For many living with physical disabilities, life comes with its own set of unique challenges, none of which should be finding an easily accessible and manageable place to call home. Back in 1974, five sets of North Shore parents, all of whom had children with some form of physical disability like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, realized that as their own years advanced, their children required proper care into adulthood. After searching assisted living facilities touted specifically for accommodating their children’s wheelchairs and special needs, they were disappointed in their findings. So they took matters into their own hands.
With a dream of a residence where their adult children and others like them could live independently with shared access to personal care attendants on a self-directing basis, the parents mobilized. Their network grew, and with determination and spirit, the Evanston-based Over the Rainbow Association (OTR) was born. The first project was an eight-unit building in Chicago at Belden and Halsted, and has since grown to seven facilities in Evanston, Waukegan, Matteson, Rockford, Harvard, and Freeport. “In the last five years, we have expanded from two to seven apartment communities under ownership/management,” explains Eric Huffman, Executive Director for OTR. Eric goes on to say that leasing their 151 apartments is not only of great value to their tenants, but also to Illinois taxpayers. “State-funded nursing homes are generally the only alternative housing choice, and since our operating cost is one-sixth of theirs, and our tenants do not require the same type of services as a nursing home due to their level of independence, our twofold value proposition is significant. It can save Illinois taxpayers $60,000 to $80,000 per resident,
To keep this dream of appropriate housing for the physically disabled alive, OTR will host CELEBRATION on December 12, an annual concert event featuring live performances of contemporary, classical, and holiday music by an international cast of classical and opera stars. Held at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, CELEBRATION
began in 1990 at the completion of the Hill Arboretum Apartments in Evanston and is still headed up by accomplished American opera singer and Evanston native Nancy Gustafson, whose brother, Robert, lives in the Evanston apartments.
Not only will Nancy perform, but expect other world-renowned voices such as Sylvia McNair, Richard Leech, Matthew Worth, Paul La Rosa, and Dominic Armstong to appear. CELEBRATION also welcomes Michael DeVries, original Broadway cast member of Wicked, as a much-anticipated addition to this year’s roster. Special tickets are available for a post-concert meet-and-greet cocktail party backstage after the show.
CELEBRATION will be held on December 12 at 4 p.m. at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in Evanston. Tickets for CELEBRATION can be purchased on the Over the Rainbow website at otrassn.org, or through the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall website at pickstaiger.org. For more information, contact Tara Moran at 847-424-5604.