Winnetka Resident Brings Together Special Needs Children and Local Businesses

For a child with a disability, a trip to the Field Museum or other typical school outing might not be as fulfilling or successful as it is for other kids. Children with special needs can learn more when locations are chosen carefully—and Winnetka mom Kate Campbell has taken it upon herself to find rewarding field trips for these children right in our North Shore backyard.


As a member of the Association of Parents and Staff (APS) of the North Suburban Special Education District (NSSED), and a mother of 2 boys with cerebral palsy, Campbell is passionate about building relationships with local businesses to provide meaningful field trips for students with special needs.

And if you own a local business, she’s looking for your help.

“It’s great for the community to know our kids, and the outings teach kids what they need for life skills,” Campbell says. “Our community is great, but awareness is really the key.”

The initiative Campbell has spearheaded is called the Community Outings Program, and it’s part of the Educational Life Skills (ELS) Classroom at Central School in Glencoe, where her sons are students.

The ELS program gets students with special needs out in the community, so they use their classroom skills in a natural environment. In short, they participate in society in a meaningful and positive way, and in doing so, foster public acceptance of persons with special needs.

Campbell has developed partnerships with three local businesses so far, and the children will be visiting these businesses throughout November. They are:

• North Shore Dojo in Glenview, where the kids will be learning some martial arts moves with Sensei Jeff Kohn, who is well known for working with kids with disabilities.

• Wholey Guacamole in Glencoe, where the kids will make guacamole with owner Margarita Challenger. Learning about making food helps the kids learn to be patient at restaurants, Campbell says.

• Redefined Fitness in Wilmette, where the kids will get fitness instruction from owner Alex Smoot.

JJ Hanley, an advocate for people with disabilities and founder of the website JJ’s List, which builds relationships between local businesses and people with disabilities, says the outings are “great ways to introduce students with disabilities to community life.”

“More importantly, they introduce the community to disability,” she says. “Disability is a natural part of being human, but society has kept people with disabilities hidden from the mainstream for so many generations.”

Campbell would like to continue developing relationships with local businesses so that teachers can focus on the curriculum, which is specialized to fit each child’s needs. Outings to California Pizza Kitchen in Skokie and bakery The Bent Fork in Highwood are already in the works.

If you have a business and would like to partner with ELS program, contact Kate Campbell at

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