Little Friends Inc. a lifeline for families caring for those with special needs

For more than 40 years, the Little Friends Benefit Auction has taken place with the assistance of generous supporters and a determination to help those served by the organization lead fulfilling lives.

Set for 6 p.m. Saturday, March 4, the 46th annual auction will be held at a new location - Esplanade Lakes, 3500 Lacey Road, Downers Grove. Founded in 1965 by teachers, parents and advocates wanting to create a school for children with special needs, the organization serves more than 800 people throughout nine counties and 54 school districts across northern Illinois.

"Our Benefit Auction builds awareness to a broader community about the scope of work we perform to positively impact those we serve," said Jason Altenbern, Vice President of Agency Advancement for Little Friends. "Like most nonprofits, we host events like our Auction to raise funds for our key program areas and our general operations. For example, 100 percent of all proceeds captured the night of our Auction will directly support our mission, thanks to corporate sponsors like the Gerald Auto Group."

Altenbern said the organization's partnership with the Gerald Auto Group began more than 35 years ago.

"The dealership has been a strong advocate all those years," he said. "We are grateful for their active collaboration year-round. Gerald Auto Group played a significant role in providing key financial resources to our agency during the pandemic. As many traditional fundraising experiences were shuttered because of COVID, the support we received from the dealership never wavered. In some of our most challenging hours, Gerald Auto Group was there for us and ready to lend a helping hand."

Little Friends Inc. Benefit Auction raises funds for and awareness of families dealing with autism and developmental disabilities.

Services that Little Friends Inc. provides include a Center for Autism providing comprehensive therapy, adult day programs, respite services and residential services. The agency runs two schools, holds vocational training programs, offers community-based residential opportunities, and operates the Little Friends Center for Autism, which offers comprehensive evaluations, therapies and trainings for parents and professionals. Those served by the organization range in age from 18 months to older adults.

Gerald Auto Group's support of Little Friends Inc. helps to ensure the organization's services are available now and into the future for the families they serve. "The work Little Friends has done in the community throughout the years is outstanding," said Donna Lawler, Vice President of the Gerald Auto Group. "We are proud to support an organization that provides such important services and works to make a positive impact on so many people's lives."

Can't make it to the live auction? Those wanting to support the cause of Little Friends can still donate at

For more information about the Benefit Auction, contact Megan O'Brien, Director of Development, at or call (630) 281-1879.

To learn more about the Gerald Auto Group and Gerald Cares, visit

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