The Life Shop is an adult day program that takes a Warrior-centered approach to life in the community. The program is designed for Warriors older than age 22, focusing on building life skills, health and wellness, community integration and vocational skills.

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Kim Meares Surprenant
Life Shop Director

The Life Shop


The Life Shop is an alternative-style day program that takes a Warrior-centered approach to adult life in the community. The program is designed for Warriors older than age 22, focusing on building life skills, health and wellness, community integration and vocational skills.

In Illinois, when a young adult with an intellectual or developmental disability turns 22, they immediately become ineligible for the services and support being provided by the public school system. Finding an adult day program similar to what they have access to in high school is an immense challenge. Finding and being funded for one in their own community is a just short of a miracle.

The Life Shop is not a state mandated developmental training workshop. It is a private pay, alternative style day program built with the Warrior at the center of a comprehensive approach to adult living in the community.

2018 Spring Semester Registration open now

SESSION DATES  |  January 10 – May 23

Registration will close on December 11th.


Daily Structure

  • Currently the program takes place two days per week on Tuesdays & Thursdays
  • Program hours are from 8:30 AM – 2:30 PM

A Day in the Life Shop The dynamic of the daily activities are wide ranging, but generally, the day consists of the following:

  • Warrior Welcome
  • Morning Activities
  • Lunch Prep/Eat/Clean
  • Afternoon Activities
  • Departure


Due to space, staff and other resources, the program is currently limited to serving 10 participants. Participants must live in Oak Park, River Forest or Forest Park. We are working hard on developing an expansion plan for this program so that we can do more to affect this need for service.

If you are interested in registering your name on our waiting list. Please contact the Life Shop Program Director, Kim Meares-Surprenant at: (708) 771-6159 ext. 212 or


The focus of the Life Shop was developed over the course of two years of research and development through committee meetings, an environmental scan of nearly 22 area day programs, 90+ family surveys, and two in depth focus groups. Moreover, the program continues to develop inside of itself with feedback and collaborative planning that includes the Warrior, OK Staff, the Warrior’s family, volunteer and stakeholder input. Life Shop program goals, plans and activities focus on exploring larger life questions, such as:

  1. Where am I today?
  2. Where do I want to be?
  3. How am I going to get there?

We will approach these larger questions by developing goals and breaking those goals down into smaller objectives that will allow us to steadily strive toward achieving the grander goals. Our activity offerings will be built to identify the member’s personal interests and preferences, strengths and capabilities, all in the theme of those goals and objectives in mind. While we explore and strive toward all Warrior Goals, we will maximize our ability to immerse our activities into the local community, forging new opportunities for our members to create relationships in the places they live, work and play.

Program Focus


Participants learn first hand how to lead a healthy lifestyle. Each week, time is dedicated to learning about topics including healthy hearts, fruits & vegetables, sugar shock, importance of water, exercising at home and being active. Each theme is then integrated into the daily routine at the Life Shop (i.e. incorporating the knowledge of the food plate into cooking and preparing well-rounded lunches).

Fitness is also built in to the schedule at the Life Shop; individuals participate in a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity each day. This is accomplished through use of the River Forest Community Centerfitness room, participating in activities such as yoga, zumba, cycling and boot camps as well as partnerships with local organizations including Greenline WheelsMidtown Athletic Club in Oak ParkWhole Foods Market in River Forest and a constantly growing list of more. Individuals record their fitness progress by logging their time in exercise, pace, distance, and journaling how they felt about the activity.

Our Health and Wellness goals and activities are constantly evolving. This aspect of the program is driven by an organization-wide commitment to wellness by Warrior, Staff and family.


While some program activities directly teach life skills, such as the cooking group which spends time each week planning the lunch menu, grocery shopping, and preparing lunch. Other activities take an indirect approach, wherein the life skill building exercises are embedded in an activity.


Warriors are assigned a role each week making them responsible for one aspect of the Life Shop:

    • Welcome Warrior takes attendance, introduces the day’s schedule, and leads the song of the day dance warm up.
    • Social Media Warrior develops the featured social media content for the day
    • Wellness Warrior leads a health and wellness portion of the day’s activities 

Other Warrior roles include: Program Prep Captains, Technology/Pedometer Captain, Life Shop Cleanup Leader, Warrior Chef, Kitchen Cleanup Leader and Fitness Room Cleanup Leader.


At the core of our mission is establishing a presence and connection between Warrior and community, community and Warrior. We are always striving to implement activities that connect the Warriors to the community in which they live, work, play, and vice versa.

Opportunity Knocks is fortunate to have built many strong partnerships within our community. These relationships have led to increased opportunities for our participants through our program activities. In the first year that the Life Shop has been open, we have established ongoing partnerships with local organizations.


  • Greenline Wheels in Oak Park — Where Warriors go for spin lessons when it’s cold outside and we can’t use our own bikes.
  • Midtown Athletic Club Oak Park — Where Warriors work out every Thursday on their hi-tech, accessible Pavigym equipment. This partnership was recently featured on ABC7 News!
  • Whole Foods Market River Forest — Where Warriors participated in an on-site cooking class and learned about healthy eating.
  • Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry — Where two Warriors go every week to volunteer and bag food items.
  • Oak Park-River Forest High School CITE Program — This OPRFHS transitional Special Education program is also based out of the River Forest Community Center. Life Shop collaborates with them on many projects and lessons throughout the year.
  • Other Partners Include, but are not limited to: Trailside Nature Museum, Riverside Nature Walk, Bengstons Pumpkin Farm, Stencib, Oak Park Public Library, Forest Park-Park District, River Forest Fire House, Enchanted Castle, Target, Options Clearing Corporation, North Riverside Mall, The Juice Joint, Fullersburg Woods, Graue Mill, Oak Park Conservatory, Garfield Park Conservatory, Circle Lanes, West Cook YMCA, Loyola Fitness Center, Right Fit, Oak Park Tennis and Fitness Centre, Good Earth Greenhouse, Lambs Farm, Chicago Lights Urban Farm, Lincoln Park Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Lake View Nature Center, Morton Arboretum, and many more!


It is a long-term goal for the Life Shop to provide job placement and supports to Life Shop members while on the job. In the meantime we are working hard to practice vocational skills to ensure success in future endeavors. These job skill building activities are embedded into our daily curriculum and the Warriors continue to discover their personal and professional strengths each day.

By exploring their interests and surveying their family and friends, they created a strengths board/ visual resume that displays their attributes and can be shared with their peers, community members and potential future employers. “Strengths” was a collaboration between the Life Shop and the OPRF CITE program.

These groups will continue to work together on vocation projects as our program moves forward.   In addition to these ongoing skill building activities, we have launched our first enterprise! After many months of test driving the product, we have launched Knockout Pickles, a farm to Jar artisan pickle. Warrior-made, Warrior-approved and Warrior-driven, the production, bottling, sales, distribution and marketing are all jobs being performed by Warriors! A portion of the enterprise incubates in the Life Shop, as a job-skill building activity. As jobs have been created, the Life Shop Warriors have filled the paying positions. The grand vision is to grow, harvest, pickle, package, sell and distribute quality pickled products. In that effort, we strive to keep these two goals at the front of our operations:

  1. Create jobs and meaningful job skill development opportunities for Warriors
  2. Create a new stream of revenue to support overall OK programs


Our participants’ interests and strengths are at the core of our Life Shop daily activities and the Warriors in Life Shop play a central role in planning our programs and outings. Participants have planned and led programs about some of their favorite hobbies for their peers, including water color painting, jewelry making, dancing, train & safety appreciation, heroes & villains and even a Life Shop music video.Warriors have also planned and led outings to some of their favorite local hangouts such as Circle Lanes, Enchanted Castle, Lake Theater, Oak Park Conservatory, Peterson’s Ice Cream, Junction Diner and many more!


Keeping with the times, Opportunity Knocks has incorporated technology as a basis of many programs. The Life Shop utilizes Apple iPads, touch screen desktop computers, a SMART board and Google Chromebooks to implement programming. We believe this gives our participants an advantage, as the ability to operate technology has become a pertinent skill in both daily life and employment.