Vocational Training That Works!

Vocational Training That Works!

Thanksgiving is the time of year where we appreciate the people, programs, and organizations that have touched our lives, supported our families, and helped our students to succeed! This year, we are so grateful for Shalian (Shali) McCarley and want to celebrate her accomplishments and appreciate all of the New Horizons Academy (NHA), Career Center, and Special Grounds Coffee staff for helping her to become more confident, independent, and a part of the world of work.

Over five years ago, Shali and her parents, Jack and Sharon McCarley, came to NHA looking for a supportive, special education school environment where she could gain confidence, find her voice, develop work skills, and feel valued and appreciated. According to one of her high school teachers, Ms. Kara Behnfeldt, that is exactly what Shali found. “She grew in confidence; and she developed people skills, as well as, being able to express her thoughts and feelings. Shali thrived in a one-on-one, quiet, supportive classroom environment, where she felt valued.” At NHA, Shali felt that she learned “how to get along with people,” which helped prepare her for her new retail job at Walmart in Napoleon.

Shali may have improved her communication skills and work skills while at NHA and its Career Center; but as Ms. Kara recognized, “Shali is a hard worker who strives to do the best she can.” And she does it through humor and with a smile on her face. “I loved seeing and hearing Shali laugh. When she did, it was always pure joy.” Shali agreed that one of her favorite memories was of one of her classmates making her and her other Career Center classmates laugh all the time.

That laughter continued this fall through the Special Grounds Coffee Shop. After socially graduating last May, Shali returned to the Career Center to bake for the coffee shop. Her favorite thing to make was the breakfast burritos, which her job coach Ms. Renate Benjamin made the work fun and exciting. “During the burrito making, we made up a song called, The Burrito Song. One of my favorite memories is Shali telling me in fun, ‘Ms. Renate, Please don’t sing the burrito song any more’ with a huge smile on her face and laughing as hard as she could.”

The Burrito Song is just one example of the fun, educational tools used to help Shali and her Career Center classmates and coffee shop co-workers “learn how to follow a recipe and measure ingredients in grams and ounces,” shared Renate. Through her work study at the Special Grounds Coffee Shop, “Shali also learned to be part of a team and gained a lot of confidence.”

In addition to breakfast burritos, Shali also learned how to make oatmeal sandwich cookies, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, and yogurt parfaits with fresh fruit and homemade granola; but her all-time favorite coffee shop treat is of course the huge, ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies. Stop by the Special Grounds Coffee Shop, and try one for yourself. They are great with coffee or hot chocolate!

The Special Grounds Coffee Shop and the Career Center Skills Labs offered Shali the chance to practice her communication, social, customer service, and other work-related and vocational skills needed to be successful at her new retail position. They and her job coach also helped allay her fears and reduce her anxieties about starting a new job. Initially, Shali was worried “about being able to do everything the job required,” and now, she is able to enjoy “making new friends.”

Shali has just joined the world of work, and she still has a whole lot of dreams for her future. She wants to “try new things like photography, modeling, and learning more about fashion.” Ms. Kara and the rest of the NHA staff are just so proud of her and “wish her a life of happiness and confidence in whatever she chooses to do and hope she stays in touch.”

This Thanksgiving season, we want to join with Ms. Kara in congratulating Shali on her new job opportunity and celebrate how far she has truly come in making her dreams of independence come true! We also want to take a moment and thank all of the Special Grounds Coffee Shop, NHA, and Career Center teachers, staff, and job coaches for helping Shali to become more confident, independent, and a part of the world of work.

This holiday season, please stop by the Special Grounds Coffee Shop, and celebrate the accomplishments of Shali and our other special needs students! Thank our staff for everything they do to help our students’ dreams come true and for helping them to become as independent as they can possibly be. Remember that all of the proceeds of Special Grounds Coffee support the vocational skills and work study needs of our special needs students.

If you are looking for a caring school environment for your special needs student, an individualized vocational-based program for your high schooler, a Summer Camp where your middle school or high school student can gain valuable work study skills, or a place where your special needs student can grow, thrive, and become as independent as he or she possibly can, then please consider calling us at 419-335-7272 to set up a tour of our Career Center or NHA school campuses in Wauseon or Springfield. New Horizons Academy…Where Kids Come First!

Special Grounds Coffee Co. was born out of a desire to provide a meaningful vocational experience to individuals with disabilities by creating delicious, high quality products and a welcoming environment. For more information on Special Grounds Coffee, to explore our menu, or to order our freshly roasted and blended coffees right from Wauseon, Ohio, stop into our cafe and see us at 845 S. Shoop Avenue or log onto SpecialGroundsCoffee.com to order online. Special Grounds Coffee… Hope Brews Here. Changing Lives One Cup at a Time.

Special Grounds Project Update ~ Oct. 2021

Special Grounds Project Update ~ Oct. 2021

Special Grounds is officially open!

It look well over a year for us to finally say that, and we could not feel more blessed!

As with everything else in the world recently, complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic made this such a challenging project… from supply chain issues to contractor scheduling and availability. While these unforeseen factors may have caused delays in our progress, they couldn’t temper our excitement and joy for what this facility will provide to our students.

Our grand opening celebration was on Tuesday, September 14 and we are still in awe at the outpouring of support we’ve received from the community. Our students continue to stay busy putting labels on cups, stamping logos and writing thank you notes on coffee sleeves, baking the pastries and making the sandwiches and salads we are serving in the cafe.

Our drive through and indoor dining in the cafe are open from 6:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays.

Stop in and see us at 854 S. Shoop Avenue in Wauseon! We can’t wait to serve you!

2021 #GivingTuesday419

2021 #GivingTuesday419

This year we will once again be joining Everence and other amazing local nonprofits and community members to maximize charitable giving at #GivingTuesday419!

Tuesday, Nov. 30
Founder’s Hall – Sauder Village
22611 State Route 2, Archbold

Come together to celebrate #GivingTuesday419.

  • 5 p.m. – Doors open
  • 5:15 p.m. – Difference Makers Expo
  • 6 p.m. – Dismissal by table for dinner
  • 6:30 p.m. – Difference Makers panels begins and giving platform opens
  • 8:30 p.m. (approximately) – Grand total announcement
  • 8:35 p.m. (approximately) – Check out begins. Please hold checks until the program ends.If you’re giving through your Everence donor advised fund, you do not have to stay to check out.

No gift is too small to help inspire change in Northwest Ohio!

The countdown to Northwest Ohio’s biggest day of generosity is on…


GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity. GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Since then, it has grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

It’s a simple idea: whether it’s making someone smile, helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving some of what we have to those who need our help, every act of generosity counts and everyone has something to give.

Register for #GivingTuesday419 today!

Registration for #GivingTuesday419 is open and will remain open until Nov. 15 or until we reach capacity, whichever comes first.

Don’t delay registering, seats are filling quickly!

Can’t Attend #GivingTuesday419? No Problem!

If you’re not able to attend #GivingTuesday419 you can still participate in Giving Tuesday and support our mission here at Sara’s Garden. Simply visit our Support page to make a one-time or recurring donation.

No gift is too small to support Sara’s Garden and help inspire change in Northwest Ohio!

Save the Date for the 2022 Drive Fore Hope

Save the Date for the 2022 Drive Fore Hope

Thank you so much to everyone who was a part of the 2021 Drive Fore Hope Charity Golf Scramble!

The weather wasn’t ideal or what we envisioned for this year’s event… but we were so blessed by the amazing men and women who turned out to play in and volunteer for this year’s event. Thank you for being so patient and understanding with the adverse conditions! We are truly grateful for your support!

Next year’s event is scheduled for Friday, May 27, 2022. Don’t forget to get it on your calendar and save the date. We hope to see you at the 2022 Drive Fore Hope!

Save the Date for the NHA Christmas Musical

Save the Date for the NHA Christmas Musical

Save the date for Tuesday, December 14! You’re not going to want to miss this ye mateys!

The kiddos at NHA’s Wauseon campus will be presenting their annual Christmas musical: A Pirate Christmas!

After missing last year due to unfortunate COVID restrictions, this year’s musical will be an Elves vs. Pirates event as they try to figure out what Christmas is all about!

Please get this date on your calendar and plan to be available from approximately 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. that evening. The musical will once again be held at Pettisville Missionary Church. Obviously we will be monitoring the ever-changing state and health department COVID guidelines and keep everyone informed of any potential issues in scheduling.

If you are new to the NHA family and aren’t familiar with our musicals, ask someone who was here in either 2018 or 2019 – they have been a huge success and our students absolutely love them!



New Horizons Academy (NHA) is committed to the health and safety of our students and staff, and we will do everything in our power to keep them safe! As we begin the second nine weeks of school, we continue to follow the recommendations of the 2021-22 COVID-19 Health and Prevention Guidance for Ohio K-12 Schools from the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Education.

This school year, we have continued to work extremely hard to minimize in-school coronavirus transmission and to keep our students in-person at NHA. We have instituted a mask-recommended rather than a mask-mandated environment along with continued social distancing, frequent hand washing, hand sanitizing, rigorous cleaning, and grade-level pods. We have been remarkably successful with just 6 individuals testing positive for COVID-19:

  • 1 student and 1 staff member at our Springfield Campus
  • 2 students and 1 staff member at our Career Center
  • 1 staff member at our Wauseon Campus

Recently, the state of Ohio has seen a decline in new coronavirus cases, and we would like to see that trend continue. To do that, we are asking you to continue to:

  • Keep your children home when they are sick
  • Remind them to wash their hands often with soap and water
  • Encourage them to carry and use hand sanitizer
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Socially distance at community and group events

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, we want all of our families to celebrate together and celebrate safely. Thank you for helping us to keep our students and staff healthy and safe this school year!

NHA Parent-Teacher Conferences

NHA Parent-Teacher Conferences

For our New Horizons Academy (NHA) parents, parent-teacher conferences are just around the corner on November 1-2. If you haven’t already scheduled one with your child’s teacher, please do so today.

Parent-teacher conferences are a great way to develop or deepen the partnership between parents and teachers. You both want your child to learn, grow, and become as independent as he or she possibly can. Use this opportunity to find out how your child is doing in school and what you can do to help.

Before the conference:

  1. If you haven’t already, schedule a time to meet. Please send back your parent-teacher conference sign-up form with any requests to meet with specific teachers, staff, or specialists.
  2. Review your child’s progress reports and grade card.
  3. Talk with your child and other family members about how they think the school year is going and what your child’s strengths and needs are.
  4. Make a list of questions to ask during the conference.

During the conference:

  1. Remember that it is a two-way conversation and that it works best when both teachers and parents talk and listen.
  2. Share your questions and concerns with the teacher.
  3. Celebrate your child’s accomplishments, and work with the teacher on ways to help your child grow and improve.
  4. Ask what you can do at home to help your child learn and grow.

While talking with the teacher, please keep these basic principles in mind:

Best intentions assumed
Emphasis on learning

Home-school collaboration
Examples and evidence
Active listening
Respect for all
Dedication to follow-up

For more information on how to make the most of your parent-teacher conference and how to strengthen the relationship with your child’s teacher, log onto the Global Family Research Project at globalfrp.org.

Support Adria Gerig

Support Adria Gerig

Our daughter, Adria Gerig, was born with Spina Bifida on November 19, 2013. Her journey has been amazing and truly a testimony to God’s faithfulness and healing power! She is 7 (almost 8) years old now and in second grade at Pettisville Elementary School. Adria loves art, gymnastics, swimming, and her family and friends! Over the summer she learned to ride a bike, and swim with no floaties! She is excelling in academics, and a great reader for her age. We are so blessed by her courage and determination to tackle hard things. She doesn’t consider herself any different, or feel bad for herself when she has to work harder than others. She is kind and caring, and a joy to be around.

Adria has recently been diagnosed with a cyst on her spine that is actively growing. It is in the original Spina Bifida repair site. It is putting pressure on the nerves, and the nerves are growing around it to try and find space. It has been decided that now is the best time to go ahead and have that removed before it starts to cause decline in function. Adria will also have a detethering surgery performed which is where they clean up all the scar tissue and detach the nerves from any surrounding structures. She will spend a couple days in the PICU, and the remainder of the week on the regular pediatric floor. The surgeon is very confident that this surgery can be performed without Adria losing any function that she currently has to her lower body. We are so grateful for this.

Adria is no stranger to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) and completed 2 full rounds when she was 2 months old and again at 10 months old. The goal was to assist with healing from the surgeries and trauma she experienced that first year. We are hoping to do some more HBOT therapy after this surgery as well. It has been proven that HBOT not only speeds up healing, but decreases inflammation, pain, and risk of infection. Especially due to the location of this surgery being on her spinal cord, we want to do as much as we can to help her heal well with no complications. We are also hoping to do additional Conductive Education (CE), as recommended by her surgeon, in order for Adria to regain her endurance and mobility after surgery.

There is a facility here in Northwest Ohio that Adria has gone to for these services in the past called Sara’s Garden. Sara’s Garden is the only non-profit center in the United States to offer both HBOT and CE services and specializes in working with clients with neuromotor disabilities. We are so grateful for this center, the staff, and the care that they have provided Adria over the last 8 years! They are incredible and have been instrumental in Adria’s mobility and development. We believe that we would not be where we are today without them!

Unfortunately, in the United States insurance companies do not recognize HBOT and CE as being therapeutic for the treatment of neuromotor disabilities and therefore will not cover the cost for treatments. That is why we could really use your help. HBOT for post-surgical healing is only $150 per treatment and CE is only $35 per hour at Sara’s Garden.

If you could assist us with the cost (or even just part of the cost) of a single $150 HBOT treatment or $35 hour of CE it would help reduce our overall expenses greatly. 100% of the funds received go into an account in Adria’s name and will be used for her treatments. Any contribution made would be considered a tax-deductible donation as Sara’s Garden is a 501(c)(3) non-profit facility. Checks can be made out to Sara’s Garden with Adria’s name on a sheet of paper accompanying the check. Please do NOT write her name directly on the check. You can also donate online via credit card by clicking on the DONATE NOW button below.

We believe that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Conductive Education services at Sara’s Garden will significantly aid in Adria’s post-surgical healing process.

Thank you so much for considering to support Adria’s treatments at Sara’s Garden!

Amber & Travis Gerig

Sara’s Garden is a 501(c)(3) organization. Your charitable contribution is tax deductible under 501(c)(3) of the IRS code, to the extent allowed by law. A receipt will be sent to you after your pledge has been received to use for tax purposes.

Support Chrystal Mielke

Support Chrystal Mielke

Hello, my name is Chrystal Ella Grace Mielke, but before I was adopted my name was Chrystal Makayla Love and I lived in Ketchikan, Alaska. I was the youngest of 8 children, all of whom were neglected and abused by our parents. When I was 18 months old, one of my older sisters told a teacher at school, and we were all removed from our home.

I lived in 10 different foster homes by age three, none of them lasting long because families couldn’t deal with 4 young children with such abuse issues. Some of the foster parents even abused me. I had 2 failed adoptions by the time I was 5, and was put in various residential institutions… a total of 23 placements. I did not attend school at all until the fourth grade in Ketchikan, Alaska, and even then, I was alone with just one teacher. In January 2010, I found my forever family in Ohio with the Mielke’s. I moved to Ohio on April 1, 2010, and started attending school.

I had many health issues including Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Sensory Processing Disorder and Static Encephalopathy. My body did not even have the ability to properly regulate my temperature. My family discovered Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) and learned that it has been extremely successful in treating people who suffer from PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). In many cases HBOT has improved the client’s fine and gross motor skills, speech, thinking (cognition), memory, physical healing, etc. We learned there was a facility in my hometown Sara’s Garden that specialized in working with clients with brain injuries and countless other conditions.

Since being adopted, I have undergone two (2) rounds of HBOT and extensive therapy. I have fully recovered from both Reactive Attachment Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There has been improvement in my fine and gross motor movement skills and my thinking (cognition), so much so that I was able to earn a Michigan Merit Diploma in 2019 and go on to college to study culinary arts part time the past two years. Unfortunately, I still have a lot of injury to my brain. I still suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder, Static Encephalopathy, chronic fatigue, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and anemia of chronic disease. Since October 2021 I have struggled to stay awake for only six hours a day. It has become nearly impossible to attend college and function in class and I only have 5 classes remaining to graduate. The doctors have not been able to help, although I have had many tests and procedures in the last 11 months. I am not a quitter and really want to use my skills to be a productive member of my community. Right now, that is not even possible.

Unfortunately, in the United States insurance companies do not recognize HBOT as being therapeutic for the treatment of PTSD and TBI and will therefore not cover the cost of the treatments. That is why we could really use your help. HBOT for my conditions is only $100 per treatment at Sara’s Garden. However, both of my adoptive parents are retired and on a limited income. My mom is currently using all of her limited monthly social security to pay for a dive once a week. Unfortunately, without the dive, I cannot even hope to make it through 2 days of my baking labs.

If you could assist us with the cost (or even just part of the cost) of a single $100 treatment it would help reduce our overall expenses greatly. 100% of the funds received will go into an account in my name and will be used for my treatments. Any contribution made would be considered a tax-deductible donation as Sara’s Garden is a 501(c)(3) non-profit facility. Checks can be made out to Sara’s Garden with my name on a sheet of paper accompanying the check. Please do not write my name directly on the check. You can also donate online via credit card buy clicking on the DONATE NOW button below.

Thank you so much for considering to support my treatments!


Chrystal Mielke

Sara’s Garden is a 501(c)(3) organization. Your charitable contribution is tax deductible under 501(c)(3) of the IRS code, to the extent allowed by law. A receipt will be sent to you after your pledge has been received to use for tax purposes.