The FIRE Foundation of Greater Chicago was born when the Harig Family’s youngest daughter, Katie could not find placement in Catholic schools in their area. Below is their story of FIRE Foundation of Greater Chicago…
When Katie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, we felt devastated and confused. What will this mean for her? The pediatrician who diagnosed her said, “Remember she’s still Katie.” Whether a person has disabilities or not, each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, with a unique personality and talents.
As Katie reached school-age, we tried to have her attend a Catholic school, but it only lasted about a month. With their limited resources, the school was just not able to give Katie what she needed. We enrolled her in public school for several years but wanted Katie to receive the Catholic education and character formation that her older siblings benefited from in our parish schools. We decided to try home schooling and she learned a lot, but there was a lack of interaction with other children her age and was not really the educational experience we want for our daughter.
Again, we then contacted some local Catholic schools but, unfortunately, they did not have the resources to provide the educational supports that Katie needed. We felt heartbroken that Catholic schools did not have all of the necessary support to educate children of all abilities.
In August of 2015, after making a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin, we were inspired to start Rosewood Foundation to find a way for kids with special needs to receive a Catholic education. After talking with many experts, we realized that all children benefit from an inclusive education and the best plan of action for the Foundation was to work with Catholic schools to help them to provide inclusive education. With the help of the Archdiocese of Chicago, we were directed to St. James School in Arlington Heights and started the process for Katie to attend there. They already had a special education program in place but not for students with more significant needs, such as Katie. It took a year to prepare, but with a grant from our Foundation, now both Katie and her friend, Natalia, who also has cerebral palsy, are thriving in 6th grade at St. James. They love being a part of the school and both say that religion is their favorite class!
After our experience, it was clear that more children in the Archdiocese could benefit from the support of our Foundation, and in January of 2019, we contacted FIRE Foundation in Kansas City to explore a partnership with their group. For more than 20 years, FIRE Foundation has been helping Catholic schools in Kansas City to provide an inclusive education for students of all abilities, and we are pleased to say that in August of 2019, Rosewood Foundation became an affiliate of FIRE Foundation and changed our name to FIRE Foundation of Greater Chicago.
Please help us to assist Catholic schools in the Greater Chicago area to access the resources they need to welcome all of God’s children, so more children, like Katie and Natalia, can attend their local Catholic schools with their siblings and peers. Donate today!