We are the parents of a special ed child who recently celebrated his 22nd birthday on Jan. 27 — and thus graduated from the Oak Park and River Forest High School CITE Program. We wish to use this public venue to express our true and deepest gratitude for the many professionals who worked with our son during the eight years that he was enrolled in the program.

It would be impossible to thank everyone who worked with our son, but several people were very special to “Mike.” As a starting point, we are grateful to Peggy Markey, program chair, for establishing a wonderful staff and program; Ted Domanchuk, Mary Young, Mike Byars, Jeanne McCoy, Frannie Cardascio, Ann Slivinski, Lisa Vincent, Craig Larson, Daphne LeCesne, Mike Phelan, Rick Short, Olivia Billingsley, Joe Ordman, Jon Adelman, Andrea Neuman and Mary Nissen, along with the remaining staff members.

Perhaps the highlight of his time in the program was the exciting four years that he assisted John Terretta and Doug Hill with the OPRF freshman girls basketball teams. John treated our son as if he was his own, and Mike definitely took pride in “coaching” the girls.

Mike spent five years at OPRF and then moved on to the CITE Program at the River Forest Community Center. Meghan Kennedy took over as his teacher and case manager at CITE, and we can’t thank her and her staff enough for helping our son develop his skills. Staff members include Carin Lucas, Ann Tomaino, Barbara Pruitt, Theresa Craft, Derik Hines and Mike Carmody. These individuals were not only his teachers, but his friends and role models.

Now that Mike’s schooling career has concluded, we are very fortunate and grateful to teacher Mike Carmody for starting Opportunity Knocks, a nonprofit organization with a mission dedicated to providing opportunities and resources to individuals with developmental disabilities, so that they may pursue their educational, occupational and social interests. Mike is actively involved in community functions and enjoys seeing his friends on a regular basis.

We are also grateful to the owners and staff of O’Sullivan’s Public House, who have graciously hired Mike to work a few days each week. He enjoys the interaction with the staff and restaurant guests.

Lastly, we cannot thank Dr. Halliman, the CITE Program, OPRF High School, and the Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park communities enough for all that they’ve done for our “special” son, Mike.

Barbara and Mike White
Oak Park

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