Providing a setting for special needs students to gain real world work experience was key in the decision to distinguish the Oak Brook, Ill-based Athletico Physical Therapy as the 2015 Keshet Employer of the Year. Keshet, based in Northbrook, Ill, provides educational, recreational, vocational and social programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Describing the relationship as “mutually beneficial,” a media release from Athletico notes that arrangement, which has been in place for 5 years, enables Keshet vocational students to work as responsible members of the Athletico staff to ensure the facilities are welcoming for patients.

“The Keshet students work alongside Athletico staff performing many different work duties each week,” Athletico Regional Manager, Jeff Hay, said. “This is a unique opportunity to support a local organization and most importantly, give Keshet students a positive work experience.”

The 5-year partnership is reportedly part of Athletico’s charitable giving efforts, with opportunities available at five different facilities. For many of the Keshet students, this is said to be their first experience working with colleagues, wearing a name badge, interacting with the staff, and achieving independence at work.

Keshet vocation coordinator, Karen Rohrbach, notes that the relationship with Athletico provides Keshet students the opportunity to use skills they have acquired at the school’s vocation lab.

“More important than that, however,” Rorbach says, “is the self-esteem our students get from being in an actual business, doing work they are successful at.”

Keshet students carry out tasks at Athletico facilities that includes assisting with front office duties, cleaning tables and equipment, organizing the treatment areas, and facilitating the core beliefs both companies value, according to the Athletico media release.

“Our first student was at Athletico Glenview for about 4 months and on one particular day, when she greeted the desk staff, the desk manager presented her with her own Athletico name badge,” Rohrbach says. “I think she is still smiling about it.”

“We are planning to expand our relationship with Keshet and hope that other businesses get involved with this outstanding organization,” Hay says.

[Source: Athletico Physical Therapy]