About FIRE

"For just as the body is one yet has many parts, and all the parts of the body,
though many, are one body, so also is Christ."  1 Corinthians 12:12

Our Mission and Vision

The mission of the FIRE Foundation of Central Illinois is to provide children with special needs the opportunity for an inclusive education in Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Peoria. We envision our Catholic schools to be a place where every student is valued as a unique child made in the image and likeness of God.

This mission has two main pillars: advocacy and fundraising for inclusive education within Catholic Schools. The aim is to raise funds and distribute grants to partner schools to be used to fund special education materials, resources and personnel

What We Do

FIRE Foundation of Central Illinois is an independent 501(c)(3) organization. We form partnerships with partner schools within the Peoria Diocese to raise awareness and funds to provide professional development, hire special educators and paraprofessionals, and to acquire accessible tools and technologies that create successful learning experiences for all children. Our collective goal is to provide schools with resources to able to welcome students with Down syndrome, significant learning disabilities, Autism spectrum disorder, and students who face other special learning challenges. Through inclusive learning environments, all children will grow up with an awareness and appreciation of each other’s unique gifts.

History of FIRE Foundation

The FIRE Foundation was founded in 1996 in Kansas City, MO by parents who sought to provide opportunities for their children with special needs to be educated in their home parish schools along with their siblings and friends. The inception of FIRE was driven by founders’ faith and a desire deep in their hearts. Prior to the launch of FIRE, students diagnosed with significant disabilities were rarely admitted to Catholic schools; appropriate resources and support were simply not available, and inclusion was not yet recognized as a best practice in education. Little did these trailblazers know how the concept of inclusion would emerge as a proven and successful approach that benefits children of all abilities.

In its 25-year existence, FIRE has now partnered with an increasing number of schools in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese and raised more than $5.5 Million dollars to support inclusive education and impacted the lives of thousands of Kansas City area children and families. Additionally, FIRE now has affiliate programs in Northwest Indiana, Northeast Iowa, New Hampshire, Dallas, Greater Chicago, Central Illinois and Denver.  

Central Illinois FIRE Affiliate

The Central Illinois FIRE affiliate was founded by Jay and Renée Percell. In 2018, Jay drove to Chicago to attend an Inclusion Summitt at the NCEA conference. There he met Lynn Hire, Director of the FIRE Foundation, and the idea to establish an affiliate in the Peoria Diocese was born. Jay and Renée are motivated in these efforts with the hope that their daughter, Adele, and other students with special needs throughout the diocese, might one day have the chance to attend school in their local parish school, just like Adele's two older brothers do. 

FIRE Foundation of Central Illinois officially incorporated in 2019, and our efforts to promote inclusion began in earnest. Currently, we have three diocesan schools: Corpus Christi Catholic School in Bloomington, IL, and St. Jude Catholic School in Peoria, IL, and St. Thomas More High School in Champaign, IL. FIRE Foundation of Central Illinois is working to establish a network of resources between multiple schools in the diocese. Embracing and implementing inclusive education is an exciting movement in Catholic education and we hope you will join with us in this endeavor. This is a unique opportunity for all of the schools in the Peoria Diocese to live out the mission we are called to through our Catholic Faith.