Opportunity Knocks is dedicated to enriching life and community. We exist to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as they live, work, learn, grow and connect within their community.
We believe in a dynamic, person-centered and community-based approach to programming that engages the voice of all Warriors, thrives on interdependent connections, encourages exploration, centers on holistic wellness and healthy relationships.
Opportunity Knocks is an Illinois 501c.3 non-profit organization that serves young people who have developmental disabilities in the Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest communities through social, recreational and life-skills programming. We are dedicated to providing opportunities and resources to our program’s participants so that they may pursue their educational, occupational and social interests. We are almost completely privately funded, minus a modest 3% of funds that come from township government support.
The people we serve are warriors and it is our belief that their place in the community is both unique and essential. Perseverance and strength through challenge brought us to endearingly dub our program participants as Warriors. Opportunity Knocks’ goal for its participants is to build independence, foster self-advocacy, broaden life experiences and to instill and augment a sense of community.
The Opportunity Knocks (OK) mission is dedicated to providing opportunities and resources for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities so they may pursue their educational, occupational and social interests.
The people we serve are Warriors and it is our belief that their place in the community is both valuable and necessary. Because of their perseverance and strength, we endearingly dub our participants as Warriors.
We envision a community where individuals with developmental disabilities have an active and supported presence. Our socially interactive programming places consistent emphasis on the value of self-advocacy and community integration. The goal is to provide opportunities for self-enrichment in the life of the Warrior, in turn giving the Warrior an opportunity to enrich the community.
Warriors have unique and exceptional abilities that diversify and strengthen their communities. OK will be guided by the interests of the individual. Our Warriors will be equal architects and their self-advocacy will serve as the foundation of all program development.
In all of our programming, we will focus on four primary goals in VIEW:
- Voice → Discover and amplify the voice of each Warrior
- Interdependence → Establish presence and connection of Warrior to community and community to Warrior
- Experience → Explore the experiences of life without boundaries
- Wellness → Commit to building total wellness, physical, mental and social.
Our Plan will be realized with simultaneous and successful operation in these three phases:
- Social, recreational and wellness based programming for teens and young adults
- Community-based adult day programming
- Community living
Opportunity Knocks is the creation of Michael Carmody, a 30-year-old Oak Park resident and Executive Director of Opportunity Knocks. Prior to committing himself full-time to OK in 2012, Mike was teaching individuals in the severe and profound disabilities classroom in Oak Park and River Forest High School’s Special Education Department. He is a long-time volunteer, advocate and friend to many among the population of individuals with developmental disabilities in our community.
Mike is the elder brother of 22-year-old John, who has Down syndrome. The catalyst for this mission manifested as John approached the age of 22, when he and his family became faced with some stark realizations. All of the wonderful educational and occupational programs of which he had grown to rely on would soon stop. After the age of 22, Illinois statute deems individuals with developmental disabilities ineligible for service and support programs that are funded through and offered by the public school system. For individuals with developmental disabilities older than age 22, like John, seeking out similar services becomes an immense challenge. For those lucky enough to find funding, the chance of finding something in their community is slim. This challenge has served as the motivation behind Mike’s mission to found Opportunity Knocks and sustain an organization that provides these folks with invaluable support and services well into their adult lives.
A ‘CLASSIC’ GRASSROOTS EFFORT
For several years, Mike built awareness, gathered the support system and raised the funds that would eventually create Opportunity Knocks. In September of 2007, avery close friend to Michael lost her life. Struggling with the grief, Mike rallied an effort to create an event that would honor her memory and raise funds for the Oak Park and River Forest High School’s Special Olympics Basketball team. It was an awesomely successful event and the show of support made it clear to Mike that this community was ready to support his dream of Opportunity Knocks. This event was the first of four KG Classic Softball Tournaments. In 2008, the KG Classic dedicated proceeds to OK. The event served as a way for a community to honor and remember the life of Kathy Garrigan and raised the funds and awareness that moved OK down the runway until the eventual launch.
BOARD ROLL CALL
In March of 2009, the Board of Directors was established and their work began to fortify the organization. Later that summer, the Auxiliary Board was officially established. This group of young professionals was dedicated to management of the OK Events, the driving force behind the OK development plan.
Board of Directors
Joe Milburn, President
Claudia Marciniak, Vice president
Thomas McShane, Treasurer
Karen Hunter, Secretary
The Auxiliary Board is a group of 25-35 young adults who volunteer their supportive efforts to the planning, promotion and execution of the major fundraising events of Opportunity Knocks. These events are accountable for nearly 50% of the funding that supports the organization.
READY TO LAUNCH
In February of 2010, after a lease agreement was signed with the River Forest Community Center, a build-out renovation project was completed, a modest staff was assembled, the program activities were prepared and the Warriors were signed up. The doors opened for our first program session on February 22, 2010! The afternoon recreation and social program, “After Opps,” has been operating for four years, with consistently full enrollment topping out at 40 Warriors per session. As this program continues to grow and develop, OK looks to the future and the next steps in the strategic plan.