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 enable and empower children with disabilities and their families to grow, learn, play and prepare for lifelong achievement in society.”
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, Ohio in 1943. Camp Cheerful in Strongsville was established 1947. It was 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, Ohio. 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, and headquarters were relocated.
Heman Early Education Development (HEED) Program began for children 18 months to three years. By 1979, the agency was offering 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 the first agency Strategic Plan was developed. A Most Excellent Race was begun to raise funds for Camp Cheeful. Many new collaborations and contracts were initiated. By 1999, the agency grew to serving approximately 1,000 children, young adults and their families annually.
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 visitng prevention program, an adapted sports program and the River Rock Adult Day year-round program at Camp Cheerful. The autism classrooms were expanded through the 8th grade. Camp Cheerful was designated as one of only four camps in the nation as a Blue Ribbon Camp by the National Association of Special Education Teachers.
Pat Nobili retires after 21 years as CEO of the Achievement Centers for Children. Through her visionary leadership, the Achievement Centers experienced unprecedented growth, while expanding and creating numerous new programs, improving all of the facilities, and significantly raising the visibility of the organization in the Cleveland community.
Sally Farwell was promoted to President and CEO. Sally has been an inspiring leader at the Achievement Centers for the past 19 years. She is a dedicated and passionate advocate for our mission, our organization, and for the children and adults with disabilities and the families we serve.