Billy* was feeling both excited and anxious. The annual talent show has always been a highly anticipated end of the school year event at Cunningham and for the first time he had signed up to perform. He had practiced and practiced his own rendition of Lee Greenwood’s classic “God Bless the USA” and now it was time to take the stage.
Bryce*, one of our high school spring graduates, was so excited preparing for graduation, he could hardly contain himself. And he had a right to be–Bryce has come a long way and made significant progress in his time at Cunningham.
Libby* sat on the bench with her arms folded and her head down. It was her first game as a member of Cunningham’s girls’ basketball team and while it was just the first half, she was frustrated with herself because she hadn’t scored.
“I don’t feel like I’m helping the team at all,” she told her coach.
In early December, youth from CIRCLE Academy-Vermilion (CAV) went on a special school trip - to see Wonder. A movie based on the New York Times bestseller, Wonder tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.
Do you remember your first job out of high school? And how proud you were to have grownup responsibilities, not to mention your own paycheck? Shane, a 19-year-old young man on the autism spectrum, feels that way and more after successfully completing his first three months of work at a local fast food restaurant. A year ago, after completing high school, neither Shane nor his family had any idea what the future held for him. It was through a referral to Cunningham's Vocational Options program that he not only found employment, but support and hope as well.
For Christmas Eve service this year, Chaplain Gay decorated the worship table in the Spiritual Life Center in a special way -- with a gift she had received from one of our kids. During Wednesday night chapel service earlier this month, 12-year-old Mario* couldn't wait to give it to her.
"Mario ran up to me and said, 'I have something I want to show you,'" Chaplain Gay explained. "He had it wrapped in a gift bag with a note. It was a big deal to him and very, very sweet."
The note read:
Dear Chaplain Gay,
On a recent Monday evening, I pulled on to the Cunningham campus after a spending the day visiting with some of our friends and supporters in the northern part of Illinois Great Rivers Conference. As usual, it was a very satisfying day sharing stories about our kids at Cunningham with people who care deeply about them. But it was also a tiring day. Just two days before, I had made a quick trip to St. Paul, Minnesota and back to see family so I'd seen plenty of windshield time for awhile.
At Jeremy's going-away party last month, it was hard to believe that he was the same child who first entered Cunningham's residential treatment program three years ago. He laughed and exchanged jokes with his peers and was visibly excited when Chaplain Gay asked, "Are you ready to walk the labyrinth?" Jeremy knew that "walking the labyrinth" is a time-honored tradition for Cunningham youth who are ready to move on to new horizons.