News & Media


Meet Jacob, Have Dreams Academy Graduate Who Works at Bag Tags, Inc.

January 16, 2017 – Interview with Bag Tags, Inc. Employees Margo and Agness

Meet Jacob, a Have Dreams Academy Graduate who has been working at Bag Tags, Inc. since February 2016.


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Northfield Park District loans vehicle to nonprofit following vandalism

January 16, 2017 – The Winnetka Current and The Northbrook Tower

While there are many people out there who question whether there is any good left in the world, the generosity of a Northfield organization to an area nonprofit during a time of need demonstrates there are still kind locals helping others for the greater good of a community.

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Funds Needed for Autism Program Van

January 9, 2017 – Chicago Tribune

Have Dreams, a Chicago-area nonprofit that has been serving children, teens, and adults with autism since 1996, needs a new van to drive participants to their internships and activities. Have Dreams’ old van was vandalized, leaving participants stranded.

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Support Autism with Yoga and Beer

December 8, 2016 – Chicago Now

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Night of Dreams 20th Anniversary Gala

August 11, 2016 – Sheridan Road Magazine

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High School Students Graduate from Autism Employment Program

August 4, 2016 – Chicago Tribune

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  • “Quick learner”
  • “Hard working”
  • “Smart”
  • “Punctual”
  • “Independent”
  • “Kind”
  • “Reliable”
  • “Organized”
  • “Personable”
  • “Optimistic”
  • “Good sense of humor”

These are just a few of the words and phrases that staff supervisors at Northwestern University used to describe the eight students – from New Trier High School, Glenbrook High Schools, and Deerfield/Highland Park High Schools – who graduated in June from the Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism program at Northwestern University (PSCA@NU).


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‘It’s changed his view of life’: Companies Find Hiring Autistic Employees Has Vast Benefits

June 10, 2016 – Chicago Tribune

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An estimated 50,000 individuals with autism graduate from high school every year, entering an adulthood without the supports they enjoyed in childhood.

More than a third find themselves not working or attending school in their early 20s, according to a report last year from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University in Philadelphia. They are said to step off a “services cliff,” with half receiving no life skills or vocational training during that transitional young adult period.


 Dinner Co-Chairs Bill & Diane Johnson, Joyce & Tony Flakus

‘Night of Dreams Gala’ Raises $500,000 for Have Dreams

June 23, 2016 – Chicago Tribune – Evanston Review and Park Ridge Advocate

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Event: ‘Night of Dreams Gala’
Benefiting: Have Dreams, which serves children, teens and young adults with autism in the greater Chicago area
Honors: Michelle and Robert Smigel, creators of the Night of Too Many Stars biennial benefit for autism on Comedy Central, received the 2016 Dream Maker Award
Co-chairs: Joyce and Anthony Flakus of Lincolnwood and Diane and William Johnson of Northfield
Location: Radisson Blu Aqua, Chicago
Attended: 390
Date: April 30
Raised: $500,000
Website: havedreams.org


Charlie Besser, Richard Roeper, David Rammelt

Night of Dreams 2016

June 20, 2016 – Michigan Avenue Magazine

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Nearly 400 partygoers joined emcee Richard Roeper at the Radisson Blu for Have Dreams’ 20th anniversary soiree on April 30, 2016. The affair garnered $500,000 for the organization’s autism services.


Robert & Michelle Smigel, Have Dreams Executive Director Kris Johnsen

Night of Dreams Gala

June 13, 2016 – Daily North Shore

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Supporters of Have Dreams, the Chicago-area nonprofit serving children, teens, and young adults with autism, gathered at the Radisson Blu Aqua to toast the organization’s 20th anniversary in late spring. Michelle and Robert Smigel, creators of Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars biennial benefit for autism, were honored for their national support of autism causes across the nation. Film critic and Good Day Chicago co-host Richard Roeper emceed the benefit, which raised $500,000 for Have Dreams’ programs. havedreams.org


Robert Smigel, Have Dreams participant Maddie, Michelle Smigel, Have Dreams participant Zach, and Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism (PSCA) participant Jordan

2016 Night of Dreams 20th Anniversary Gala

May 2016 – CS Modern Luxury

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On Saturday, April 30th, 390 guests gathered at the Radisson Blu Aqua to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Have Dreams, a Chicago‐area nonprofit serving children, teens and young adults with autism. Michelle and Robert Smigel, creators of Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars biennial benefit for autism, were honored for their support of autism services across the nation. Chicago Sun‐Times film critic and ‘Good Day Chicago’ co‐host Richard Roeper emceed the benefit, which raised $500,000 for Have Dreams’ programs. For more information, see www.havedreams.org. Photography by Mariah Smith/Mariah D. Photography.


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Bakery Owner Honored for Autism Inclusiveness

March 21, 2016 – Evanston Patch and Chicago Tribune

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EVANSTON, IL – The owner of an Evanston bakery was honored this month for her work in providing employment opportunities for people with autism.

Jean Kroll, owner of “Sugar & Spice Extraordinary Sweet Treats” on Hartrey Ave., was given the first ever “Employer of the Year” award by Have Dreams, a local nonprofit which serves individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Pictured left: Jean Kroll, owner of Sugar & Spice Extraordinary Sweet Treats in Evanston, Illinois.


Have Dreams Academy Participant at Practice Job Interview at Trustmark

Local Nonprofit Receives Autism Speaks Scholarship

March 9, 2016 – Chicago Tribune

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Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, announced that local nonprofit Have Dreams is one of ten national organizations to receive funding through the Autism Speaks Brian and Patricia Kelly Postsecondary Scholarship. Have Dreams offers a variety of social, communication, life skills and job training programs for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) from age 18 months through young adulthood. The $15,000 scholarship will fund three young adult participants attending the Have Dreams Academy workforce development program in Fall 2016.

Pictured above: A Have Dreams Academy participant practices his interviewing skills at Trustmark, a Have Dreams corporate partner located in Lake Forest, Illinois. 


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Have Dreams/Astellas Pharma US Win Chicago Charity Challenge Rookie of the Year Award

February 26, 2016 – Announced by Chicago Charity Challenge

Have Dreams and corporate partner Astellas Pharma US won the 2015 Chicago Charity Challenge Rookie of the Year award! The Chicago Charity Challenge (Cha Cha) is a nonprofit volunteer fundraising competition that teams businesses with charities to encourage, support and reward employees who volunteer to fundraise for their paired charity. The Have Dreams/Astellas Pharma US team won for its time and commitment to the partnership and for supporting and strengthening Have Dreams’ programs.


Astellas Cooking Class Fall 2015

Autism Program to Grow “Garden of Goodness” Thanks to a $20,000 Grant from Astellas USA Foundation

February 17, 2016 – Chicago Tribune

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Have Dreams, a local nonprofit that helps children, teens and young adults with autism improve their abilities to learn, function independently and socialize, recently received a $20,000 grant from Astellas USA Foundation to provide Have Dreams participants the opportunity to cultivate an outdoor vegetable and herb garden. A year-round autism-specific curriculum will help participants increase their healthy eating habits by learning how to plant, maintain and harvest the garden, prepare vegetables and herbs they grow themselves and incorporate these and other healthy foods into their daily diet.

Pictured above: Have Dreams participants and families learned to cook nutritious meals through a healthy eating initiative established through a grant from Astellas USA Foundation last year. With this new, recently awarded $20,000 grant from Astellas USA Foundation, participants will also have the opportunity to grow and harvest their own vegetables and herbs from an outdoor Garden of Goodness.


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Northwestern University’s President Schapiro Honors Job Training Program for Students with Autism

January 13, 2016 – Chicago Tribune

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December 8, 2015, a reception was held at Northwestern University (NU) honoring the Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism program at Northwestern University (PSCA@NU), a one-year transition to employment program for students with autism in their last year of high school. PSCA@NU interns spend their time in a classroom setting at Northwestern working on skills critical to success in the workplace. In conjunction with their classroom work, the students take part in three, 10-week internships within various departments at Northwestern to expose them to a variety of real life career options. Now in its third year, the goal for Project SEARCH students is to foster independence and self-esteem and to gain meaningful, competitive employment by the end of the program. This program has had an 80% employment placement rate at businesses such as Hart Schaffner Marx, Mariano’s, Wilmette Tennis Club and eWorks.

Pictured above: Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro, second from right, with NU staff and Project SEARCH interns.


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Dr. Scholl Foundation Gives Autism Program $5,000 for Scholarships

December 14, 2015 – Daily North Shore and Chicago Tribune

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Have Dreams, a local nonprofit that serves children, teens and young adults with autism, recently received a $5,000 grant from the Dr. Scholl Foundation to provide intervention services for financially disadvantaged children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The grant will allow children and teens in need to attend Have Dreams’ Socia,l Communication and Independent Living Skills (SCILS) after-school programs. These autism-specific programs help individuals with ASD improve their ability to communicate their wants and needs, increase their ability to socialize appropriately with peers, and practice independence through the use of schedules and other supports. Without this grant, many children and teens would not have the opportunity to attend these programs; with 1 in 68 children diagnosed with autism, programs like this are needed more than ever.

Pictured above: Have Dreams’ Social, Communication and Independent Living Skills (SCILS) programs help children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) learn, socialize and gain independence. 


Cooking Class on Food Sensory Issues a Big Hit with Parents

October 26, 2015 – Chicago Tribune

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chef jona online photo Three Evanston organizations, Have Dreams, Cooked Chicago, and NWC Food Incubator (formerly Now We’re Cookin’), hosted a free cooking class about healthy eating for individuals with food sensory issues on October 8. Chef Jona Silva of Cooked Chicago showed participants how to prepare three sensory-appealing dishes: fruit smoothies, flat bread pizzas, and a tacos. Feeding Specialist Alyson Teitel was on hand to give tips that parents and caregivers could use to help their children engage in positive eating behaviors. Everyone in the audience received hands on experience by making pizzas and tacos individualized to their own tastes and sensitivities.

Pictured left: Chef Jona Silva of Cooked Chicago at the Have Dreams Healthy Eating Community Event.


Free Community Event: Healthy Eating for Individuals with Food Sensory Issues

September 24, 2015 – Chicago Tribune

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Thursday, October 8, 2015: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

NWC Food Incubator Demonstration Kitchen (formerly known as Now We’re Cookin’), 1601 Payne Street, Evanston

Free and Open to All Parents and Caregivers – Space is Limited: Adults Only, Please

Join Chef Jona Silva of Cooked Chicago as he prepares three dishes – a smoothie, a snack and a main dish – that are nutritious, yet appealing to individuals with food sensory issues, such as many children, teens and young adults on the autism spectrum. Chef Jona will provide samples and recipes and give
tips on how to cook healthy and appealing dishes so parents and caregivers can apply these tips when preparing meals at home.

Thank you to Chef Jona, Cooked Chicago and NWC Food Incubator for helping to bring this event to the community.

Pictured above: Have Dreams Life SCILS participants learning how to cook.


Autism After High School . . .

July 13, 2015 – Daily North Shore and Chicago Tribune

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Project SEARCH Graduation 2015

EVANSTON – Five students from New Trier, Evanston Township and Glenbrook High Schools recently graduated from Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism at Northwestern University, a one-year transition to employment program for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in their last year of high school. Throughout the year, the students spent time in a classroom setting at Northwestern working on skills critical to success in the workplace, including career and life planning, social communication skills, job skills and problem solving. In conjunction with their classroom work, the students took part in three 10-week internships within various departments at Northwestern to expose them to a variety of real life career options and job skills.

Pictured left: Class of 2015 graduates and staff of the Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism program at Northwestern University.


Brad and Paige Sullivan and Sara and Jeff Hoffman

Night of Dreams Gala

May 14, 2015 – North Shore Weekend/Daily North Shore

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On Saturday, May 9, 2015, over 375 community and business leaders gathered at the Four Seasons in Chicago to honor Randy Lewis, former senior vice president of Walgreens and a leader in workplace inclusion, at the 7th annual Night of Dreams Gala. The benefit raised awareness and funds for Have Dreams, a local nonprofit that serves children, teens and young adults with autism.

NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern emceed the gala, which featured a sumptuous dinner, dancing to the Steve Edwards Orchestra. The Chaired by longtime Have Dreams supporters, Carol and Brian Callaci of Kenilworth, this year’s event raised over $470,000 for Have Dreams’ programming.

Pictured above: Brad and Paige Sullivan with Sara and Jeff Hoffmann at the Night of Dreams Gala 2015.


fred oconnor and have dreams participants (1)

7th Annual Have Dreams’ Gala to Honor Northwestern Mutual’s Fred O’Connor for Championing Area Autism Program

May 7, 2015 – Evanston Patch

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Have Dreams, a local nonprofit that serves children, teens and young adults with autism will honor Evanston resident and Kellogg School of Management alum Fred O’Connor at the 7th annual Night of Dreams Gala on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at the Four Seasons in Chicago. O’Connor, a financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual, will be named the inaugural Ambassador Fellow for promoting Have Dreams’ mission throughout Chicago’s corporate, civic and philanthropic sectors.

Notably, O’Connor will be honored for assisting Have Dreams in implementing Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism at Northwestern University, the first Midwest site of a transition‐to‐employment program for young adults on the spectrum, developed by New York Collaborates for Autism.

Pictured above: Fred O’Connor, far right, with Have Dreams participants.


Randy Lewis

7th Annual Have Dreams Gala to Honor Randy Lewis, Leader in Workplace Inclusion

NBC Political Reporter Mary Ann Ahern to Emcee the Event

CHICAGO – On Saturday, May 9, 2015, community and business leaders will gather at The Four Seasons Hotel to honor Randy Lewis, former senior vice president of Walgreens and a leader in workplace inclusion, at the 7th annual Have Dreams Gala, which raises awareness and funds for autism programs at Have Dreams, a Chicago area nonprofit that serves children, teens and young adults with autism.

Lewis led Walgreens’ logistics division for sixteen years as the chain grew from 1,500 to 8,000 stores.  During this time, he introduced an inclusive model at Walgreens distribution centers resulting in ten percent of its workforce consisting of people with disabilities.  Considered “the gold standard of disability hiring” the program has been used as model for employers around the world.  After he retired in 2013, Lewis was instrumental in launching the Walgreens Retail Training Center at Have Dreams to help young adults with autism practice the skills needed to work in a modern Walgreens.  Lewis is the author of No Greatness without Goodness, his first-hand account of creating thousands of jobs for people with disabilities, after watching the world through the eyes of his own child with autism, his son Austin.

NBC political reporter Mary Ann Ahern will emcee the gala, which will also honor Fred O’Connor, Financial Advisor at Northwestern Mutual, who has worked tirelessly for the mission of Have Dreams in the Chicago area.  The evening will feature dinner, dancing and a live auction, including a trip to the Emmy’s, a Bull’s sky box suite with autographed Derrick Rose jersey, and a vacation home in Hawaii, among other items.  Funds raised will support Have Dreams’ mission of serving children, teens and young adults with autism through social and life skills classes, employment programs, diagnostic and family support services and specialized training for teachers.

Gala committee members and honorary committee members include Ingrid and Mitch Basson of Glencoe, Rebecca and Charlie Besser of Chicago, Denise and Adam Hoeflich of Glencoe, Michelle and Robert Smigel of New York City, and gala chairs Carol and Brian Callaci of Kenilworth.

To learn more about Have Dreams or the Night of Dreams event, please contact Bobbi Goldman at bgoldman@havedreams.org or (847) 685-0250 ext. 112.  For information about sponsorship opportunities or to purchase tickets, visit www.havedreams.org/events.

Pictured above: Randy Lewis with his son, Austin.