Urbana, IL (August 14, 2017) – Cunningham Children’s Home in Urbana will mark the beginning of construction on its newest facility, the Education and Recreation Center (ERC), with a groundbreaking ceremony at 1301 North Cunningham Ave, Urbana on Sunday, August 20 at 3 p.m.
More than 100 people including Cunningham Board and committee members, United Methodist Women from across Illinois, and leaders from surrounding communities will gather 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.
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 will assist with the ceremony.
During the event, Cunningham’s leadership will recognize several supporters including former Illini Coach Lou Henson and his wife, Mary, for their efforts to make the ERC a reality for Cunningham’s kids. The Henson’s passion for the project came from their first visit to Cunningham’s gym in 2007 and Coach said, “No child should have to play sports in this facility.” Soon after, they kicked off the Coach’s campaign with the help of Kendall Gill and his wife, Wendy. The initial fundraising provided a great start for building the ERC.
Soon after initial fundraising began, the national economy experienced a major downturn and, while friends continued to support the project, momentum for donations lagged. But the Henson’s belief in the need for the best recreational and learning environment for the students never faltered. When asked why they believe in the project, Coach Henson said, “The young people at Cunningham need and deserve our love and support. This project is about the futures of these children. That’s why it is important to Mary and me.” As a way to show gratitude, Cunningham’s leadership will recognize the Henson’s by naming the gymnasium – the Lou and Mary Henson
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