Left to right:
reads with Ben Fink, 4,
Drake Kondrat, 4, of
the Pitt Center's toy
truck collection with
Keeping 'Kids All Together'
Pitt .Center _program for mainstreaming preschoolers with special needs awaits grant renewal.
ancie Furgang will be watching the mail
diligently over the next few weeks.
Sometime in early February, the
Detroit-based Skillman Foundation will
announce grants it approved for the coming year.
And Furgang, who is program director for special
needs and day camp at the Jewish Community
Center of Metropolitan Detroit, is hoping one of
those grants will be for the preschool inclusion pro-
gram, Kids All Together.
In its fifth year at the JCC's Sarah and Irving Pitt
Child Development Program, Kids All Together
allows children with special needs to be main-
streamed into regular preschool classes. Each child is
aided by an inclusion assistant. The program will
likely have enough funding to continue through
summer 2004. But what's in store for it after that is
what concerns Furgang.
Kids All Together is in the second year of a three-
year Skillman grant. These awards are not automati-
cally renewable; instead, they are subject to yearly
review by the Skillman board, Furgang explained.
The inclusion program, which accepts preschool-
ers of all races and religions, also receives funding
from a three-year grant from the Jewish Fund, estab-
lished with proceeds from the 1997 sale of Sinai
Hospital. The Jewish Fund grant, which brings in
$75,000 annually, is in its final year. Furgang has
applied to the organization for a new grant; that,
too, will be announced in early February.
Camp Fees Raised
What this uncertainty could mean, in concrete
terms, is a reduction in programs and-or a rise in
fees, Furgang said.
For the first time, she has been forced to add a
fee for every child who uses Kids All Together at
the JCC summer day camp. In the past, there was
no extra charge for inclusion programming during
the summer, and 65 children with special needs
participated in camp programs.
But for 2003, the camp, which began early
enrollment Jan. 9, is charging JCC members an
extra $200 per four-week session, on top of the
regular camp fees. Non-members and those who
enroll later may face other charges.
The camp fees are only the first of numerous
revenue-enhancing and cost-cutting measures that
may have to be undertaken if extra funding fails
to materialize, Furgang said. And the grant fund-
ing alone won't be enough to keep year-round
inclusion a staple of Pitt Center life.
"If we could find a way to bridge the funding
gap, we could make it another spectacular sum-
mer for all the children and their parents,"
Furgang said. "Otherwise, we will be faced with a
very difficult situation this summer and next fall."
While All Kids Together has funding for the
coming JCC fiscal year, which runs June 1, 2003
to May 31, 2004, Furgang said it is "at a signifi-
cantly reduced level."
"Even if we are granted the third year of our
Skillman grant, that third year will be $40,000
less then the first year," she explained, citing fig-
ures of $160,000 for 2001 2002, $140,000 for
2002-2003, and the hoped-for $120,000 for
"And, at this time, while we are optimistic
about additional funding from the Jewish Fund,
we have no way of knowing what that might be
and it most surely will not be at previous levels."
All Kids Together receives an endowment from
the Edward and Judith Narens family of Franklin.
But more donors are needed to keep the program
serving as many families as knock on its doors.
"Our greatest concern and need is to find a way
to cement the future of this program," Furgang
A New Hope
Sharing Furgang's concern are more than 100
families who•have found new hope for their chil-
dren through Kids All Together.
"It's an amazing program," said Linda Fink of
Waterford, whose 4-year-old son, Ben, goes to •
classes at the Pitt Center with his inclusion assis-
tant, Dana Quell-Clough.
Ben had been in an autistic program in a public
school system since he was 2 years old, Fink said.
Because of his age, she had to accompany him.
"He wasn't making great progress," Fink said, .
remembering the chaotic atmosphere in the class-
room and the overworked teachers.
Last April, Ben joined Kids All Together.
'After six weeks of being in a regular classroom
there, he started to mimic the 'typical' kids," his
"The program gives me hope that he could be
indistinguishable from other kids after a while."
Fink praised the nurturing climate in the class-
rooms . and the open-mindedness of the inclusion •
"When I took the behavioralist who writes the
programs for my son to watch [his behavior in
preschool on closed-circuit TV], we both had .. •
tears in our eyes." ❑