August 18, 2015 | Blog, Press Release
The Els Family Officially Opens “Amazing and Special” Center of Excellence
Ernie & Liezl Els last night led a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to celebrate the opening of the first two buildings of their state-of-the-art Center, focused on improving the lives of individuals with autism.
Jupiter, Fla. (August 18, 2015) – “This Center is amazing and special just like us,” summed up Zack Poerio, who delivered a passionate and flawless address on behalf of students from The Learning Center at The Els Center of Excellence, at last night’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. Zack, who along with over 100 other students attended his first day of school at the brand new Center yesterday, added: “ Thank you Ms. Liezl and Ernie for fighting for us – you are my heroes! Lets make this the best school in the world!”
The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony which was attended by donors, local supporters, dignitaries and media celebrated the official opening of the first two components of The Els Center of Excellence – The Lower School and The Els Center of Excellence Auditorium Building. Among the special guests included PGA TOUR players Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Robert Allenby who came down to support their friend and fellow player. Honored guests included Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche, as well as Mayor Karen Golonka and representatives of the Town of Jupiter. Representatives from the offices of Congressman Patrick Murphy and Representative MaryLynn Magar, also attended the event and a special U.S. flag presentation to The Els Center of Excellence was made by Congressman Murphy’s office as part of the ceremony.
Guests were welcomed to the ceremony by Kerry Kruckel, Executive Director for the Foundation and Master of Ceremonies for the occasion. First to be introduced was Giuseppe Ciucci, Chairman of the Els for Autism Board who thanked the attending dignitaries and guests and described the project as “mission impossible that became mission possible!”
Next to speak was Palm Beach County Commissioner, Hal Valeche, a staunch supporter of the project since its inception. Commissioner Valeche stressed the positive impact that the Center will have on the local community:
“I am so proud to have a facility like this in my community. This is a transformative event both for the autism community and for the neighborhood – the local community of Limestone Creek.” He added: “Thanks to the Els family for having the vision.”
Last to speak were Ernie and Liezl Els, the Founders of the Els for Autism Foundation, and parents of Ben, 12, who has autism and attends the new school.
Ernie opened with the acknowledgement that getting the Center built “took a lot of effort from a lot of people “but that “a lot of families are going to benefit from this Center.” He went on to thank all the individuals and organizations that had made building the Center possible but stressed that the facility was not complete and that they still have “a long way to go” – with the next goal to build the Upper School and all of the sports and recreational facilities.
Liezl Els, credited by her husband as “the power behind this whole thing,” went on to speak movingly about seeing their dream of a world-class Center for Excellence come to fruition. Liezl explained their goal was “to make our Center and programs accessible to people around the world.”
“This Center is going to give our children the space to explore and express themselves. Over time they have had to make do with whatever they could get,” Liezl explained “We wanted to build a facility where these kids could realize their potential…and so that we could show the world just what our kids are made of, how strong they are, how talented they are and how far they can really go in life and what a massive contribution they can make to society.”
She added: “We have so many plans. Program-wise, our aim is to service the whole family across the full life span and construction wise we plan to build on all 26 acres of this campus, with the next components to go up being the golf practice facility and the Upper School building.”
Liezl thanked her husband for providing the golfing platform by which the Foundation was able to raise so much of its funds. She said: “A huge thank you for not only what you have given our child but the kids out there in the community and across the world.” Liezl also made special mention of Ben’s 16 year old sister Samantha, who Liezl told guests, “helps her brother Ben find his way every-day,” and exemplified the integral part that siblings play in the lives of children with autism.
After the ribbon was cut by Ernie and Liezl, guests had the opportunity to tour the facility, enjoy musical performances in the auditorium by Reese Carpenter and Carlos Bosso, and talk to Els for Autism staff and teachers from the Lower School about the new Center and the programs and services it will provide.
The Learning Center, which opened yesterday is a public charter school with capacity for up to 150 children from ages 3-14, and, in-line with the entire campus, has been designed to create a learning environment specifically suited to children on the spectrum.
The ceremony also marked the opening of the state-of-the-art Auditorium Building, specifically designed to help facilitate the dissemination and gathering of applied research findings and best practices with the global autism community. The building, which includes a hi-tech, 300-seat auditorium equipped with space for programming staff, visiting scholars, professionals and researchers, will be the base from which the Foundation will develop and roll-out innovative, evidence-based programs focused on individuals with autism, their families and the professionals that work with them across the U.S. and internationally.
These two buildings are the first components that are being delivered of a 26-acre campus that, once complete, will include an Upper School (with capacity for an additional 150 students ages 14-22), extensive sports and outdoor recreational facilities (including a gymnasium, swimming pool, golf practice facility, athletics field, play courts and sensory garden and pavilion), a cafeteria, a medical and professional services building and an adult services component. Even before the dedicated buildings are in place the Center will bring together the critical elements of early intervention, education, sports and leisure, applied research, transition to adulthood, medical and professional services, and adult services all on one campus.
The Foundation’s fundraising campaign is now focused on raising the capital to complete the Upper School, the sports facilities, the medical and professional services building and the adult services component. Donations can be made online at www.elsforautism.comand by check (made payable to ‘Els for Autism’) and addressed to: Els for Autism, The Els Center of Excellence, 18370 Limestone Creek Rd, Jupiter, FL 33458.
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The Els for Autism Foundation
The Els for Autism Foundation was established in 2009 by PGA TOUR golfer Ernie Els and his wife Liezl (residents of Jupiter, FL) shortly after their son Ben (now 12) was diagnosed with autism. The Foundation’s overarching mission is to help people on the autism spectrum fulfill their potential to lead positive, productive and rewarding lives. Els for Autism has offices in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, and the UK. In the U.S., to help fulfill its mission Els for Autism is building a state-of-the-art Center of Excellence in Jupiter, FL, with a local, national and global reach and is in the middle of a capital campaign to finance the development. The first two buildings of the Center – the Auditorium Building and The Lower School opened on August 17, 2015.