GAINESVILLE – Challenged Child and Friends celebrated its 30th anniversary Thursday night with an open house for current and former student and staff as well as community supporters.
Since opening its doors in 1985, Challenged Child and Friends has provided a unique pre-school program for children with and without special needs in a unique integrated environment.
Nearly 3,000 children and families have been served by CCAF over the last three decades.
“The way we do the program is having kids with disabilities and typical peers together,” said Executive Director Amy Gates at the Thursday open house. "That means our kids with disabilities are learning from our typical peers and our typical peers are hopefully learning compassion and tolerance to make them better friends and better citizens as they grow up.”
The school does not deny services to any child for financial reasons, so Gates said CCAF relies on donations from foundations and grants and revenue from special events.
“In order for us to continue to operate, we need support from the community,” said Gates.
Randy Owens was one of the original CCAF students - now, he's a member of the Board of Directors.
”This [school] integrates the abled (sic) body with the disabled body,” said Owens. "It lets them [children] know we’re all the same and we need to work together."