On March 7, approximately 580 donors, supporters and volunteers of Little Friends gathered for their primary fundraising event of the year, the Little Friends Benefit Auction. By the end of the evening, the non-profit provider of comprehensive services for children and adults with developmental disabilities and autism collected over $600,000 to support their mission of ensuring their clients lead fulfilling lives in the community- regardless of challenge.
Little Friends, founded in 1965, supports children, adults, and families with developmental disabilities and autism throughout eight counties and over 50 school districts in northern Illinois and Indiana. Over time the 501 (c) 3 organization has grown to a multi-faceted human services agency operating three schools, vocational training programs, community-based residential and respite opportunities, and the Little Friends Center for Autism. Little Friends serves almost 950 people each year.
As part of the evening’s agenda on March 7, Little Friends President & CEO Mike Briggs presented the Dottee Krejci Award for Distinguished Service to State Representative Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville). Upon presenting the award, Briggs thanked Wehrli for his dedication to those living with significant challenges and the caregivers who help them. “Grant Wehrli is a champion for helping individuals with special needs,” Briggs said. “As our State Representative, he is unafraid to speak up and represent the interests of those with challenges. He has helped Little Friends in more ways than we can express.”
In his role as State Representative of the 41st District, Wehrli is a strong voice in Springfield when it comes to adequate pay for caregivers and ensuring budget funds are channeled toward facilities that provide services for vulnerable segments of the population. He also created a Developmentally Disabled Task Force that meets quarterly to discuss issues and concerns, and to brainstorm ways that Wehrli can seek legislative solutions to the many challenges this segment of the population faces.
“It is a distinct honor to receive a service award named after a true pioneer in the delivery of services to the developmentally disabled and to those with autism,” said Wehrli. “Dottee Krejci saw a need in our community, and responded. She worked tirelessly to create a framework where children and adults with challenges could live, work, learn and thrive. She was the founding director of Little Friends, and it’s a privilege to receive an award that bears her name.”
Wehrli continued, “We live in a special community that really came out in strong support of Little Friends,” said Wehrli. “The collection of more than $600,000 in a single evening is a new fundraising record for this event. It’s nice to know that people recognize that Little Friends is a pillar of the community that makes Naperville such a wonderful place to call home.”