Sunnyhill, established in 1978, provides tailored residential, recreational and educational opportunities for children and adults with developmental disabilities. In partnership with community and natural supports, Sunnyhill empowers individuals to become productive citizens and achieve their individual dreams.

The Finding Resources, Important Everyday Needs and Disability Services (F.R.I.E.N.D.S.) Family Advocacy Center is a central hub for families to call, email, or visit when they need help finding resources within the community to help their loved ones with disabilities. Through F.R.I.E.N.D.S., Sunnyhill partners with various agencies to ensure the needs of people with developmental disabilities are being met to the fullest. Whether it’s finding recreational opportunities, residential placement, or help navigating the school system, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is available to help.

Since its founding, the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Family Advocacy Center has helped more than 300 local families find resources for their loved ones with developmental disabilities. The Tilles Foundation has been instrumental in helping to open a family resource center to serve children with developmental disabilities, and helping families find resources in the St. Louis community.

Resources include:

  • In-home supports
  • Therapy services
  • Assistance with IEP meetings
  • Assistance with case management
  • Respite care
  • Guardianship
  • Socialization opportunities and other services

The F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Family Advocacy Center partners with over 20 other community organizations serving people with disabilities, therefore fostering relationships and creating connections between organizations for families—leading to a significant reduction in stress.

Through the grant from the Tilles Foundation, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. has been able to reach out to families throughout the St. Louis Area—through participation in community events, resource fairs, and local school events. Many of the families within the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. program are starting to return for additional resources, which is a testament to the success of the new outreach program. Some families have also referred F.R.I.E.N.D.S. to their friends and family.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is currently working with a family in Florissant who has a 12-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy. This girl is non-verbal, non-ambulatory, and has very limited supports in place. She is being raised by a single mother with 6 other children. The family is in need of in-home personal care services, a car seat for safe transportation, a new and better-fitting wheelchair, respite services, nursing, socialization and therapy services. Thus far, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. has been able to collaborate with five other community organizations to get the family the resources they need. In addition, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is working with this family to navigate their educational needs. The family is extremely grateful for the help and support the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Advocacy Center is providing.

St. Francis Community Center

St. Francis Community Services’ Youth Program at Southside Center provides a wide range of culturally and linguistically competent services tailored to meet the needs of children of immigrant families. The program provides after-school groups that use poetry, music, sports, games and other activities to promote social growth and development. Tutoring in reading and math helps students progress in school, and Summer Camp engages children when school is out. The Youth Program offers services that help children and youth build strong social skills, improve in school and avoid risky behaviors, such as trying drugs. The staff is bilingual, ensuring that Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking families can participate fully.

Youth in kindergarten through eighth grade come from all over the St. Louis metro area to participate in this program, as it offers them a safe place to explore a variety of activities and develop new skills.

In spring 2015, St. Francis received $120,000 —the first year of a generous two-year grant—from the Tilles Foundation to help the organization grow this valuable asset to the community. This grant was part of a collaborative effort with Catholic Charities of St. Louis and Queen of Peace Center. Specifically, the grant allows St. Francis to continue its previous tutoring and after-school activities; create new initiatives within the program such as soccer, arts, music, and chess; all while expanding the number of area children they are able to serve.

Enrollment in the youth program increased dramatically due to the funding from Tilles—from 55 to 91 children. Among these 91 youth, there are remarkable outcomes. 100% of the children who participated in the after-school program advanced to the next grade level in school. Sixty-four percent of the children who completed the program improved their reading skills, advancing an academic level.

Many inspiring examples of success can be seen through the strong relationships formed in the St. Francis youth program. An elite independent high school in the area routinely sends student volunteers to engage with the program participants. One of the enrollees, a young Vietnamese student coming from a disadvantaged family, began to form a bond with the high school volunteers. The volunteers began to encourage him to apply to their school. He applied, was accepted, and even received a scholarship to attend.

This student, now enrolled at an elite independent school, has significantly more educational opportunities available than at his neighborhood public school. He would not have imagined this possibility or known how to navigate the application system had he not been a part of our program. His future looks bright as he begins the next step of his educational career with St. Francis staff and his new friends standing beside him in encouragement.

For more information on St. Francis Community Services please visit

The Special Education Foundation

The Special Education Foundation provides support and assistance to students who receive services from the Special School District of St. Louis County. Support areas include scholarships, summer camps, arts in the classroom, hearing aids, eyeglasses, assistive equipment, a high school leadership program, teacher mini-grants for innovative classroom programs, parent support, Special Olympics and student recognition.

The Tilles Foundation, through a grant for adaptive computer equipment, has opened the doors for accessibility, communication and employment for students with physical disabilities. The impact of funds from the Tilles Foundation in the lives of these students is significant in that it not only fills a critical need, but also paves the path to independence.

The Tilles Foundation grant serves youth with physical disabilities, ages 18 to 21, whose sole avenue for communication is the use of adaptive computer equipment. These augmentative devices allow contact with the outside world, improve social interactions and generate engagement in a broader range of activities, thus paving their path to greater independence.

The students who receive the computer equipment are served by the Special School District. Their disabilities are often the result of birth trauma, disease or traumatic accident. After completion of their education with the district, students’ families must purchase the adaptive equipment as all such devices remain as property of the School District. As having a child with a disability is very costly for the family, and many have difficulty securing the financial resources necessary to purchase the necessary equipment. The grant from the Tilles Foundation serves as that critical financial resource for youth with physical disabilities through its partnership with the Special Education Foundation.

An unexpected benefit of the project rests not only in the joy and appreciation of parents and students who receive the equipment, but also in the ability of students to enjoy employment and participate in a broad range of everyday activities in the home and in the community.

These students, so often blessed with high intellect, are “locked” in their bodies due to their physical limitations. The augmentative communication devices allow them to have contact with the outside world, to strengthen their social interactions, and to foster their independence.

The long-range goals of the Special Education Foundation consistently remain in the provision of service to children and youth with disabilities in areas not supported by tax dollars. A major component of these services rests in providing equipment to students with physical disabilities. Having a disability is costly for families, and special education is expensive. There is no way that one entity can provide for all the needs of all the students. That’s where the Special Education Foundation steps in—to pick up where the tax dollars stop. A major need for children is equipment that is not available through tax revenue. Hence, the provision of equipment continues in the long-range plans of the Special Education Foundation.

Adam Selm is a 21-year old young man who recently completed his education with the Special School District. Adam was born with Mitochondrial Myopathy, a neuro-muscular disorder. Hence, Adam is unable to walk, is confined to a wheelchair, and has no verbal communication skills. However, Adam understands all that is said to him.  

Upon meeting Adam, one is immediately engaged due to his easy charm and incredible smile. He is outgoing, funny and extremely social. He is an avid St. Louis sports fan, however, Adam's inability to communicate is a big obstacle for him.

Due to the generosity of the Tilles Foundation, that obstacle is no longer a barrier for Adam.  The Tilles Foundation provided a mini-bent Tube Mount and Ballistic Jacket Case for Adam's iPad. The Tube Mount, attached to Adam's wheelchair, allows Adam to have his laptop in front of him at all times. This allows him to communicate through his iPad—which produces his vocalizations. Adam now orders food in restaurants, discusses items to be purchased at local retail stores and communicates freely with family and peers.

Prior to the Tube Mount, Adam needed the assistance of another to remove his laptop from his backpack and place it on a special tablet for him to use. This proved to be cumbersome and difficult to manage.

The Tube Mount with the iPad has given Adam independence and greatly increased his self-confidence. He is presently preparing for his next step of transitioning to a sheltered workshop for gainful employment. His mother, Patti Selm, states, "We are so appreciative of the Tilles Foundation and the Special Education Foundation for this life-altering equipment for Adam. We see tremendous improvements in his communication abilities and in his overall self-confidence. For all this, we are thrilled—as is Adam."

For more information on the Special Education Foundation, please visit


Ranken Jordan

The organizational mission of Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital is to consider the children first in all we do. In service to its mission, Ranken Jordan provides for the medical and rehabilitative needs of medically complex children, from birth to age 21, after their critical care needs have been met at acute care hospitals, and before they are able to safely transition from hospital to home. Ranken Jordan thus serves as the bridge between the acute care setting and home, providing Care Beyond the Bedside, a highly effective model of care that considers the whole child.

Care Beyond the Bedside includes comprehensive rehabilitative therapies, nurturing and encouragement, learning, play, socialization, family involvement, adaptive sports and community integration. These elements, working in concert, provide a medically complex child’s best opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential and greatest future independence.

About The Tilles Foundation Relationship

In 2016, The Tilles Foundation made a gift of $150,000 to help the hospital add a wing, increasing the number of beds available from 34 to 60. Ranken Jordan is well-aligned with the Tilles Foundation’s mission of helping diverse children in need in the St. Louis region. Like Founder Andrew “Cap” Tilles, Ranken Jordan understands and embraces the need for restorative, park-like surroundings for the benefit of health and well-being, and sporting and recreational opportunities to enhance the lives of children and families.  For many years, the Tilles Foundation has helped Ranken Jordan provide these opportunities for the children it serves.

Tilles Foundation support has impacted thousands of medically complex children at Ranken Jordan, from birth to age 21, improving their health and wellness, abilities and function, as well as their present and future independence. Tens of thousands more will be impacted in the coming years because of the Tilles Foundation gift toward construction of a new wing of the hospital, intended to provide a more welcoming and age-appropriate space for the hospital’s adolescent patients.

Who Ranken Jordan Serves

Patients at Ranken Jordan represent the most medically complex 1% of all pediatric patients, whose needs consume 40% of all pediatric health care dollars. Common admitting diagnoses are spinal cord injuries resulting in full or partial paralysis, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), premature birth and/or complications of birth, cardiac arrest or stroke, cancer, trauma, burns, and diseases and disorders of the heart, respiratory, musculoskeletal or metabolic systems. Many Ranken Jordan patients have multiple medical conditions upon admittance, and may also have developmental and psychological needs. Often such extreme needs result in financial devastation for families. For this reason among others, 85% of Ranken Jordan Patients are Medicaid-eligible, and many live at or below the poverty line.

Ranken Jordan provides rehabilitative care that helps each child build or restore as much function as possible under their respective circumstances. Stays at Ranken Jordan average 42 days, although some children remain for months or years. During their unique Ranken Jordan experience, kids are up and out of their rooms for up to 70% of every day, engaged in adaptive sports, games, indoor and outdoor play activities, expressive therapies, such as art, music and horticulture, cognitive challenges and more. Kids are also engaged in supportive counseling, speech and communication therapies, physical therapy, recreational therapy (including Challenger Baseball and golf), warm water aquatics and occupational therapy. The hospital also provides an educational liaison—to help kids maintain grade level while hospitalized.

Ranken Jordan also operates its own medically safe day camps for kids with disabilities, and a provides community integration excursions to places such as the St. Louis Zoo, the Science Center, the Magic House, Cardinals baseball games, the theater and other kid-friendly venues.

For more information about Ranken Jordan, please visit

Queen of Peace Center

In March of 2016, Queen of Peace Center (QOPC) was awarded $110,000 from the Tilles Foundation to expand The Health and Wellness Program. The Health and Wellness Program serves children and youth enrolled in Peace for Kids Child Development Center and Nurturing Networks Family Program ages 0-18 to facilitate mental and primary health development. Programming focuses on implementing trauma-informed care, healthy living habits, and nutrition in the classrooms. Children and youth are provided comprehensive services supported by an infant and early childhood mental health consultant and wellness coach.

As a result of the funding provided by the Tilles Foundation, two QOPC staff members have completed the Sunshine Circles Training in Chicago IL, and have started implementing the curriculum in the early childhood education classrooms. At the training, staff learned how to utilize specific play groups to support and develop pro-social behaviors such as cooperation, friendship and self-control. The staff learned how to use play to help repair traumatic experiences, build a positive sense of self for each child and to develop a healthy range of emotions. An infant and early childhood mental health consultant and wellness coach has been onsite at QOPC weekly (6 hours) to offer guidance to direct service staff, as well as to provide consultation to staff on how to continue enhancing the Health and Wellness program. The EatPlayGrow curriculum has also been implemented in the classrooms in order to promote health living habits for children. The consultant has been providing coaching and guidance to the center to implement systematic changes in the center to support the EatPlayGrow and Sunshine Circles philosophies. 

Since the inception of the program on March 1, 2016, 86 children have participated in the program and 60 children still remain in the program. Of the children who completed follow-up assessments, 83% have showed improvement in at least one of the following domains:

  • On-track to meet developmental milestones,
  • Improved social-emotional skills,
  • Or increased nutrition education.

According to Sarah Williams, MA, Director of Education and Prevention, the impact of the Health and Wellness Program is significant. “We have a 4 year old girl whose mother is in the substance abuse treatment center. The child has experienced significant trauma in the past six months with mom relapsing and disappearing for 3 months.  This child began to have self-regulation challenges in the classroom with impulsive behavior, difficulty in following directions and focusing on a task for a period longer than 5 minutes. This child has shown improvements with all three of these areas with the help of Sunshine Circles. She has been able to wait her turn during the circle time, remain focused during the play activity part and has begun to show empathy towards her peers. She thrives during this circle time as she is learning that she is valued and cared for regardless of her current life circumstances. This child also benefits from the EatPlayGrow lessons. She has made several comments during meal time to her peers about the vegetables on her plate, and she is able to identify the vegetables on her own and was overheard telling her mom that the green beans help her become big and strong.”

The current program has assisted QOPC in continuing to reach the goal of supporting children in healthy physical and behavioral development. QOPC will continue to implement the program with the hope of expanding the program by offering the curriculum in every classroom to reach every child.

For more information about Queen of Peace Center, please visit

St. Louis Jewish Community Center

The St. Louis Jewish Community Center, (“the J”) received a $300,000 grant from the Tilles Foundation to help build an inclusive, early-childhood playground at the J’s Marilyn Fox Building in Chesterfield. The playground was based on the concept of Universal Design—usable by the widest range of children with the widest range of abilities. This framework increases usability, safety, health and social participation within the play environment.

The J views the playground as an outdoor classroom. As such, it incorporates many different features which allow children to learn and master skills. Climbing structures and bike paths allow children to develop their gross motor skills. Water tables, painting easels, musical instruments and the garden allow children to work on fine motor and sensory skills. Those areas, along with the sand areas, help children learn science. Dramatic play areas allow children to develop their imaginations. Transfer decks and shallow steps improve access for kids with mobility impairments, while ramps allow children who use a wheelchair to join the fun.

Children with Autism Spectrum or Sensory Processing Disorders find challenges with socialization, communication, play and imagination. Sensory play areas attract children and encourage exploration and discovery, and provide a "just-right" experience for those seeking sensory stimulation.

Inclusive playgrounds fundamentally change the nature of relationships between children with and without special needs. Inclusive play on the playground provides a common ground for those with disabilities and those without to bond over a common interest. When playgrounds are accessible for all children, those with and without disabilities learn to share, play and grow side-by-side.

This playground will be one of the few of its kind in the St. Louis Region and will serve as an educational outdoor space for hundreds of children in the J’s Early Childhood Program Day Camps, Family Center, and special events for local families who have children with disabilities. The J has been serving the Greater St. Louis Community since 1880, and currently provides fitness, cultural arts, social services and recreation for more than 70,000 residents of all ages. Through youth programming, the J has always believed in teaching every child based on his or her own abilities.

For more information on The St. Louis Jewish Community Center, please visit

College Bound

College Bound provides promising students from under-resourced backgrounds with the academic enrichment, social support and life skills needed to succeed in college and careers. Their program begins at the end of freshman year of high school—and continues through college graduation and beyond. In the 2016-2017 academic year, 641 students will participate in College Bound programming.

College Bound has had a strong record of success in helping promising low-income, first-generation students get into and graduate from college.  College Bound is one of the top performing college access and success programs in the nation.

  • 99% of College Bound’s students have graduated from high school compared to only 68% of St. Louis Public School students and 53% of low-income students living in cities.
  • 94% of College Bound students have matriculated to college immediately after high school, compared to 66% of St. Louis Public School graduates and only 51% of low-income graduates nationwide.
  • 88% of College Bound students have re-enrolled for their sophomore year, and 82% have re-enrolled for their junior year. By comparison, fewer than 50% of low-income students nationally re-enroll for their junior year and just 11% of low-income first generation students graduate within six years.
  • In 2014, College Bound collegians graduated at five times the rate of their low-income, first-generation peers, and above the rate of students with family incomes of $100,000+.

Most of College Bound programs are provided by a team of 23 AmeriCorps Coaches— recent college graduates who serve as both teachers and mentors. A large part of their cost is covered by AmeriCorps; the Tilles Foundation’s investment allows us to fill a much-needed gap.

Even with the support of the AmeriCorps Coaching team, some students face additional hurdles that require wraparound services. For that reason, College Bound enlisted a full-time, on-site, masters-level licensed counselor—or Wellness Coach. Investment from the Tilles Foundation allows the Wellness Coach to provide individual and group therapy, student, staff and family consultations, staff trainings, classroom support and crisis telephone support. College Bound is one of only a handful of college access program nationwide with an on-site therapist.  

For more information on College Bound, please visit

St. Louis Zoo

In a partnership spanning nearly 20 years, The Tilles Foundation has provided over $400,000 in grants to the St. Louis Zoo. 

The St. Louis Zoo, its visitors and students around the world, have greatly benefited from the longstanding Tilles Foundation partnership, which has gone to support a variety of projects and programs focused on accessibility and inclusion for all Zoo visitors.

Most notably, the specialized accessibility cars on each Zoo Train and accessibility ramps at each of the Zooline Railroad stations are evidence of the influence of The Tilles Foundation. This has provided the opportunity for many Zoo visitors with mobility and accessibility challenges to enjoy a train ride around the Zoo with friends and family since 2000.

Additionally, the Tilles Foundation provided a grant to enhance disability access through the installation of power-assist doors on Historic Hill—The Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium, Peabody Hall, the Primate House and Jungle of the Apes, which allows for all visitors, regardless of ability, to enjoy and learn about the animals at the Zoo.

The Tilles Foundation’s commitment to education is creating lifelong memories. The Foundation’s support of the Zoo’s Education Department and its Outreach Programs allows underserved children and adults with special needs to interact with live animals.

The impact of The Tilles Foundation extends far beyond the walls of the Zoo. Most recently, the Zoo was able to create, construct and outfit a stand-alone Distance Learning studio in the Education Department. This studio allows Zoo educators access to professional equipment and the ability to share their message of conservation with children and students across the United States as well as in Canada, South America, Africa and Asia.

For more about the St. Louis Zoo, please visit