Project Fire Buddies Helps DSCC Participant Attend Concert of Her Dreams
Lily Brown and her entire family saw Taylor Swift perform at Chicago’s Soldier Field
Lily Brown and her family experienced a whirlwind week earlier this month that they won’t soon forget.
The 14-year-old Oak Forest girl graduated from eighth grade. She then played in an adaptive Little League Challenger baseball game.
But the week’s biggest highlight was seeing Lily’s favorite artist Taylor Swift in concert at Soldier Field in Chicago on June 2.
“It was a very special week for all of us,” Lily’s mom, Jennifer Brown, said.
A nonprofit group of Chicago-area firefighters called Project Fire Buddies made the unforgettable concert experience possible.
Lily has Rett syndrome, a rare genetic neurological disorder. The condition can severely affect abilities such as speaking, walking, eating and even breathing.
Lily has seizures and uses a wheelchair. Even though she doesn’t speak, she says a lot through her expressive eyes and huge smile.
She is also a participant with the University of Illinois Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC). DSCC partners with families to help them find the right services and resources for their child’s special healthcare needs.
In January, Lily turned 14. For her birthday present, Jennifer wanted to take her to see Taylor Swift, who announced her concert tour would include Chicago.
“I took her older sister, Grace, when she was about 9 years old to see Taylor Swift. It was a really special mother and daughter experience,” Jennifer explained. “I wanted Lily and I to have that same experience. Due to the pandemic, Taylor Swift hasn’t toured for a while.”
From the day the tour was announced, they searched for two accessible tickets nearly every day. But their search came up empty. Then, the Oak Forest Project Fire Buddies heard about Lily’s wish to see Taylor Swift.
The Oak Forest Fire Department created Project Fire Buddies in 2016. Its mission is to bring joy to kids struggling with serious illnesses and their families. Volunteers visit the kids throughout the year to deliver gifts for special occasions, play games, read books or just to say “hi” and spend time together.
“We love the fire buddies!” Jennifer said. “We’re so grateful for all that they do. They gave Lily a bike made specifically for her needs so that she can enjoy riding. This year, she’s also playing with the Challenger’s baseball team and enjoyed playing against the Project Fire Buddies team.”
Now, Project Fire Buddies has made Lily’s ultimate birthday wish come true and more.
“Our family usually has to use the divide and conquer approach. We don’t get to attend events together very often,” Jennifer said. “It was an incredible surprise to learn that our Oak Forest Fire Buddies chapter found tickets for our entire family and worked with Soldier Field to have the area accessible for Lily’s wheelchair. We were just blown away.”
Since no “Swifty” can go to a concert without bling, everyone made sure Lily had just what she needed for the big night.
“We made a cute ‘Shake it Off’ shirt with all the sparkle and bling any Swifty would be proud of,” Jennifer said. “We also made a sign, and friends also got her some flashy, light-up flare.”
The Brown’s had an amazing time – together – at the Taylor Swift concert.
“The show was incredible, and Lily loved it,” Jennifer said. “She did have a couple of seizures during the show but bounced back in time to catch her favorite song, ‘Shake it Off.’”
“Project Fire Buddies is hoping to expand to help more kids who are medically challenged or have life-threatening conditions,” Jennifer added. “The Oak Forest chapter is amazing and incredibly generous. They are an important part of Lily’s life, and we are so thankful.”
You can also read about the news coverage of Lily’s special concert experience:
Thank you to Project Fire Buddies for making Lily’s wish come true!
Upcoming Education and Scholarship Opportunities for Young Adults with Disabilities
Learn more about the Illinois Community College Initiative and 2023 CSBG Scholarship Program
Finding the right programs and resources is key when planning for the future as a young adult with disabilities.
Two programs currently offer valuable education, training and scholarship opportunities for Illinois youth interested in college or joining the workforce after high school.
Illinois Community College Initiative
The Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) wants to help people with disabilities in their quest for success.
The Illinois Community College Initiative provides academic and vocational training programs for eligible students with disabilities at in-state public community colleges and approved community colleges bordering the state.
People with disabilities who are eligible for the DRS vocational rehabilitation program are eligible to participate. You may complete community college coursework leading to an associate degree or to a degree, certificate or other industry-recognized credential or certificate.
DRS will help you with:
- The cost of fees, books and supplies
- Transportation costs
- Other eligible costs
See the Illinois Community College Initiative flyer for more details.
Spanish-speaking families can listen to the radio ad or read the ad transcript in Spanish.
Ready to get started? Contact your local DRS office using the locator tool or call (877) 581-3690. TTY and relay callers can dial 711.
2023 C.E.F.S. Economic Opportunity Corporation’s CSBG Scholarship
C.E.F.S. Economic Opportunity Corporation has a scholarship program to help students pay for college or occupational training.
The CSBG College Scholarship program provides financial help to income-eligible students living in the following counties:
You can use the scholarship to pay for formal education or occupational training in an accredited Illinois educational institution. Training and degrees may include:
- Associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree, post-secondary education
- General education, short-term training (two years or less) in growth occupation skills
The CSBG scholarship is competitive and awards students based on:
- The interview process
- Choosing to go into high technology areas or other growth occupations
Previous scholarship recipients can submit an application. You must be enrolled or intend to enroll as full-time students for the fall 2023 semester in an Illinois-accredited college. Full-time is 12 hours or more.
Click on the CSBG Scholarship application or get an application at your county C.E.F.S. outreach office. The application includes contact information for each local office.
You can also visit the C.E.F.S. website for more information.
You must complete your application and submit all requested documents to your local office by April 14 at 4 p.m.
All eligible candidates will have an interview in May.
Find More Transition Resources
Visit the Transition Tools section of our website to find more programs and information to help with planning and paying for college, getting a job and more.
Our team is also here to help partner with you and your family to help make the transition to adulthood as successful as possible.
Contact us to find out more!
Meet Medical Advisory Board Member Dr. Shubhra (Sue) Mukherjee
“DSCC understands the importance of supporting families and coordinating care.”
Dr. Shubhra Mukherjee, also known as Dr. Sue, is the medical director of pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation medicine at Shriners Children’s Chicago.
Mukherjee currently cares for patients up to age 22. Her background includes working with young adults with complex healthcare needs and collaborating across medical specialties to help these patients and their families connect with the care they need.
She has served on the Division of Specialized Care for Children’s (DSCC) Medical Advisory Board (MAB) for more than 16 years.
Mukherjee’s expertise in physical medicine and rehabilitation combined with a deep interest in the transition of care for children with complex healthcare needs has been a great fit.
“DSCC understands the importance of supporting families and coordinating care,” said Mukherjee. “I appreciate their statewide focus and how the MAB serves as an avenue for clinician input on what changes are needed, sharing feedback about the struggles we encounter helping patients get what they need, and working together to find solutions.”
Putting the Focus on Transition
When Mukherjee joined the board, schools were just beginning to explore the need to help students build the skills needed to transition to adulthood.
“They were looking at ways they could better prepare students to go on to jobs, college and life after high school,” Mukherjee explained. “In pediatric care, we realized that we needed to be doing the same thing for children with complex healthcare needs and their families.”
The DSCC team had the idea to increase the participation of medical professionals at the annual Illinois Statewide Transition Conference. We wanted to create a more proactive approach to helping children and their families make the transition from pediatric care to adulthood.
Mukherjee teamed up with DSCC’s former Title V Transition Specialist Darcy Contri to help put the idea into action.
“DSCC was already doing great work providing family support, tip sheets, and facilitating face-to-face conversations about transition. This was just one more piece of the puzzle,” said Mukherjee. “Darcy and I set up the first health care track for the Statewide Transition Conference with a goal of building more clinical engagement and increasing awareness and support for patients with complex health care needs and their families.”
The health care track has provided information and presentations with and for doctors and others providing complex care. According to Mukherjee, it continues to be a catalyst for building connections, sparking ideas, and inspiring healthcare professionals.
“I got to see that impact firsthand when one of our occupational therapists (OT) attended the conference with me,” Mukherjee said. “She was so moved that she became a big proponent of the OT’s role in developing and teaching adolescents skills related to health care.”
Opportunities to Collaborate
Mukherjee appreciates how the MAB fosters collaboration, networking and the development of partnerships. This work continues to create more options throughout Illinois for patients with complex care needs.
“It’s very rewarding to grow my knowledge and connect with like-minded professionals across so many different specialties,” Mukherjee said. “We’re able to share, provide feedback, and exchange ideas around removing barriers and supporting patients with complex healthcare needs at all stages.”
Mukherjee said DSCC also continues to be a major source of support for her own patients.
“Care coordination is so important for these families,” said Mukherjee. “DSCC helps them find the right care or specialist, get to appointments, and locate funding for the services they need to stay well and engage in their community. DSCC is there for the child and family.”
Mukherjee also leans on DSCC for updates and information.
“DSCC helps me keep track of program changes and learn about new services or programs that are available,” Mukherjee emphasized. “DSCC plays a vital role in sharing information and connecting the many different entities that individuals with complex needs depend on for their care.”
Awareness Brings Progress
Mukherjee said there is still a great need for education about the transition to adulthood and its importance.
“I’m glad to see the growing awareness and interest by professionals in helping youth develop the skills they need to be successful as adult users of the healthcare system,” said Mukherjee. “We are seeing more adult providers who understand the needs of young people with disabilities who are aging out of pediatric care.”
Awareness has brought progress, but challenges remain.
“Pediatric and adult care are not set up in the same way. For example, a spina bifida clinic and spinal care clinic are similar, but they are not the same. Adults with complex conditions going to a spinal care clinic may not be getting all of their needs met,” said Mukherjee. “The special pediatric clinic that addressed all their needs as a kid doesn’t exist in the adult care system.”
Mukherjee’s own focus on the transition to adulthood remains as strong as ever.
“I’ve been following some of the research initiatives at the University of Illinois Chicago. It’s exciting to see they are collecting data, exploring different aspects of complex care and its costs, and working towards building a framework that brings all the pieces together for adults with complex care needs,” she said.
“DSCC plays a vital role,” Mukherjee noted. “Sharing their information and ensuring it’s always there for the families we serve is important.”
Thank you, Dr. Sue, for your leadership to help families and professionals support the successful transition to adulthood!
Visit our Medical Advisory Board page to learn more about the MAB and its mission.
Sensory-Friendly Easter Bunny Visits
Hippity-hoppity, the Easter Bunny is on its way!
Sensory-friendly Easter Bunny visits are happening at sites throughout Illinois and the St. Louis area. Individuals of all ages and abilities may schedule an appointment.
The visits will take place in a calmer, quieter environment that supports visitors’ sensory, physical and developmental needs. Autism Speaks is partnering with Cherry Hill Programs to provide these special Easter Bunny photo events.
The Bunny Cares experiences are free. Photos will be available to buy at each event.
You can see the Easter Bunny on March 26 at the following locations (in the “Reserve” section for each location, click on the “Events” button and select “Bunny Cares”):
- Fox Valley
- Frontenac Plaza (Missouri)
- Hawthorn Mall
- Market Place Shopping Center
- Northwoods Mall
- Orland Square Mall
- White Oaks Mall
- Woodfield Mall (also hosting an event on April 2)
Reservations are limited. Visit the Bunny Cares website for a complete list of sites and to reserve your spot.
Many communities are also hosting sensory-friendly egg hunts and opportunities to meet the Easter Bunny. To find these events and other family-friendly spring activities, hop on over to our Special Events page.
New Health Insurance Education Series Open to All DSCC Families
Free virtual training sessions in English and Spanish for Division of Specialized Care for Children participants, their families and all who are interested
Navigating the health insurance maze can be frustrating.
We’ve heard our participant families’ feedback and want to help improve the process.
Please join the University of Illinois Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) for our new education series on important health insurance topics.
These free, family-focused sessions will help you better understand your coverage and benefits.
Sessions are virtual and open to DSCC participants, their families/caregivers and anyone interested in these topics.
The DSCC Health Insurance Education Series is the result of DSCC families’ questions and suggestions from our Family Advisory Council.
Our Benefits Management and Research (BMR) team will explain a different topic and answer your questions each month. They will present each session in English and in Spanish via Zoom.
Save the date for each session:
- Understanding Your Insurance
English: March 7, 6 p.m.
Spanish: March 8, 6 p.m.
This training will help you understand your health insurance. It will go over the types of insurance plans and some important words to know. You will also learn what to do if you have many insurance plans and how to find a doctor.
Sign up for Understanding Your Insurance in English
Sign up for Understanding Your Insurance in Spanish
- Medicaid Eligibility and Coverage
English: April 11, 6 p.m.
Spanish: April 12, 6 p.m.
This training will help you learn about Illinois Medicaid programs. It will discuss who can have Medicaid and the programs for children and adults. You will learn what Medicaid covers and how to keep Medicaid coverage through the yearly redetermination process.
Sign up for Medicaid Eligibility and Coverage in English
Sign up for Medicaid Eligibility and Coverage in Spanish
- Insurance Appeals
English: May 9, 6 p.m.
Spanish: May 11, 6 p.m.
This training will cover information on health insurance appeals. You will learn what to do if your insurance doesn’t approve a service. You will also learn more about the appeal process and how to write an appeal letter. Examples will be available.
Sign up for Insurance Appeals in English
Sign up for Insurance Appeals in Spanish
Details about each series session are also posted on our Events page.
Each session will be recorded. You can access the recordings and related materials on our Family Education Webinars page.
There is no cost for families to participate.
We hope you’ll join us!
DSCC Toddler’s Birthday Celebration Benefits Hospital Patients
To celebrate Eloise turning 3, her family threw a “groovy” birthday party to provide comfort and treats for patients and their families at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois
Birthdays are major milestones in every child’s life. For families of children with rare diseases, they’re especially precious.
Eloise was diagnosed with alobar holoprosencephaly when her mom, Rachel, was 20 weeks pregnant. This congenital condition causes a developing baby’s brain to not properly separate into the right and left hemispheres (halves).
“There are several types of holoprosencephaly and alobar is the most severe. We had no idea if she would be born alive or how long she would live,” Rachel said. “She spent 20 days in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) before going home on hospice just before COVID-19 hit.”
Her first birthday didn’t seem possible, let alone future birthdays. But Eloise defied the odds. The Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) participant moved from hospice to palliative care. Eloise is now a feisty 3-year-old who brings joy to everyone she meets, Rachel said.
To celebrate Eloise turning 3 in November, her family planned a special birthday party to benefit the patients and their families at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois. The party, dubbed “Eloise Fest – Let’s Get Groovy,” provided plenty of treats and gifts from local businesses. The celebration also donated new sound machines to create a more calming setting for families.
“The party was a way to give back and celebrate something we never dreamed possible,” Rachel said.
Eloise has spent time in nearly every pediatric unit of OSF Children’s Hospital. Rachel and her husband, Zach, got the idea for Eloise Fest when they noticed some of the hospital rooms didn’t have sound machines.
“Eloise’s first and second birthdays we raised money for the Carter Centers for Brain Research in Holoprosencephaly and Related Brain Malformations. This year we wanted to do something more tangible,” Rachel said.
“It may seem like a small thing but hearing the beeps and monitors all the time can be really stressful for families and patients. A sound machine helps provide calm by drowning out the medical stuff. During our stays, we usually set our machine on the ocean setting and it helps provide a sense of calm that’s hard to come by in a hospital. We wanted to help other families have that same sense of calm.”
Rachel and Zach worked with the hospital to find out how many sound machines each department needed. The couple then posted a wish list for their family and friends to buy 92 sound machines and related supplies. They fulfilled the wish list within three days.
“It was so touching to see how many people are impacted by Eloise’s story and are there supporting and loving her,” Rachel said.
Eloise’s “groovy” themed party also included her favorite music playlist and a VW bus photo station that traveled from floor to floor. Local businesses also donated an array of food and non-food goodies for patients and staff.
“This has been three years we didn’t know that we would get,” Rachel said. “I’m grateful for the team that we have surrounding us that includes doctors who understand and all the support our friends, family and DSCC provides. How else would we have gotten here?”
You can see more photos from Eloise Fest and the list of local business donors on OSF Children’s Hospital’s Facebook page.
Read more about Eloise’s powerful journey on our Family Stories page.
New Improvements to DSCC Family Surveys
Updates make it simpler and more convenient for our participant families to share feedback
Our participant families are important to us, and your feedback matters. We’ve updated our family survey process to make it easier for you to share your thoughts about our services.
All participant families receive a series of surveys at certain points in their child’s journey with the Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC).
We’ve simplified the process so all families will receive our annual survey at the same time. We will also send you fewer surveys throughout the year.
On Feb. 15, you will receive our updated annual survey. This survey replaces the questions you previously received on your enrollment anniversary.
All families will receive this annual survey every February, regardless of enrollment date.
The survey asks how well DSCC team members are supporting your family and meeting your needs. It also asks about:
- Your contact preferences
- How and when you’d like to meet with our team
- How well our staff communicates with you
How Your Feedback Makes a Difference
Your responses will help us strengthen your services. It also informs our decisions about DSCC policies and procedures that affect your family.
Our surveys are optional, but we strongly encourage you to share your experiences. We want to ensure we’re doing all we can to help you meet your family’s needs and achieve your goals.
We make it a priority to not only listen to our participant families but to follow up on your ideas and concerns.
Recent and ongoing improvement projects that stem from family feedback include:
- We are strengthening our financial assistance process to serve families more quickly and efficiently.
- We are providing more training to our team so they can better explain and share information about state benefits.
- We will begin hosting a series of free webinars in 2023 for participant families to learn about health insurance plans, Medicaid coverage and more.
- We created new tip sheets to explain available benefits and services through the Medicaid waiver for those who are medically fragile and technology dependent (MFTD waiver). You can find these tips sheets on our Waiver Services for Home Care Families page.
We also spent 2022 looking at how to make our survey process more convenient for families. These efforts included gathering feedback from our Family Advisory Council.
FAC members shared concerns about the number of surveys families receive. In response, we removed our series of surveys focused on education. Now you can answer just a few questions about your child’s education needs on the annual survey.
You can find a complete list of our surveys on our Family Surveys page.
Please be on the lookout for the new annual survey on Feb. 15. You will receive this survey either by email or mail, based on your preferences.
If you have questions or need more information, please contact your Care Coordinator.
We appreciate your partnership and look forward to hearing from you!
Illinois Miss Amazing Empowers Girls and Women with Disabilities
The 2023 Illinois Miss Amazing program is accepting applications through Feb. 15.
Miss Amazing is a national nonprofit program that encourages girls and women with disabilities to consider their goals, challenge themselves and take pride in who they are.
The Illinois Miss Amazing experience brings together a diverse group of participants to build friendships, self-confidence and self-advocacy skills.
Illinois Miss Amazing is now taking applications for its 2023 Amplify event on March 18 in Bolingbrook.
Participation is open to girls and women ages 5 and older who have:
- An Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Program Plan (IPP)
- A 504 Plan
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- A physician’s records proving disability
The Illinois Miss Amazing Amplify event activities include:
- Show rehearsal
- Passion presentation
- Hair and makeup
This year’s event also features a new category. Miss Amazing Mentor is for women ages 36 and older. Mentoring can include:
- Helping the younger Miss Amazing age divisions
- Assisting at your job
- Helping at events or with organizations you feel passionate about!
Miss Amazing Mentor participants will take part in the Amplify event interview, passion presentation and personal introduction.
The March 18 Amplify event is at the Bolingbrook Community Center, 201 Canterbury Lane, in Bolingbrook.
Illinois Miss Amazing is accepting applications until Feb. 15 or until all spots are filled.
The program is also accepting applications for volunteers who want to share in the experience. Visit the Miss Amazing website for details about volunteer options.
You can learn more about the Illinois Miss Amazing program and how it helped one of our participants set goals and pursue her dreams at https://dscc.uic.edu/dscc-participant-promotes-illinois-miss-amazing/.
Chicago Care Coordinator Earns DSCC Merit Award
David Martinez honored for his dedication to supporting Illinois children with special healthcare needs and their families
David Martinez is the 2022 recipient of the Merit Award from the University of Illinois Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC).
The award recognizes exceptional employees for outstanding dedication and service to Illinois children with special healthcare needs and their families.
David is a Care Coordinator in the Chicago Central Office. In this role, he helps families develop personalized care plans for their children’s unique needs and connects them to the right services and resources.
“David has a remarkable ability to partner with our participant families and empower them to help reach their full potential,” DSCC Executive Director Thomas F. Jerkovitz said. “He works with families from a variety of cultural backgrounds and helps them feel understood and able to navigate the systems involved in their child’s care.”
David’s Chicago teammates say he has a talent for helping families and working “magic” in situations where others might not see a way.
“He is culturally sensitive, proactive and able to put himself in other people’s shoes so that he can better understand their situation and how best to partner with them to find a solution,” said Assistant Director of Research and Practice Initiative and former Chicago Central Regional Manager Patricia Perez.
David is a licensed clinical social worker. He grew up in El Salvador and studied criminal justice after coming to the United States.
He provided substance abuse programs at the Cook County Jail before deciding to pursue social work. This decision stemmed from his desire to help others and make an impact on families as early as possible.
David worked in mental health before joining DSCC in April 2016. He says he is honored to work for DSCC and with his amazing colleagues and managers in the Chicago Central office.
“Building strong relationships with my co-workers and the families we serve energizes me every single day,” David said. “Our families’ needs go beyond just medical. Every day is an opportunity to look at a situation from all different aspects and find a solution that can meet their needs. Sometimes it’s as simple as just listening.”
David said his DSCC career has helped him learn about many different cultures and that care coordination is not one-size-fits-all.
“Meeting the family where they are – that’s my starting point,” David said. “When I’m meeting with families, I tell them we are a team.”
David has helped achieve many successful outcomes for his participant families. In early 2022, he secured a $36,000 grant through the Guaranteed Rate Foundation to purchase and install a vehicle wheelchair lift in a participant family’s van and to make their bathroom wheelchair accessible.
But David says his proudest achievements are the relationships he builds with families.
“It would be impossible for me to deliver my passion in social work without having a relationship with families and open communication,” David said. “To be able to talk to families on a monthly basis and help them navigate through issues in life, that is my biggest accomplishment — having the trust the families place in me and DSCC.”
Our DSCC team nominated a total of 12 of our colleagues for this year’s Merit Award. As the winner, David receives a Merit Award memento, a $2,500 award and recognition from the Executive Director.
The other 2022 nominees are:
- Melissa Croft, Home Care Enrollment Specialist, Lombard Regional Office
- Christina “Tina” Glim, Care Coordinator, Mokena Regional Office
- Kristin Grubb, Administrative Aide, Peoria Regional Office
- Becky Helmink, Program Coordinator Assistant, Olney Regional Office
- Paula Holaday, Home Care Quality Improvement Specialist, Peoria Regional Office
- Marlo Johnson, Human Resources Officer, Central Administrative Office in Springfield
- Amy Jones, Regional Manager, Olney and Marion Regional Offices
- Danielle Osburn, Home Care Claims Process Lead, Central Administrative Office in Springfield
- Elma Saladar, Care Coordinator, Chicago Central
- Cindy Saxsma, Administrative Aide, Central Administrative Office in Springfield
- Katherine Serrano, Care Coordinator, Chicago Core
Congratulations, David! And a big thank you to all the nominees for their excellence on behalf of our participants and their families!
Sensory-Friendly Holiday Events Happening Across Illinois
Events feature sensitive Santa, holiday lights, craft activities and more!
Are you looking for sensory-friendly events that the whole family can enjoy this holiday season?
There are a number of sensitive Santa opportunities, festivals and other holiday activities going on across Illinois.
Our Special Events page includes a roundup of opportunities designed specifically for youth with disabilities and special healthcare needs.
Here’s a look at some of the special programs available and other event guides for parts of the state:
- The Secret Sleigh Project coordinates volunteers to provide in-home Santa visits to children who are medically fragile nationwide. See our Secret Sleigh event listing for more details on how to request a visit.
- The National Federation of the Blind is offering letters from Santa and winter celebration letters in Braille to children who are blind or have low vision. The program is for children 10 years old and younger. Please complete the letter request form by Dec. 17. Letters are available in English or Spanish. If you have any questions, call (410) 659-9314, ext. 2236, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Santa Cares program from Autism Speaks and Cherry Hill Programs provides sensory-friendly Santa experiences in Illinois and the St. Louis area on Dec. 4. These visits are free. Keepsake photo packages will be available for purchase. Reservations are required. Visit the Santa Cares website for a complete list of Santa’s stops. Be sure to select “Santa Cares”, “Caring Santa” or “Sensitive Santa” when checking your location. (Note some event dates may vary. Please check your location to confirm your date and time.)
- For families in the Chicagoland area, Chicago Parent magazine provides a list that includes opportunities to visit with Santa and other events tailored to the needs of children with disabilities.
- In central Illinois, check out this list from ChambanaMoms.com for events within driving distance of the Champaign-Urbana area or this list of seasonal light displays and events from the Mahomet Daily.
- SpringfieldMoms.org’s seasonal guide provides a roundup of activities happening in the capital city area.
- Southern Illinois residents can find many fun, seasonal activities on SI Families’ event calendar. It’s packed with ideas including a drive-thru Santa event in Marion, the Lights Fantastic Parade in Carbondale and even a “Home Alone” drive-in movie event at Murphysboro High School.
- The animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo, St. Louis Zoo, and other zoos throughout Illinois are celebrating the season, too! Contact your local zoo to find out what’s happening and when.
Please note, the University of Illinois Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) is not involved in the organizing or scheduling of these holiday events. If you have questions about a specific event, please contact the event sponsor or organizer.