Stepping Stones works to fill gaps and meet unmet needs for services to children, teens and adults with disabilities. This has been the hallmark of the agency since its inception as Greater Cincinnati’s first summer camp for children with disabilities in 1963.
Pioneering Milestones by Stepping Stones:
- Started the region’s first on-site infant stimulation program
- Site of the first Greater Cincinnati Mothers of Special Children
- Pioneered camping programs for children and adults who had little or no alternatives
- Started Step-Up, the region’s first alternative education program of its kind for students with autism who have exhausted options in the traditional school system
Started by Parents: A parent, who could not find summer camping opportunities for her daughter with cerebral palsy, enlisted friends to start their own camp. They contacted the Convalescent Aid Society, which owned the former Fresh Air Farm on 23-acres in Indian Hill, to obtain permission to run a day camp for children with disabilities. The Fresh Air Farm had been established in the 1890s for use by inner city residents as an escape from foul city air. With changing lifestyles, the Fresh Air Farm’s use was dwindling. The day camp was an immediate success.
Stepping Stones is named: In the mid 1960s, the Convalescent Aid Society merged with the Stepping Stones camp and took the name Stepping Stones Center for Handicapped. The financial assets of the Convalescent Aid Society became seed money for the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. The new Stepping Stones received use of the Indian Hill land to serve children and adults with disabilities.
Doubled in size: In 1968 Stepping Stones added a second location at the 47-acre Camp Allyn in Batavia, on land owned by Rotary Club of Cincinnati. Rotary continues to own the land, which we use on a long-term agreement, with Rotary a major supporter.
As other camp programs became more accessible, Stepping Stones continually honed its programs to serve the needs other programs could not handle, becoming the answer for families dealing with more and more severe disabilities in both children and adults.
In 2014, Stepping Stones and the United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cincinnati merged. UCP was founded in Cincinnati in 1949 to serve children with cerebral palsy.
The merger renewed historic ties between the two agencies. Two of Stepping Stones’ three founders were connected with United Cerebral Palsy – Peggy Geier was a UCP volunteer and mother of a child with cerebral palsy and Mary T. Schloss was a UCP professional. In the 1960s they helped lead activity programs in local parks, serving children with cerebral palsy. Geier and her longtime friend, Minor LeBlond, decided to create a permanent summer camp program that could serve children with all kinds of disabilities. That dream became Stepping Stones in 1963, with Mary Schloss working with Geier and LeBlond to design the program and build early support.
In 2016, BeauVita West, an agency serving adults with disabilities, joined the Stepping Stones family, creating our fourth site–in Monfort Heights on the west side of Greater Cincinnati.
Today, Stepping Stones is a United Way partner agency providing year-round services for children, teens and adults with a wide range of disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, seizure disorders and physical and behavioral disorders. We have programs for people age five to 65-plus years.