The Herrera Family prayed for a healthy baby and was elated when Louie was born. Three days after his birth, doctors began to run tests and diagnosed Louie with Down syndrome.
Louie’s parents, Cheryl and Lou, were committed to providing their son with everything they could to help him develop, grow and achieve to his potential. When Louie was just six-months old, they heard about Ray Graham Association’s (RGA’s) Early Intervention Program. This program assists children from birth to three years old who show early signs of delay to reach their highest potential at the earliest possible opportunity. Louie flourished in this program.
Throughout his early education, Louie continued to receive services from Ray Graham Association. Louie was enrolled in RGA’s Gateway Special Recreation Program where he attended summer camps which included Therapeutic Horsemanship. RGA’s Gateway Special Recreation Programs became the focus of Louie’s social life where he also enjoyed a wide array of sporting activities including basketball, soccer, golf, bowling and track & field. In fact, Louie became so involved with RGA that by the age of 16, his family (which now had grown to include three other boys, Doug, Zach and Liam) decided to move to Elmhurst so they could be closer to what had become daily trips to the RGA programs Louie had come to love.
After completing high school, Louie transitioned to one of RGA’s Community Learning Centers in Lombard. The Community Learning Centers support adults with disabilities to participate in their communities through employment, volunteerism and recreation. Individual plans are developed to guide people as they learn important life skills. Today, at age 26, Louie is currently enrolled in RGA’s Monarch Academy, a post-high school, community based program for young adults with disabilities. The Academy, a model created by RGA, fosters the development of a wide range of meaningful skills that facilitate social relationships, self esteem, employment and recreation using the community as the “classroom.” The Academy is designed for young adults who are eager to learn and enjoy an active schedule with a wide variety of experiences and social interaction with peers. Louie continues to be very active in RGA’s Gateway Program where he meets up with his friends daily at various social clubs; such as, Tuesday Travelers and Saturday Explorers. Louie also participates in various Special Olympics and Recreation Programs through the Gateway Special Recreation Programs.
As his parents cited “Louie is now 26 years old and enjoying all that Ray Graham Association has to offer him. At every stage of his young life, RGA has provided the most appropriate training for him, and professional help and guidance for us and his family. We truly feel blessed to have discovered this wonderful organization when Louie was just a baby. We feel strongly that through RGA’s Early Intervention, Special Recreation Programs and now Monarch Academy, Louie has been able to grow to develop friendships, skills and more independence than we ever dreamt possible.”
The Herrera Family is a very typical family faced with the challenges of a loved one with developmental disabilities who come to be served by Ray Graham Association. It is because of your kindness and generosity that we are able to provide the very best in residential, educational, recreational, vocational and respite services for nearly 2,000 children and adults with disabilities.
Please consider making a gift to Ray Graham Association and help us provide support to families like the Herrera’s. Donate here today and empower people with disabilities!