The Exceptional Foundation is so much more than just a day program. Mark Smith's older brother Kerry (now 46) was one of the original participants with The Exceptional Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama. Not only has it been an amazing social and recreational outlet for him going on now for 20+ years, but it’s also a place where he is loved by his fellow participants, many of whom are his life-long friends, as well as all of the incredible staff and volunteers. The Exceptional Foundation is a crucial resource for many families, including Mark's mother, who was single and worked while he and Kerry were growing up. Mark founded The Exceptional Foundation of Atlanta in 2014 so that families in Atlanta could have access to a similar wonderful resource.
For years Susan Keeney, Lauren Marks, and Renee Smith, special education teachers in the Atlanta area, watched helplessly as their students aged out of public schools and lost access to valuable resources. With no idea what to do next and little support to help them navigate these crucial next steps, these students joined the 80% who do not find adequate programs to replace their social and recreational needs.
Looking to bridge the gap, Keeney, Marks, and Smith decided to create a place for these young adults to age into and joined forces with Founding President, Mark Smith. Modeled after the original Exceptional Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama, EFAtl opened its doors in September 2018, serving four families.
The heart, mind and will of God came together when we took a leap of faith to partner with the Exceptional Foundation of Atlanta and create a day program for adults with disabilities. We believe God began to work in us long before we could see the path that stands before us so clearly now. All of our individual paths of work, volunteerism, compassion, and commitment to adults with disabilities were shaping us for a future together. We are forever friends, co-workers and women of faith who have come together to work with some of the best people on earth, adults with disabilities.
As special needs educators, we have heard too many disheartening stories of young adults leaving the school system at the age of 22 with no real plan for a “greater future”. Our former students deserve a life worth living, including all the facets we think of when considering the quality of our own lives.
Adults with disabilities have so much to offer others. We are here to show the world their talents, their hearts and their compassion for all people. We teach them, but we also learn from them. Our goal, for the community at large, is to open their minds and hearts to the life lessons that can be learned from our “differently-abled” special needs young adults.
What We Do
It’s not easy being “exceptional”... and it only gets harder as we get older. To put it mildly, the opportunities for individuals with special needs who have graduated out of their local school system are embarrassingly inadequate.
The Exceptional Foundation of Atlanta seeks to provide a solution to this serious and growing problem by creating an inclusive community built around social, recreational, and volunteer activities.