Cunningham Children’s Home in Urbana marked the beginning of construction on its newest facility, the Education and Recreation Center (ERC), with a groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday, August 20.
“This is definitely a day to celebrate,” Cunningham President and CEO Marlin Livingston said. “On this site, in a little over a year, we will open the doors on a brand new facility that will positively impact the lives of our kids and also the way our staff are able to work. We have amazing administrators, teachers, and school staff who work diligently to meet the needs of our students. We have specialists who offer art, music, and recreational therapy in order to impact the well being of our kids while teaching them important life skills. We have kitchen staff that organizes every meal with the goal of making them nutritious and delicious for each kid. All of these people will be under one roof; working together to make sure that every child thrives.”
More than 180 people, including Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin, Cunningham Board and committee members, United Methodist Women from across Illinois, and leaders from surrounding communities, attended to celebrate a project that the agency has been envisioning since the development of its Master Plan in 2001.
The 50,000 square foot facility will be located on the Cunningham campus at the corner of Cunningham Avenue and Country Club Road. It will include a Residential School, Day School, Recreation facility, gymnasium, kitchen, and cafeteria.
“I vividly remember when Marlin (Livingston) took me on my first tour of Cunningham,” Cunningham Board and ERC Advisory Group member, Doug Schroeder said, “and just how different this place is and how special this place is. The challenges that Cunningham faces in trying to do things with buildings that are far past their prime ... it’s silly. But the work that Marlin and the Cunningham staff have done is just tremendous.”
Cunningham operates two schools – one for youth in our residential treatment program and another for students who live at home but need additional support. All of the students in Cunningham’s schools need intensive special education services as well as therapeutic treatment for their emotional and behavioral challenges. The ERC is designed to provide the highest quality, most appropriate educational environment for their unique needs. Through exemplary programs and services, youth develop the learning and coping skills needed to complete high school and be successful in their communities. Students from both Cunningham schools assisted with the ceremony.
Cunningham is 62 percent of the way to its goal of raising $8.5 million for the ERC, which means fundraising will continue along with the construction process.