Student Council

By Tina M
October 24th

Submitted by Trista Zimmerman, Leisure Education Teacher

A new school year brings a new group of students on the Chileda Student Council! Our group meets bi-weekly to discuss different happenings around campus. Some of the major issues already tackled have been the student handbook as well as discussions about the school menu. Future endeavors include planning outings, fundraising and other campus activities. Every student will have a chance to run for office and each student will have a special job on Student Council after the voting concludes.

Pictured: Student diligently working on his campaign speech.

Why Work at Chileda?

By Tina M
October 17th

Submitted by Toby Wendtland, Recruiter

Wait, what is Chileda?  We polled 100 people who had never heard of Chileda and the most popular answer was:  A Mexican Restaurant!  Well, that’s not quite right.  Chileda was founded in 1973 with the idea that every child can reach their full potential regardless of cognitive or behavioral challenges.  As the first significant papers were being published on autism, Chileda was already helping families find unique and tailored approaches to each individual child they served.  45 years later, we continue to innovate at our integrated school and residential campus located in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  So why work at Chileda?

Set aside the awesome benefits we have, forget about the generous insurance package, the 401(k) match, profit sharing and amazing paid time off, and focus on the opportunity in front of you:  We want you to help us change lives. As you get to know our students, there will be no quitting on them.  What if I told you there was a job out there with great pay, great benefits, even better opportunities for advancement, and a job you’ll love 95% of the time? Doesn’t that sound tempting, even sound like a career opportunity? Nothing prepares you for Chileda, except Chileda.  There are opportunities for rock stars to shine, to go on tour, and even go platinum.  We love to train staff; we’re producing rock stars every day.  Join us and we’ll show you why job satisfaction makes all the difference.

All Abilities Trane Park Project

By Tina M
October 10th

Submitted by Derek Cortez, CEO of Chileda
This speech was given on 10/4/18 in support of the All Abilities Trane Park

Fellow parents and grandparents,
Have you ever reflected on the many choices you have for your children and grandchildren to experience community? Have you ever reflected on the many choices you have for your children and grandchildren in regards to team sports and other physical opportunities? Probably not. Why would you, when this is most likely an unnecessary exercise for your family? For most of us in this room we have the luxury of choosing amongst many choices of places to go and activities to engage in with our kids and grandkids.

But suppose you had no choice or very few choices. Suppose the physical and cognitive challenges of your child or grandchild seriously limited the places they could go…places where most other children could go, but yours could not. How would you feel then as a parent or grandparent?

Fellow parents and grandparents,
The world of limited choices is the world the children of Chileda live in. My name is Derek Cortez and I am the CEO of Chileda. Chileda is an organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children/adolescents with severe autism and other cognitive challenges. We have been a part of this community for 45 years. Our residential and day school program serves on average 60-70 children and employs more than 200 people. Our families come mostly from Wisconsin and Minnesota, but do come from as far away places as Alaska.

One of the questions we often hear from our parents when they visit their children is where can they take their child in the community where they can be safe, welcomed, and have fun? It isn’t easy to find such a place, because few places exist that can accommodate our children.

The Trane Park is one such place that will provide an option for our families. In a world with limited choices, the Trane Park provides them with a place where a kid can be a kid, regardless of physical and cognitive challenges.

Tonight I am here to represent those families who could not be here to speak on behalf of their child. I am here to speak on the behalf of the invisible, those who too often spend much of their lives behind closed doors so you seldom see them.

Fellow parents and grandparents, I would ask you to support this noble cause of the Trane Project.
The Trane Project will demonstrate yet again that we are a city that shows we don’t aim to meet only the needs of the many, but also the needs of the few; and not only those with the loudest voices, but also those without a voice…the needs of the invisible. Thank you for consideration of our request to support this park.

Out & About in the Community

By Tina M
September 26th

Oh, the wonderful things we do at Chileda!!! A couple weeks ago, students and staff enjoyed a day outside at Camp Decorah participating in kickball, yoga, parachute play, bracelet making and climbing the tree fort. Thank you to Camp Decorah for providing us with such an incredible play area on a beautiful summer day. Check out more photos on our Facebook page:

Pictured: Students engaged in chair yoga :).

And the Winner is…

By Tina M
September 20th

We asked, you voted! Here’s the winning student drawing that will be featured on our next employee t-shirt! Thank you to everyone who voted.

Healthy Habits Update

By Tina M
September 12th

Submitted by Trista Zimmerman, Leisure Education Teacher

Over the past few months, students have been able to place health at the forefront with our Healthy Habits program. Using our Tools for Schools grant, we’ve had the opportunity to explore different activities across campus and in the community. The grant has enabled us to:

  • Purchase water bottles, as well as a new water fountain, which has increased hydration habits amongst staff and students.
  • Go on outings – hiking, to the grocery store, to community gardens, and other health related activities.
  • Have bikes repaired which the students have taken out into the community during their Physical Education time.
  • Explore new fruits and veggies by visiting our local Co-op.
  • Focus on overall wellbeing with a unit on happiness
  • Participate in Health Jeopardy and win healthy prizes
  • Complete a unit on sharing with accompanying fruit paintings.

The Healthy Habits programming has been a great way to teach lifelong wellness skills to our students, and will continue to be implemented once a month during the school year.

Parachute Play

By Tina M
September 5th

Parachute play provides endless fun!

Facebook Birthday Fundraiser

By Tina M
August 29th


Happy Birthday and Thank You to Scott Mell!  Scott raised over $2,000 for Chileda through his Facebook birthday fundraiser. We are celebrating this incredible donation and feeling very fortunate he chose Chileda as his birthday gift. Thank you to all the amazing people who donated to support our mission of “improving the quality of life for youth with cognitive challenges and extraordinary behavioral needs.”

Scott is also our very first fan to raise funds for us via Facebook. This is an exciting new venture for Chileda. Donating to our cause on Facebook is simple and convenient. Please help us spread the word and be sure to like us at

Water Play

By Tina M
August 15th


The weather was perfect yesterday for a fun evening of water play during our large group recreation time. Students ran through sprinklers, played in kiddie pools and enjoyed the much anticipated staff dunk. Students were given the opportunity to dump as much water as they wanted onto staff. As you can see from the photo, students loved every minute of this. So many smiles, so much laughter. We know how to have fun!

Emergency Communication Boards

By Tina M
August 8th


Did you see us on the news?!
Fox News 25-48 stopped by Chileda in June and interviewed Karrie Zielke, Director of Compliance, about the Emergency Communication Boards (ECB) Chileda designed to assist emergency responders when they interact with adults and children who are nonverbal or have communication challenges.

Check out the link to view the exciting coverage.

Do you have any connections to fire and police stations throughout the United States (or another business that might find the boards beneficial)?
Chileda has the boards available for sale. Here’s a link to the order form with more details.

Thank you for helping us spread the word!