at least at a place where their lives would be ones with levels of dignity and respect,” he said.

Today, people with disabilities are now integrated into communities and work environments. Nonprofits like Little City offer such services to help clients make those transitions to being part of a community.

Those services include an early intervention program; a therapeutic day school for children from birth to age 5; residential homes for children with autism; home-based support systems and group homes for adults; primary, oral and behavioral health care; and vocational options.

Continuing those services takes much funding. Since today’s depressed economy has hurt many nonprofits, they become creative with their fundraising events. For Jeffers, it means injecting some excitement. For the first time, Little City raises the stakes when it presents its Poker Tournament and Casino Night at Chicago’s Hard Rock Hotel Saturday, March 9.

Though players can’t win cash prizes, they can vie for a grand prize of a coveted seat for the World Series of Poker valued at $10,000. The World Series of Poker is a televised event and has appeared recently on ESPN.

In the summer, participants can pick up their clubs of a different sort and swing through Little City’s Invitational Golf Tournament Monday, June 17 at Twin Orchard Country Club in Long Grove. This year is extra special because the tournament will celebrate its 50th year.

Besides the events, Little City also found a way to perk up interest and donations. Working with Papa Nicholas, the nonprofit has its Little City Power blend available for purchase for $10 for a 12-ounce bag. For every bag purchased, 50 percent of the proceeds are donated to the nonprofit.

For information about Little City, visit For information about Linked Local Network, visit .


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