January 16, 2015

Little Friends 50th Birthday

As a child, Becky Pietrzak banged her head repeatedly, so hard that she would bruise her eyes. The cause? Cerebral Palsy and Autism, a combination that left her parents wondering what kind of life would be in store for their daughter.

Now 27, Becky lives with two roommates in an assisted living home and is thriving, all thanks to the help of the local not-for-profit, Little Friends.

“I owe it all to Little Friends, I can honestly say, I don’t know where we would be without what we’ve been given from them over the years. I don’t know how our life would have turned out, it couldn’t have been better for us, couldn’t be better for Becky,” said Nancy Pietrzak, Becky’s Mother.

For the past 50 years, Little Friends has been assisting families like the Pietrzaks.

Founded in 1965, the not-for-profit was started by a group of parents with young children who couldn’t be served in public school districts because of disabilities. Today, they serve more than 800 individuals annually.

“We’ve had numerous accomplishments but I think the thing that we’re most proud of is the fact that the people we support at every level are fully integrated into their communities,” said Kristi Landorf, President & CEO of Little Friends.

Little Friends first fundraiser, to help them make payroll, was held 39 years ago in the basement of Fox Valley Mall. Now, they do several a year, ranging from golf outings to walks, each raising tens of thousands of dollars through community support.

“The community is the road of our existence. We are welcomed, our clients are welcomed, our families are welcomed, there is nothing more challenging for a family with a person with a disability to feel like they can’t go to the market, that doesn’t happen here so what we do everyday is something we could not do was it not for that piece of the community,” said Landorf.

Going forward, Kristi has big dreams for the next 50 years.

Our goal is to continue to enhance our transition program, create new opportunities, so that at 22 life just doesn’t stop or fall back on your caregiver or parent. We want people out there involved in their communities, working, living, learning, and participating in recreation,” said Landorf.

And Nancy Pietrzak knows firsthand just what a gift that helping hand can be.

“I hope Little Friends can do what they continue to do for us because it’s the greatest gift. I hope that they’re able to provide all the resources and all the support for all the families that have needs so that they can end up like we ended up. We’re blessed, so blessed to have what we have,” said Nancy Pietrzak.


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