About The Gathering

The Gathering offers 24/7 respite care, day services, and recreational services for children and adults with special needs. We have created a community built with components of nature to promote deep learning, healing, and rejuvenation for adults and children with special needs and their caregivers. Our community consists of passionate, dedicated, and trained professionals empowering growth and learning in a safe & happy ADA compliant setting.

 
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Our Mission

To shift the paradigm of respite care by providing world class programs to develop the emotional, social, physical, and intellectual intelligence of people with disabilities and enhancing the lives of caregivers.

Our Vision

To model the standard of respite services around the world.

 
 
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Sue Reel's Daughter Breanna

The Gathering is a way to provide relief to families while creating a higher quality of living for individuals with special needs.

— Sue Reel, Executive Director of The Gathering

 

Executive Director, Sue Reel's Story

Our fourth child, Breanna, was born four weeks early on June 15, 1995.  Blue as a smurf and not breathing nurses whisked her away to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for the next two months.  Breanna laid there on breathing machines, feeding pumps, pulse-oxygen sensors and more.  She had numerous tests and eventually an MRI and CAT scan.  These tests revealed what would be the major issue: an agenesis of the corpus callosum*. 

The doctor explained that with this type of birth defect Breanna would never walk, never talk, never be able to do much of anything.  “You should,” he said “consider institutionalizing her.”  No baby books prepare one for this.  No one hopes their new baby will have special needs. But here she was and she was mine and I was going to fight for her.  Hospital therapists also painted a bleak picture.  We were assigned a physical therapist for building her large muscles, an occupational therapist for her fine motor skills and a speech therapist to help Breanna learn to swallow and then talk.  I wanted my baby home with the rest of the family. No machines, no sensors, no tubes, no wires – just us.  We eventually brought Breanna home but all the machines tubes and wires came with her.

In addition to 24-hour a day Breanna care there were surgeries and therapies.  I was also tending to our other three children, maintaining our marriage and keeping ourselves financially afloat.  I was exhausted.  The only people who understood were other parents of special needs kids.  We all think we just need to get out of the hospital and it will be all right.  But that is just the beginning of the race. The hospital stay was a warm-up.  Breanna is now 22 years old. She has 31 unique disabilities, has had 67 surgeries and over 100 hospital stays.  Care, concerns, therapy, medical interventions all continue.  Yet she is also a high school graduate, a loving sister, cousin and aunt.  She is great at making everyone around here smile.  

No parent ever prays to have a special needs child.  But when it happens we cope.  We learn to be nurses, therapists, teachers and advocates. But I don’t want anyone to have to go through it alone.  I want to create a respite center, like The Gathering, Ltd, where children with special needs are safe so parents can relax. Sometimes we just need to sleep through the night without tending to an oxygen monitor or a feeding pump beeping. With that kind of break from time to time we can not only cope but thrive.

 
 
Breanna & Sue

Breanna & Sue

*Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum - An incomplete formation of the corpus callosum which connects the brain's hemispheres resulting in mild to severe disability.

 
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Our Site

We have obtained 45 beautiful acres in the Village of Grafton. Located on Highway 60 and Port Washington Road. The land features mature forestry and a blank canvas of land for us to build exactly what we need.

The architect is developing plans for our 75,000 square foot center, featuring large common space, music therapy, art therapy, classrooms and much, much more. 10 individual respite center houses will be built. Each house will be designed a bit different to fit all sensory and physical needs. A large aquatic center and gymnasium will be the prime location for physical activity for all abilities. With activities and team guided sports, the social interactions can be found while getting the needed exercise in a safe space. 

Therapy rooms will be available with all types of therapy, thanks to the partnership with Concordia University OT, PT and Speech departments. A unique sensory space will be available for those individuals who need sensory input/output. A barn will be on the property offering Hippotherapy and small animals. Organic gardens and nature will offer the opportunity for individuals to experience planting, growing and caring for the outdoors. 

The Gathering will be designed will all ages in mind. We will be offering activities, therapies, and classes for all abilities and ages. This will provide a thriving environment for all to grow, play, and contribute to a happy, healthy life. 

 
 

In this season of giving, please consider a tax deductible donation to The Gathering, a 501c3 - we need your support.