Our Mission is to empower children and adults with disabilities to achieve their greatest potential through holistic and family-focused services.
We are a Cleveland, Ohio based non-profit agency providing support, services and programs that help children with a wide range of physical, emotional, neurological, or developmental disabilities achieve their full potential.
Year after year, between 94% and 97% of clients receiving services at the Achievement Centers for Children achieve or partially achieve their individualized goals, including improved functional skills (crawling, walking, talking), increased academic achievement, and improved social/emotional development (interacting with peers, managing stress, coping with a disability).
A future where individuals with varying abilities have opportunities across the lifespan to live life to the fullest. Everyone will reach their highest potential at home, school and in the community as a result of the family-focused and integrated services our staff so competently and passionately provides.
The history of the Achievement Centers for Children is long and rich, marked by growth, innovation, and change.
In 1940, three Cleveland Rotarians, George Gund, Tris Speaker and Frederick McGuire opened the doors of the Achievement Centers for Children, then known as the Society for Crippled Children. They had a vision and hope that every child would have an opportunity to reach his or her full potential. Many of the specific disabilities have changed through the years, but the dedication of the Achievement Centers to children with disabilities and their families has remained constant. The words of the Achievement Centers’ mission have changed, but the spirit has remained the same: “to empower children and adults with disabilities to achieve their greatest potential through holistic and family-focused services.”
The Society for Crippled Children of Cuyahoga County, Inc. was founded on July 7, 1940 to address the needs of children with polio and cardiac disorders. The Society established its county-wide headquarters at 2239 East 55th Street in Cleveland in 1943. Camp Cheerful in Strongsville was established 1947 as Ohio’s first barrier-free residential camp designed for those with disabilities.
Due to growing demand and expanding services, a second location was established in Lakewood. One of the area’s first preschool and homebound service programs for children with disabilities began. Enrollment at Camp Cheerful grew, and many community organizations enjoyed and benefited from the unique facilities.
A new facility was built on Cleveland’s east side on Buckeye Road, which became the agency’s new headquarters.
The agency expanded its services by adding social services, early intervention, preschool, recreation, and physical, occupational and speech therapy.
Adult camping began at Camp Cheerful for adults with disabilities. The agency changed its name from the “Society for Children of Cuyahoga County, Inc.” to the “Achievement Centers for Children” in 1988.
In 1994, Patricia Nobili joined the agency as Executive Director and began a 21-year tenure as leader of the organization. Also in this decade, the first agency strategic plan was developed, A Most Excellent Race was launched to raise funds for Camp Cheerful and many new partnerships were initiated.
The agency built a new, larger headquarters, the Breen Family Center in Highland Hills. Many new programs began including a preschool and kindergarten through second grade program for children with autism, the Early Childhood Mental Health program, Adapted Aquatics, Therapeutic Horsemanship, and Achieve Consulting Services. Our west side services relocated to Westlake in 2007 providing four times more space for growth.
New programs were added including the Intensive Therapy Clinic, home visiting prevention program, adapted sports program and the year-round River Rock Adult Day program at Camp Cheerful. Camp Cheerful was honored as one of only four camps in the nation as a Blue Ribbon Camp by the National Association of Special Education Teachers.
Sally Farwell was promoted to President and CEO in 2015, after having served as VP of Programs for a decade. During her six years as CEO, Achievement Centers for Children expanded its therapy programs by adding North Coast Therapy Associates, LLC as a wholly-owned-subsidiary.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency celebrated its 80th anniversary virtually, with four days of YouTube programs (raising $279,000). Pictured above, on Nov. 14, 2020, the Terminal Tower was lit purple and orange, in honor of the milestone.
Bernadette (Bernie) Kerrigan, MSSA, LISW, SPHR, was named President and CEO in May 2021. After launching her career as a prenatal social worker, Bernie spent decades in nonprofit leadership roles in the Cleveland community, including with the United Way, The Centers for Families & Children, and First Year Cleveland, prior to assuming the helm at the Achievement Centers for Children. Pictured above, Bernie with Board Chair Jim Kacic.
Camp Cheerful, Ohio’s first camp with recreation programs for children with disabilities, celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2022. In addition, the agency’s new 3-year strategic plan was launched in July 2022.