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Kaneland Special Needs PTA makes splash with first fundraiser

Brenda Horniacek from CTS Pediatrics helps Macie Keen 5, of Elburn build a necklace during a Kaneland Special Needs PTA fundraiser at Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove.
Brenda Horniacek from CTS Pediatrics helps Macie Keen 5, of Elburn build a necklace during a Kaneland Special Needs PTA fundraiser at Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove.

SUGAR GROVE – Pam Sorenson smiled as she pointed out a pin that she and many others were wearing Saturday at Kaneland Harter Middle School. The pin read, “Each Snowflake is Unique.”

Sorenson explained that the slogan has been adopted by the organization running the event – the Kaneland Special Needs PTA. On Saturday, Sorenson, the organization’s chairwoman of fundraising, and others were hustling from room to room. The fundraiser, which drew steady crowds, was the first public event by the group, which was launched in the summer.

Sorenson said her job for the fundraiser was made easy by the positive reaction she received when she was talking to potential participants and donors. The event included information booths, crafts, Santa Claus and more.

“They were very excited that this was happening,” she said. “It’s an organization that was needed.”

According to literature provided by the group, the PTA “was formed to help encourage students ages 3 to 21 with special-education needs in the least-restrictive environment.” Tina Murdock, the group’s president, said there are more than 550 students with individualized education programs in Kaneland School District 302. More than 60, she said, are in alternative programs.

Some members and others at Saturday’s event spoke of wanting to raise awareness of the group. Some talked of making certain that students in alternative programs were aware of events going on in the Kaneland district. For some, a key issue was integrating students into participating in their home schools, which is among the goals listed by the organization. Most mentioned the group’s ability to bring together those in similar situations.

Cheryl Krauspe, the president of the Kaneland school board, was at the event and said she was “very impressed” and called it a “very positive group.”

“This group fills a real need,” Krauspe said.

Murdock said she previously had started a support group for moms and families of those who have kids with special needs.

“At that moment where you get that diagnosis that your boys have autism … you feel alone,” said Murdock, who speaks from experience.

The Kaneland area also previously had a similar group, Parents As Advocates. Carrie Capes, who founded that group along with Karol Peters in 2003, said it was active through 2010. She said it was different because PAA was community based, and the Special Needs PTA is school based. Capes said she and Peters eventually focused on their current endeavor, HorsePower Therapeutic Riding. HorsePower had a booth at the Special Needs PTA event.

Many from the Special Needs PTA were working at the event, including the organization’s vice president, Sarah Douglas; its secretary, Gretchen Mann; and its treasurer, Darci Davito.

Mann, who recently was working with her family to help bring a specially trained service dog into the life of her son, Marshall, was working at a table just outside one of the rooms. She said “the timing was right” for the organization.

Mary Kay Betz, the executive director of the Autism Society of Illinois, stopped by the table and said the group had been “needed for a long time.”

Davito said she previously had been a member of Parents As Advocates, and when she heard about the formation of the Special Needs PTA, she said she felt she “needed to be involved again.” Davito said her son previously had been in an alternative program in another district and now is back in the Kaneland district. She said it is important to let students who are “outsourced,” and their families, know that “they are still Kaneland students.”

Know more

• For information on the Kaneland Special Needs PTA, visit

• The Kaneland Special Needs PTA has planned a recipe book to be available at its spring fundraiser on April 11. Also, it seeks kids to draw and color pictures for its dividers. For information, send an email to Tina Murdock at

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