Ray Graham Association's annual Monarch Walk helps people with disabilities live their best lives

Ray Graham Association's annual Monarch Walk helps people with disabilities live their best lives

The idea behind Ray Graham Association is simple: Make sure people with disabilities feel heard, welcome and, most importantly, supported.

The organization, located in Lisle, has been doing just that since 1950.

Today, Ray Graham offers a variety of programs for its clients, including life skills, recreation, employment, family support services and residential.

Its residential program boasts 150 people in more than 25 community-based homes and apartments around DuPage County. While the houses offer 24-hour support, residents have the opportunity to live independently.

Ray Graham also partners with businesses in area counties to help people with disabilities find a job. The association offers help with interview training and resume writing, as well as teaching skills like taking public transportation.

To make sure these programs can continue, community support is important. Ray Graham is hosting its Monarch Walk Sunday, Sept. 24, to raise funds toward its $120,000 goal.

"RGA's vision has always been to pioneer pathways and unlock potential for people with disabilities," said Kim Zoeller, president and CEO, in an email. "As we gear up for the Monarch Walk this year, our community is unwavering in supporting their neighbors with disabilities."

The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon Sunday, Sept. 24, at North Central College, 455 S. Brainard St., Naperville. It will feature a DJ and dance party; carnival games; raffles and prizes; and vendors and sponsor booths.

Those who register are asked to make a donation at

"Every day at RGA, we witness the transformative power of community support. We're proud to ensure that people with disabilities have every opportunity to live, learn and thrive in an environment that celebrates their uniqueness and contributions," Zoeller said.

Alan Taylor, marketing and communications senior manager, talks more about Ray Graham Association and the upcoming Monarch Walk.

Q: What is the Ray Graham Association? Give a brief overview of what the organization does and who you serve.

A: Founded in 1950, Ray Graham Association empowers those we serve and those who care for them to reach, grow and achieve. We believe in people with disabilities and are dedicated to providing the best care for them and their family.

Ray Graham Association provides a loving community, stability and personal care for people with disabilities. Our goal is to empower people to:

• Reach their potential by providing access to therapeutic programs, recreation and family support resources.

• Grow their future through neighborhood living, life-skills training and employment opportunities.

• Achieve their goals by pursuing personalized plans with measurable actions and results.

Q: How many people do you serve each year?

A: For over 70 years, we've been meeting the unique needs, goals and dreams of the nearly 2,000 people with disabilities we serve and the 350 people we employ.

Q: What are some of the programs you offer?

A: Residential: People with disabilities deserve homes that feel like their own. Over 100 individuals with disabilities live and thrive in our neighborhood homes. They become a part of the community, make decisions that are important to them and learn vital life skills.

• Life Skills: People with disabilities deserve the tools to live more independently. At RGA, they can connect with others who share their interests and learn to collaborate on tasks. Life coaching is a one-on-one program designed to help them set and achieve their goals.

• Recreational: People with disabilities have every right to enjoy themselves and maintain their health. They have the opportunity to ride therapeutic horses, join social clubs, and participate in sports like basketball, bowling and softball. Each activity enables them to develop skills, form new friendships and lead a more enriched life.

• Employment: Every individual with a disability should have access to employment that provides them with dignity and purpose. We collaborate with over 150 employers to assist them in finding the right job. With our guidance, they can be confident in their interview skills, present a compelling resume and learn to project their best selves professionally.

• Family Support: Families of people with disabilities deserve support as well. We aim to help meet the needs of those with disabilities and bolster their aspirations. Identifying the right opportunities and funding mechanisms is paramount to both us and the families we serve.

Q: Where do the majority of your funds come from to support your work?

A: Ray Graham Association receives funding from a mix of public and private sources. This can include federal and state funding, private donations, grants, fundraising events and more.

Q: Tell us about the upcoming Monarch Walk.

A: About 200 people with disabilities are lacing up and setting their sights on the 2023 Monarch Walk finish line, but they can't do it alone. They need you to walk with them!

After the walk, join the celebration! The people you help us support are coming up with surprises to make this a celebration that you won't want to miss. The after-party includes fun for the whole family.

By supporting the Monarch Walk, you put people with disabilities right where they deserve to be: on the winner podium!

Every step you take and every dollar you raise promotes self-esteem, self-confidence, and independence for thousands of children and adults with disabilities. It is convenient and easy to register to walk, start and join a team and raise money to support people with disabilities.

Q: How can readers help your organization?

A: Readers can support the Ray Graham Association in several ways:

• Donating at

• Volunteering for various programs or events.

• Advocating for the rights and financial support for Illinoisans with disabilities.

• Attending upcoming fundraising events like the Monarch Walk, Butterfly Ball, Sunflower Happy Hour and Golf Classic.

Q: What else would you like readers to know?

A: To learn more, visit or email

Chief Services Officer Caren Musembi, left, dances with Jessica, who is supported by Ray Graham Association, at a previous Monarch Walk after-party. This year's walk takes place Sunday, Sept. 24, at North Central College. courtesy of Calvin Coleman
A young Monarch Walk fundraiser supports a loved one with disabilities and enjoys the carnival games at the after-party. This year's after-party on Sept. 24 will include a DJ and dance party, carnival games, raffles and prizes. courtesy of Calvin Coleman

Monarch Walk

What: A fundraising event for Ray Graham Association

When: 8:30 a.m. to noon Sunday, Sept. 24

Where: <a href="">North Central College</a>, 455 S. Brainard St., Naperville

Cost: Make a donation at <a href=""></a>

Register: <a href=""></a>

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