In the 1970s, shortly after the Shapiro Developmental Center was opened, the new Superintendent, Ira Collins, realized it would be a great advantage to the Center to have a supportive parents group. He approached Donald Bacon, the father of a new resident, to form such a group. Mr. Bacon was an ideal choice. He was a highly respected local citizen, a farmer and a lawyer. He realized that it would greatly strengthen the Center if the parents could be united to protect our vulnerable loved ones and wrote the By-Laws. In the guiding principles of our mission statement he included:
A broad and visionary creed we live by to this day! Mr. Bacon was elected the first President of the Kankakee Association for Mentally Retarded, or KAMR, as it was later called, and became a vigorous advocate for financial support for Shapiro at the state government offices in Springfield. In those days before email one of the most effective methods was signed petitions to the Governor. Mr. Bacon was famous for his style of dropping a stack of petitions 12” high on the Governor’s desk and getting much needed increases in our budget. Mr. Bacon had a supportive staff of officers, each with clearly outlined responsibilities. He was succeeded by a list of distinguished Presidents, including Ben Fellicia, Arthur Chuzum, George Amann, Sandra Rainey, and our current leader, Joan Janzon. After the turn of the century the name was changed to Friends of the Shapiro Developmental Center.
Our By-Laws became a model for a new, state-wide organization founded by a Board member of KAMR, Dr. Sally Kitt Chappell, in 1994, the Illinois League of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled (ILADD). Both groups are associated with a national organization for advocacy in Washington, D.C., VOR, the Voice of Reason, formerly the Voice of the Retarded. With these three organizations parents can support facilities for the developmentally disabled at the local, state and federal levels.
The need to educate our elected representatives is never-ending. Each new generation needs to learn that different levels of disability require different levels of care, and to understand why intermediate care facilities (ICFs) are a vital link in a network that provides care in small group homes for the moderately disabled, to intermediate care facilities for the severely disabled, to nursing home care when needed.