Giant Steps, Jerry Rich Plan to Build State-of-the-Art Autism Center in Sugar Grove

Giant Steps, Jerry Rich Plan to Build State-of-the-Art Autism Center in Sugar Grove

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Sugar Grove entrepreneur Jerry Rich isn’t afraid to think big — but his latest brainchild could be no less than a giant step.

Kane County already is is reaping the benefits of Rich Harvest Farms, the world-class golf course that has hosted elite collegiate and professional golf events from the Solheim Cup to the Palmer Cup to the Western Amateur. In 2017, Rich Harvest Farms as been selected to host the 2017 NCAA Division I Golf Championships.

But even the scope of those national and internationally renowned golf tournaments might pale to Rich’s most-recent endeavor: an ambitious partnership with Lisle-based Giant Steps and construction of a state-of-the-art independent living center for people with autism.

Canopy Autism Rich Harvest 3It’s called “Canopy,” and it’s not hyperbole to suggest that there might be nothing else exactly like it in the world.

“Giant Steps is enormously grateful to Jerry Rich for opening his heart and his home to these young adults with autism,” said Bridget O’Connor, CEO and president of Giant Steps. “We are convinced that while he is currently known for his top rated golf course, going forward it will for being such a good friend to people with autism.”

No one doubts the need. According to statistics provided by Giant Steps:

  • Autism affects one in 68 children — one in every 42 boys and one in every 189 girls.
  • In the state of Illinois, education services and supports are provided to people on the autism spectrum through the age of 21. Those services stop the day that  student turns 22.
  • In the United States, approximately 300,000 individuals with autism will age out of state-mandated school services within the next 10 years.
  • The estimated lifetime cost to support an individual with autism is $3.2 million.

The community center and residential component of the plan is unique, offering both independent and supported living arrangements. The vision includes autism-specific living in two-, three- and four-bedroom cottages to support the residential needs of adults with autism.

Plans call for work settings that will allow adults with autism to gain lifelong work experience in a wide variety of environments — tending the horses at the stables, harvesting vegetables in the on-site garden, food service and hospitality opportunities, housekeeping, administrative office experience — all based on the adult’s individual strengths and interests.

Residents will have leisure opportunities to develop and practice age appropriate recreational skills such as fishing, hiking, horseback riding, creative arts and special recreation — while interacting with the Rich Harvest Farms community.

Canopy already is operating an adult day program at the Rich Harvest Farms estate, providing a wide variety of leisure and work experience for the participants.

Canopy launched in May of 2012 to meet the very specific needs of the ever growing population for adults with autism. It creates individualized programming for adults over the age of 18, which engages them in lifelong learning and enrichment opportunities. Adults in the Canopy program are given access to a variety of sensory, communication, and social supports which help them to engage and interact with the world around them.

For more information, contact Nancy McInroy, vice president of advancement, Canopy Project, at 864-3835 or or visit

Why Jerry Rich Is Doing This

SOURCE: Giant Steps media release

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Jerry Rich, pictured with his friend Zach, may be best known as an entrepreneur and the proprietor of Rich Harvest Farms, a world-class golf course that sits on his 1,800 acre estate in Sugar Grove, IL. A passionate philanthropist, he and his life-long friend Don Springer established the Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois in 1998 and by 2004 had introduced more than 150,000 children in Illinois to the game of golf.

Recently, Rich announced that Rich Harvest Farms would be opening its community to include young adults with autism as part of a new partnership with Giant Steps, a not-for-profit organization supporting people living with autism spectrum disorders. In learning about individuals with autism and the fact that services in Illinois quickly come to an end at the age of 22, Jerry realized the unique resources at Rich Harvest Farms would offer the ideal setting for this unique group of individuals.

When asked why he chose to open his home to Giant Steps, Rich shares a story from his childhood.

When he was just 10 years old, Rich rode his bike to a local golf course, looking for a job. He tells of meeting a man who, after looking him up and down, welcomed him onto the course and taught him about caddying. This man could have easily told this small kid to get lost, but instead he gave him a pull cart and a chance to learn the game.

Jerry made a dollar-and-10-cent tip that day yet more importantly, fell in love with the game of golf. He credits that man, taking a few minutes of time and offer-
ing him an opportunity, with changing the course of his life.

Rich said he sees this partnership with Giant Steps as offering these young adults with autism the same type of opportunity.

Rich is excited to see the program expand and will often stop in to visit with the young adults inquiring about their day’s activities and even providing a golf lesson or two.

Over the past few months, Jerry and Zach have formed a unique relationship bonding over the game of golf and Zach’s passion for visiting golf courses around the state.

About Giant Steps

Since 1996, Giant Steps has been committed to providing individuals with autism spectrum disorders, and their families, superior educational and therapeutic services focused on improving the quality of daily life from early childhood through adulthood. Giant Steps is a designated therapeutic day school in the State of Illinois – licensed and certified to exclusively serve students with a primary diagnosis of autism. The organization seeks to improve a child’s ability to interact, communicate, and develop academic and daily living skills through one-on-one integrated approaches. To learn more, visit

About Canopy at Rich Harvest Farms

Giant Steps, in partnership with Rich Harvest Farms, is pleased to introduce Canopy; an integrated community model offering unique work, social, recreational and living opportunities to engage adults with autism throughout their lifetime. Canopy was created to meet the enormous needs of adults living with autism who were no longer able to receive the services of the school system. This day program offers therapeutic supports in addition to life skills activities, vocational readiness programs, leisure or recreational skill development, music therapy, media integration and movement based sessions for adults over the age of 22.

About Rich Harvest Farms

Consistently ranked in Golf Digest’s America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses, Rich Harvest Farms is an ultra-private, members-only club located in Sugar Grove, Illinois. Owned and built by Jerry Rich, the course consists of 18 holes and is a 1,820-acre showcase of nature and agriculture. The course is proud to host the 2016 LPGA UL International Crown (July 19-24) and 2017 NCAA Division I Golf Championships (May 18-31). In the past, the property has played host to the 2009 LPGA Solheim Cup and 2015 Palmer Cup & Western Amateur as well as many other youth an amateur golf events. For more information visit and follow Rich Harvest Farms on Twitter – @RHFTournaments.