55 Years of Little Friends

55 years after opening its doors, Little Friends is celebrating its anniversary… virtually.

“We will be sharing stories with each other and we have a wonderful Facebook page people should look at,” said Little Friends Executive Vice President, Patti Boheme.

“This is a time for us, in highlighting our 55 years, of saying thank you to the community. And how to we say thank you enough, there isn’t any way, but that is the main emphasis right now,” said Vice President of School Programs, Camille Smith.

The Beginning of Little Friends

In celebrating Little Friend’s anniversary, Executive Vice President Patti Boheme and Vice President of School Programs Camille Smith have also been revisiting its history, including the very beginning of Little Friends.

“Going back as far as Dottee Krejci was here 55 years ago and she had the Hobson pre-school. She was serving children with disabilities that no one else would,” said Boheme.

Little Friends has evolved since it began with the Hobson preschool, but has held firm to its core values during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Both today during the pandemic and has it has been since our inception is service and leadership. And those are two fundamental qualities that our agency started with and have never lost sight of,” said Smith.

“We have been serving people with disabilities in our residential services right in Naperville for many years,” said Boheme. “And we developed some of the best practices for teaching life skills and community skills and those people today are citizens.”

Evolving During the COVID-19 Pandemic

While the Center for Autism is closed to visitation, the staff from Little Friends has continued engaging with the community. Zoom conference calls have replaced programs, while teletherapy has supplanted in-person meetings out of necessity.

I look at the glass half full all the time. So this has given us a very unique opportunity to look at programming, to look at what we do. And to implement and design some of the changes that we talk about doing, that we know would be an additional boost to our program,” said Smith.

With that in mind, Little Friends is gearing up for the next 55 years, using the tools they were forced to adopt now to better serve the community in the future.

Naperville News 17’s Kevin Jackman reports.

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