Education and Recreation Center

Hope begins with a school and recreation facility that offers a state-of-the-art learning environment for our students. Cunningham’s schools serve students who need intensive special education services as well as therapeutic treatment for their emotional and behavioral challenges. Through exemplary programs and services, our youth develop the learning and coping skills needed to be successful in public schools.

We are currently raising funds to build a school designed to provide the highest quality, most appropriate educational environment to meet the needs of our students. 
The new facility will include:
  • Spaces large enough to accommodate the special sensory needs of children who become unruly and anxious when crowded, jostled, or touched unexpectedly
  • The latest safety features and damage proof or easily reparable materials
  • Workflow efficiencies to enhance teacher collaboration 
  • Private space to meet the behavioral health needs of students 
The completed Cunningham Education and Recreation Center will be home to:
  • Circle Academy Day Treatment School
  • Gerber Residential School
  • Lou and Mary Henson Gymnasium for Recreation and Special Therapies
  • Dining Hall/Cafeteria

The School will have thirteen classrooms serving the two education programs as well as shared educational space that includes secure quiet rooms, parent–teacher meeting rooms, art and music therapy rooms, and work areas for social workers and therapists.

All classrooms will be equipped with the latest educational technologies.
These include new adaptive approaches to meet the academic needs of individual students, helping them to continue to progress faster and understand their challenges better. As a result, they will be able to ask for the support they need when they leave Cunningham and begin living independent, productive lives within the community.
The new dining hall/cafeteria will be welcoming and comfortable. It will be a place where students enjoy healthy meals and the company of other children and staff. 
The Lou and Mary Henson Gymnasium will be home to the Special Therapies Program which will enhance physical health and emotional well-being. Recreation and special therapies are often the door to the therapeutic process. Teamwork, problem solving, learning to manage emotions when losing and winning, and bonding with a pet all lead to powerful personal insights and transformations. This facility will be a space where creativity and self-expression are encouraged. It will include a gymnasium that can be used for sports competitions, concerts, plays, and all school meetings as well as a fitness room, art and music therapy rooms, and space that is suited for our one-on-one pet therapy programs. The recreation center will also provide a much-needed evening and weekend activity space for our residential students.
Improved space will maximize the individual learning experience for our students and speed up their healing. Over the years our older buildings have been repaired, remodeled, and renovated many times. And while they remain safe for our kids, the buildings offer a less-than-ideal learning environment for our kids. Our teachers must work harder to accommodate for the building’s lack of modern amenities. 
The new building will utilize safer, stronger, and more durable materials, many made from recycled materials. The behavior of our children is unpredictable. Explosive and unanticipated reactions are common occurrences. Everything will be designed to keep our children safe from self-harm and from harming others.
We are consolidating our education and recreation facilities and rerouting the entrance to our campus. The new entrance will be a visual enhancement, but it will also eliminate the twice a-day school bus congestion in the surrounding neighborhoods. Having facilities centrally located will also reduce the time students spend out of the classroom transitioning from building to building across campus.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are the students served by Cunningham different from others their age?
Youth in Cunningham’s Residential Treatment Program at Cunningham attend Gerber School. These youth have been referred to Cunningham because they have experienced some type of trauma, if not multiple traumas, before coming here. This could include physical or sexual abuse and/or neglect. Grief, loss, and abandonment issues are also prevalent among these students.
Students who attend our Circle Academy Therapeutic Day School live in the community with their families. These students have unique behavioral and emotional challenges, many related to trauma, which have prevented them from being successful in a public school environment. 
In each school program, our therapeutic education model is designed to identify the individual needs and strengths of each student and to build on those strengths, both academically and behaviorally.
Why can’t Cunningham kids go to public schools?
Cunningham residential and day students have a wide range of disabilities – emotional and behavioral problems, special education needs, and learning challenges. These “invisible disabilities” impact their ability to function, learn, and develop healthy relationships. These students require special education in a therapeutic environment that public schools cannot offer.
Why is building a new school on the Cunningham campus a good investment?
Providing a state-of-the-art learning environment to educate our students will increase their chances to complete a high school education and allow them to become independent members of society. In turn, this helps all of us create a better society for the future and breaks the cycle of dependency created when people must rely on social programs for their support.
What can I do?
You can make a gift today.  Go to our Giving Page and make a one time gift or establish a recurring gift to the Education and Recreation Center Fund. Or contact Tim Manard, Development Officer, at 217-337-9071 or for more details.
How will my gift make a difference?
Your gift will open a world of unimagined possibilities for our students. Your gift will give our youth hope for a meaningful and productive life.  Your life will be forever transformed because you positively impacted the life of a child. 
Thank you for your support!