Twice nominated for Maria Shriver’s prestigious Minerva Award, and the 2010 “Women Who Move the City” Award, Cheryl Kilmer has been repeatedly recognized and honored for her considerable contributions.
On September 23, 2010, Mayor Desmond of San Marcos, California, proclaimed the month of April “Cheryl Kilmer Month” at TERI’s (Training, Education & Research Institute) 30-year anniversary open house.
TERI, is a nonprofit organization founded in 1980, by Kilmer, based in San Diego, California, serving over 600 children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families; employs 400+ professional and paraprofessional staff; and maintains a $17 million annual operating budget.
Cheryl Kilmer was committed to making a positive difference in the lives of those with developmental disabilities at an early age, thus beginning a lifelong journey that has benefited thousands of individuals and their families.
She began her journey in Michigan working with autistic people after seeing the conditions of an institution as a teenaged-intern.
"They were pretty bad, to put it simply," she said. "Many of the staff weren't really dedicated to providing good care to the residents who lived there."
As a 17-year-old premed student, from the University of Michigan, Kilmer saw the conditions first-hand, and with plans to earn a doctorate in psychology, she was assigned to work with a 5-year-old girl at an institution there.
"She was a frail little girl," she said. "Nonverbal, quadriplegic. She had a bald spot on the back of her head where her head had been rubbing against the back of the chair. I don't believe anyone should ever have to live in those kinds of conditions. I ended up never turning away from it."
In the early 1970s, Michigan began "depopulating" its mental hospitals in a movement to have patients live in as normal settings as possible. Kilmer ran a group home for some former patients.
After two years Kilmer decided to travel the country and, “When we drove into San Diego, I knew this was going to be home," she said.
In 1976 she made San Diego her home and quickly learned the business side of the industry by working with a small nonprofit agency where she established residential programs. With hard work, tenacity and an impeccable reputation she formed her own agency and was awarded one of 13 state grants to run a pilot program of residential homes for the developmentally disabled.
For more than 30 years Kilmer’s goal has been committed to improving the quality of lives for children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, and their families.
She believes every individual with autism and other developmental and learning disabilities has the right to lead a valued, meaningful, and fulfilling life of uncompromised quality in their community.
In April 2011 TERI will host their fourth annual Cuvee delle Vite, an Italian-themed event to benefit their $50 million campus—a first-of-its-kind to provide full lifespan of services including education, life quality planning, research, health/fitness and agriculture.
Since its inception, in 1980, TERI has grown to accommodate the needs of many while remaining true to its original goal—to improve the quality of life for children and adults with developmental and learning disabilities. Through support, advocacy, dedication, innovation, and resolve, TERI has brought opportunity and hope to countless individuals and families.
Recognized as a model program in the State of California for the quality of services it provides to this population, the agency specializes in serving individuals who have needs that cannot be met by other existing programs. This includes services to persons who have autism, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, brain trauma, severe behavioral disorders, dual diagnoses, and learning disabilities.
As a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) California Corporation, the agency relies on donations from the community and foundations in order to continue to set the highest standards and ensure an uncompromised quality of life to this population.
TERI believes every individual with developmental and learning disabilities has the right to lead a valued, meaningful, and fulfilling life of uncompromised quality in their community.
To be an internationally recognized center of excellence and social change for education, life planning, health and fitness, research, and provision of model programs for persons with developmental and learning disabilities and those who support them across their lifespan. TERI looks to the future by continuing its commitment to set new standards through establishing and operating model programs, conducting applied research in best practice procedures, and offering training and consultation to professionals, families, and other community members.
Their programs and services include:
Center for the Arts & Adult Education, Education, The Learning Academy, The Country School, Family Support Services, Fitness, Therapy & Recreation, Therapeutic Equestrian, Potpourri on the Coast, Residential