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Construction on the Els Center of Excellence Tees Off!


Jupiter, Fla. (March 10th, 2014) – Ernie and Liezl Els today hosted a Groundbreaking Ceremony to mark the start of construction of the The Els Center of Excellence in Jupiter, Florida. The Center, which will be built on 26 acres in the heart of the Limestone Creek area of Jupiter, will be a world-class facility and a leading example of what should be available to people with autism spectrum disorders across the world.

“Thank you Ernie Els for building us this Center so we can reach for the stars,” said 17-year old Spencer Schmidt, who delivered a brilliant and upbeat address on behalf of all of the students at the Renaissance Learning Academy and Center, the two schools that will combine to become The Els Center of Excellence. “As they say in South Africa, ‘Danke!’ Let’s get this show on the road!”

Ernie Els and his wife Liezl, Founders of the Els for Autism Foundation, both spoke movingly about what this project means to them and indeed the extent of its potential impact on the wider autism community.

“This is an incredibly exciting day not only for me, but also for Liezl and our children as we watch our dream of creating a world-class Center, focused on improving the lives of those impacted by autism, start to become a reality,” said Ernie. “Thank you to everyone who has helped make this happen; in particular, we wouldn’t be here without the help and support of the local community. This is a proud moment. We want to build and get the Center up and running as quickly as possible.”

Ernie also praised his wife Liezl as the “driving force” behind the project. Liezl herself added: “I can’t believe our vision is finally becoming a reality. It’s going to be amazing! In particular I want to thank Commissioner Hal Valeche and his team for their support as well as Patrick Rooney and the Autism Project of Palm Beach County for getting things started.”

Building on what her husband and Co-founder had said about the local community, Liezl explained how touched she had been personally by “the way in which the local community have welcomed us and our kids.” Liezl then added: “The welcome we have had is so encouraging and gives us so much hope for the future for the acceptance and inclusion of our children in society.”

Among the honored guests at the Ceremony was Todd Mullins, Lead Pastor of Christ Fellowship who opened the proceedings with a blessing. “We pray for the children that will be impacted by the Center and whose lives will be forever changed by it,” said Mullins.

Pat Murphy, local sportscaster and Master of Ceremonies for the Groundbreaking Ceremony then welcomed Hal Valeche, Palm Beach County Commissioner, Representative Patrick Rooney Jr., a Member of the Florida House of Representatives, as well as neighbourhood friends, donors and friends of Els for Autism.

Hal Valeche was the first special guest to speak and described how personally attached he had become to the project over the years: “This project is very dear to me, it started at the very beginning of my term and its wonderful to see it now come to fruition,” he said. “The Center is going to bring so much benefit to the local area. The economic benefits of having the Center here are high; it’s going to transform the community. In addition, it will give the Limestone Creek area tremendous international exposure as people from around the world visit the Center to further the understanding and treatment of autism.”

Representative Patrick Rooney Jr. a Director of the Autism Project of Palm Beach County, also addressed the Ceremony guests and in a heartfelt speech explained: “This Center is very personal to me. My son Patrick has autism and I can’t tell you how much this means to me.”

To bring the Ceremony to a close, Ernie hit a ceremonial tee shot into the land that is set to be the home of the new Els Center of Excellence, before he was joined by Liezl and the other dignitaries to officially ‘break ground.’ Blue shovels, the color associated with the cause of autism, were used for the occasion.

Also, mason jar planters specially created by the students from both the Renaissance Learning Center and Academy were given out to guests at the end of the ceremony. Filled with earth from the land, and a mint plant, and each etched with the name and date of the event, the small planters were a fitting and symbolic way for the students to get their message across: “Thank you for helping us grow.”

About the Els Center of Excellence

Once completed, the Els Center of Excellence will provide a uniquely designed on-site educational program for 300 children on the autism spectrum ages 3-21. It will also bring together the critical components of early intervention, transition to adulthood, medical and professional services, and adult services all on one campus. At its heart will be a multi-faceted global outreach program that will make best practices in education and therapy available to children, families and autism experts both in the U.S. and internationally.

The Center will integrate unique architectural components to create a learning environment specifically designed for children on the spectrum, and will include the technology, space and design components that will enable the Center to connect the international autism community with best practices and the latest information and research.

The Ceremony marks the start of construction of the Lower School and Center of Excellence Auditorium building that will be at the heart of the global outreach programs. The goal is to have these in operation by mid 2015. In the meantime, the capital campaign continues to ensure a continuous build schedule for the Upper School, the sports facilities, the medical and professional component and the adult services program.


Photography from the Ceremony:

Broadcast footage from the Ceremony:


Username: elsforautism

Password: excellence

(This is an HD H264 file, 1920×1080 at 45mbps, and it’s TRT is 2:35)


To donate by check: make checks payable to Els for Autism and address to: Els for Autism, 3900 Military Trail, Suite 200, Jupiter, FL. 33458.

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