In September of 1955 a college professor, Melvin J. Larson, placed an ad in a local newspaper seeking parents and friends of known cases of cerebral palsy to assist with the forming of a county chapter. Mr. Larson reported that 500,000 to 600,000 cases of cerebral palsy in the United States as reported by a regional conference of the United Cerebral Palsy Association that he had attended earlier in the year. Four families attended the first meeting which was held at his home in Joliet, IL.
By January of 1956, the group, known as the Will County United Cerebral Palsy Parents Gdroup, expanded to include 35 families. As months went on, meeting attendance outgrew the homes of the hosts and they began holding their meetings in area schools to accommodate their audience.
In February of 1956, an Open Letter to every citizen of Joliet and Will County was sent out in the local newspaper inviting the community to reach out to the parent group to learn more about Cerebral Palsy in our communities. In April of the same year, the first Cerebral Palsy Drive was coordinated in an effort to raise $10,000 to set up a facility in Joliet and to help finance research and other widespread programs on the national level. At the time of this effort, 250 cases where documented in Will County. The name was soon changed to United Cerebral Palsy of Will County.
Within ten years, the first school was opened at Rehn School in Joliet. We wouldn’t be there for long though, for the population continued to grow and by 1965, a larger facility was rented on Manhattan Road in Joliet.
In 1979 the In-Home Respite Care, Family Support/Home Based Services and an Adult Day Training Program, now called Community Day Services, were introduced to the community. In 1981, the agency moved to a facility in Cherry Hill followed by a temporary placement at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee, Illinois until finally purchasing the Reedswood School in Joliet in 1985, where the agency remains to this day.
In 2008 and with a continued increase in services, the name extended outside of Will County, thus requiring a name change to United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois Prairieland. This name change would now include a five county area which included, Will, Grundy, Kankakee, Kendall and Iroquois.
In 2013, the first ADA wheel chair accessible playground was constructed on the property which allowed several children and adults their first experience feeling the wind against their face from swinging on a swing set. Since then, agencies from around the United States have paid us a visit to view the playground to learn how they can construct one similar in their outdoor program.
In 2014, the name was changed to Center for Disability Services to better serve individuals with various intellectual and developmental disabilities. Programs were created to include autism, down syndrome, brain injury, orthopedic impairments, seizures, and multiple intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In 2019, the name changed to United Cerebral Palsy-Center for Disability Services (UCP-CDS). The agency has seen many changes, challenges, re-locations and even name changes, but Melvin’s vision has always been firmly rooted within our communities that we serve; all individuals will be given the best quality of life possible through programs and services offered by UCP-CDS.