KANSAS CITY — Since its founding in 1996 by a group of Catholic parents with children with special needs, FIRE Foundation has, through funding and advocacy, helped open doors so that children with special needs can attend the same parish schools as their siblings and friends. In those 20 years, thousands of children, those with diagnosed special needs, those with learning disabilities or just needing a little extra help and support, as well as the rest of the students whose lives have been enriched by friendships with students with special needs, have benefitted from FIRE Foundation’s work.
“Our mission is funding a concrete way of supporting inclusion in our Catholic schools,” Lynn Hire, the foundation’s executive director said. “We are also advocates, helping others pave the ways and open the doors for kids with special needs. By doing that, we follow in the footsteps of our founders.”
She added, “We believe inclusion is the right thing, but we know there are obstacles: funding requires resources, a knowledge and understanding of special needs, what FIRE is and how it works, and that benefits are possible.”
To offer Catholic parents and educators opportunities to learn, to network and build relationships, FIRE Foundation is hosting a 3-day conference, Inclusion in Catholic and Parochial Schools: Welcoming and Supporting Children with Special Needs. It will be held Feb. 22-24 at the Westin Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City. The conference will include experts from the University of Notre Dame and Loyola University-Chicago as key note speakers and more than 30 breakout sessions with diverse presenters — clinicians, special educators, veteran teachers, and parents. Participants will learn from local, regional and national experts to build and strengthen a culture of inclusion in school communities; build relationships with other inclusion advocates, understand and promote the benefits of including students with disabilities in Catholic and Parochial schools and learn strategies for implementing and supporting inclusion practices.
Tuition is $300 for educators and $200 for parents for the 3-day conference.
Hire said that as parents are the first and lifetime advocates for their children, the conference is really essential for parents considering Catholic education. They will learn the bases of opportunities and be informed of what education can and should look like.
Parents and educators will learn strategies to create success in their schools: both philosophical information such as why inclusion is important in Catholic education and practical information including how to get started with inclusion, teamwork, and figuring out how to get resources.
It’s not all work, though. Tuition covers the Welcome reception, 6-9 p.m., Feb. 22; the conference day 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Feb. 23, includes breakfast and lunch, keynote and breakout sessions. And a dinner event showcasing Tom’s Town Distillery with food, fun and fellowship, 6 -9 p.m., and the conference day 8 a.m. – Noon, Feb. 24, includes breakfast, keynote and breakout sessions.
Registration is going on. Register online at sde.com/firefoundation. If you have any questions, call Julie Rose, FIRE Foundation’s Development Manager, (816) 756-1858 ext. 252.
For more information, visit firefoundation.org.