Sisu, formerly Challenged Child and Friends, was born when occupational therapist Jean Willers began providing services for a young boy critically injured in an automobile accident. Jean recognized a special spark in that young child and knew she could create an environment to accommodate his physical needs, foster his educational and social development and inspire him to reach his full potential.
In 1985, the organization incorporated as a nonprofit, offering educational, nursing, and family support services in addition to physical, occupational and speech therapy. In 1992, Challenged Child and Friends expanded to become a fully inclusive program serving children with disabilities alongside their typically developing peers.
The school, originally housed at Gainesville First Baptist Church, quickly grew as more families of children with disabilities became aware of the services. When it outgrew its space at First Baptist Church, it moved to Murphy Boulevard where it quickly outgrew that location as well. As a result of the program’s growth, a new facility was built in 2000 at 2360 Murphy Boulevard. That facility expanded in 2003 and remains the site of Sisu today.
Over the past 30 years, enrollment and geographic reach has increased, now serving children from 13 counties across Northeast Georgia. Program quality and services have continued to grow as well, with the addition of extended hours to accommodate working parents and a summer program to prevent regression of skills.
Sisu is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), Quality Rated and licensed through Bright from the Start, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.
Randy Owens, the young boy who was the inspiration for Challenged Child and Friends, now serves on the board of directors.