The PACER Center was founded in 1977 with a single project, Parents Helping Parents.
The goal at the time is, essentially, what it is now nearly 40 years later: Help families who have children with disabilities give their kids more opportunities, bettering their quality of life, while also serving as a resource and support center for the parents and family members.
To do that, the nonprofit offers free workshops and informational resources, and also serves as an advocate.
PACER is staffed primarily by parents of children with disabilities.
There are about 6.7 million children with special needs in the United States. More than 200,000 of those are in Minnesota.
One of those kids was Sam Graves.
Sam has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects motor function – muscle control and coordination posture and balance, or even fine motor skills such as holding a fork, or swallowing, CerebralPalsy.org says.
Currently, it affects an estimated 500,000 children under age of 18.
Sam was 3 years old when he first went to a PACER center in Bloomington. Since then, the program has provided Sam with different technology (such as an iPad and voice recorder) to help him excel.
Now, years later as an adult, he's in college, handling a part-time job, and writing a sports blog.
“For a kid like Sam, technology has really leveled the playing field,” his mother Kathy Graves said. “The iPad, for example, and PACER has made such a huge difference in his life.”
Saturday benefit with Crosby, Stills & Nash
The organization does not charge parents for workshops, which are spread across 30 different projects (including the Simon Technology Center, which helped Sam, Bullying Prevention, and Parents Helping Parents).
Each year, the PACER Center holds a benefit to help raise money to support those programs.
This year's benefit – slated for Saturday, May 2 – features a performance by legendary trio Crosby, Stills & Nash.
It'll be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center, with a silent auction starting at 6 p.m., a live auction and performance at 8 p.m., and after party once that's wrapped.
Proceeds support the programs, workshops, and individual assistance PACER provides to families of children and young adults with disabilities.
Tickets can be purchased until Friday afternoon (by 1 p.m. online, or 5 p.m. on the phone). Click here to see all the details.