Oct. 14, 2014 (Geneva, IL)    With hard hats and shovels at the ready, Marklund officially broke ground for its Day School expansion, to construct a $4.2 million two-story, 12,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building that focuses specifically on students with autism spectrum disorder. After nearly two years of planning, it’s finally Go-Time for construction on the new Ann Haskins Center at the Marklund Day School.

“We are so pleased that the Board of Trustees realized the need for this expansion and gave the green light for us to move forward on this project that will allow us to serve up to 35 more students each year,” said Gil Fonger, Marklund CEO. “Now the real work needs to begin that will make the dream of this expansion – the Ann Haskins Center – a reality!”

Held on Tuesday, Oct. 14, the ceremony includes comments from Bloomingdale Village President Franco Coladipietro and Marklund Board Chair Jeff Blanchette. Other invited guests included State Sen. Tom Cullerton, Illinois State Rep. Michelle Mussman, local government and school officials, Marklund board members, staff, volunteers, and of course, current Day School students, teachers and parents.

“I firmly believe that communities are better communities when we work together, when we work to help each out,” said President Coladipietro. “That’s what we’re doing here today. We’re working together to make Bloomingdale a better place to live. I cherish the tradition we have with Marklund. I’m looking forward to working together with Marklund now and into the future.”
Coladipietro also recognized the many efforts of Village Trustee Michael Hovde, noting that it had taken a lot of work to get to this point and that Hovde had “done most of the heavy lifting.”

In addition to the local officials and Marklund representatives, students from the Marklund Day School took part in the groundbreaking ceremony each donning little yellow hardhats and being assisted in the ceremonial shovel task by school staff and parents.

Situated adjacent to the current school building, the new addition will allow Marklund to expand its Life Skills program which provides specialized education and training to students ages three to 22 who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  The new building will include six classrooms, therapy rooms,  a multi-purpose room, which will also be used by residents of the Marklund Children’s Home, offices,  observation areas, and a mock apartment, and is being built from the ground up with the needs of children with autism in mind, Fonger explained. The height of every window, curvature of the walls and placement of benches in the hallways have been determined with the assistance of an autism consultant.

“It has been said that you make a living by what you earn, but a life by what you give,” said Board Chair Jeff Blanchette.  “We could not have done this without the generosity of our donors: including the Ann Haskins Foundation, the Topfer Family Foundation, the estate of Bill Dreher, and o    Frank & Jackie Murnane.”

The expansion will be funded in large part by a $3.5 million donation bestowed by the Ann Haskins Foundation, an organization named for a St. Charles woman who because of disabilities, grew up needing special education. Ann’s mother formed the foundation in her daughter’s honor to help more children like Ann by partnering with organizations that would provide the highest quality special education for children in DuPage and Kane counties.

Jim Anderson of Wheaton, representing the Haskins Foundation, read a letter from Ann’s niece Sarah Haskins, who was unable to attend the groundbreaking herself. “I am truly sorry I cannot be here today to demonstrate how happy we are that the Haskins family is able to contribute to an incredible institution like the Marklund School.  What we give in Ann’s memory is matched and outweighed by the giving that goes on at Marklund every day: the gift of love, attention and education. These gifts are priceless. Thank you for helping us honor our Aunt.”

According to Fonger, Marklund and Wheaton College, another recipient of funds from the Foundation, have formed a partnership to share information and give college students the opportunity to observe and obtain clinical training at the expanded Day School.
Marklund Day School currently partners with public school districts to give them a place to send those students whose needs cannot be met at their own school.

“We’d like to thank the Village Board and all those residents who have been supporters of Marklund since our founding 60 years ago. We are proud to have called Bloomingdale our home all these years and because of support from our friends, will continue to make everyday life possible for individuals with profound disabilities,” Fonger added.