Easterseals launched a fundraising campaign of $12 million dollars to create it’s own state-of-the-art fitness center for a neighborhood and its own students with autism. It broke ground on the facility¬†Wednesday.

The center will be 26,000-square-feet and will serve as an addition to the nonprofit’s Chicago-area headquarters at the Terrence J. Hancock Family Campus which provides therapeutic education for 120 children and 30 adults with autism spectrum disorder and other special needs throughout the Easterseals Academy.

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The fitness center will include a gymnasium and running track, fitness area and auditorium with a stage. Thanks to Clune Construction, the company building the center, it will open to the public on evenings and weekends, next summer.

About a year ago, Easterseals decided it could wait no longer to build the fitness center. When building the remainder of the campus, due to funds drying out during the recession, the project was delayed – according to CEO Tim Muri.

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Easterseals will deliver a facility that meets the community needs, thanks to having time to reflect on its plans – said Muri.

“We knew our kids deserved this, so we said let’s roll up our sleeves and do it,” said Muri. “So when we open the doors [on the fitness center], it will be the culmination of a dream we had 15 years ago.”

$12 million dollar fitness center for kids with autism breaking ground Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images