Living Your Passion
"One of the beautiful effects of living your passion is that it inspires other people to live theirs." - Unknown
My name is Jessica Sills. My husband (Jeff) and I have made it our mission to serve the families and children within our community. This is our story and our plan for continuing to make it our life's work to give back to the families that have supported us in our efforts to support them.
Jeff and I have been working with children, both typically-developing and with special needs, and their families for over 15 years - in a variety of capacities: Special Olympics, Challenger’s baseball, coaching, through our professions (Physical Education Teacher and Speech-Language Pathologist), as well as through our sensory-based gym: We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym - Buffalo. We have two daughters of our own, and after they were born - we felt so absolutely blessed.
Becoming parents changed us as professionals and as advocates. We became so drawn to developing a space for children and their caregivers to feel safe, welcomed, and loved. The Kid’s Gym is not only a place for children to play, develop, and grow - it also serves as a place for students to gain hands-on experience, for individuals with special needs to develop work placement skills, and for educators and caregivers to participate in continuing education workshops and support groups. We have also been very active in volunteering at community events, supporting other local organizations.
The gym has about 1,000 active members, and has been very well received. We are so grateful for the love and support we’ve had from the community. However, the overhead far surpasses the revenue. We started this business as a resource for the community. We are compassionate, and have taken care of the children who have walked through the doors and into our lives. In 4 years, we have never taken a paycheck. Jeff works full-time, plus coaching, and I run the gym 7 days/week and work an average of 50 therapy sessions/week. We have been personally funding the gym’s deficit ($25-30k/year), so that the families of our community have everything they need to be as successful as possible.
This next part is just so emotional for me, because this past year - I have been blessed with the most amazing group of dedicated women who have been inspired by what I have started, and have been instrumental in working tirelessly to couple my passion with theirs, taking my dreams to all new levels. In September 2019, we founded our nonprofit: The Collaborative Community Mission. CCM’s goal is to work together to build a strong community of caregivers and professionals, in a way that will best support the needs of our children. We strive to make learning, growth and development, accessible and attainable for all. Our vision is to financially support resources and programs for all members of our community through: therapeutic programs and educational services; health and wellness initiatives, including nutrition, sensory integration, music, movement, and mental health; scholarship opportunities for underprivileged and underserved children; support groups and workshops; educational classes; work placement/internship opportunities for individuals with special needs; volunteer and internship opportunities; and collaboration with other local businesses and groups.
I’d like to take this opportunity to share personal accounts of some first-hand experiences.
Parent and Volunteer: “As a speech language pathologist, Jessica Sills is extraordinary, and helped my son find his voice. Her sweet kind demeanor is not only soothing to children, but to their parents who are nervous about their child’s development. I’ve seen firsthand Jessica’s determination, not only as an SLP, but going above her duties and focusing on so much more for the children she provides services for.
As a friend, Jessica provides support, and love to each person she encounters and is automatically like family within weeks to almost everyone she meets!
As a business owner and a pillar of this community, Jessica is a ROCKSTAR. Jessica works tirelessly at her business, always creating ways to make things interesting and available to the community. Her whole goal is to create a place for ALL children ALL abilities. The Kid’s Gym provides that place. I’ve witnessed first hand parents coming together, watching their children play and becoming friends along the way. I’ve witnessed children blossom into their true selves by being able to let loose at the gym - a place that makes them feel comfortable, and Jessica IS that reason.
Jessica ALWAYS puts everyone before herself, always thinking of ways to help more people. Jessica’s biggest title is a mother. A hard-working mother who has raised her daughters to be just as kind and thoughtful as her. Her children are a clear indicator of the kind of woman Jessica is. Kind, loving, giving and supportive.
I’d like to add personally, that Jessica has guided me as a special needs mother and inspired me to help others beginning in the journey of being a special needs parent. Things I didn’t know, I learned from her, and I passed along her knowledge to help other people. She leads by example, and I’m thankful to look up to her as a leader.”
Parent: “Jessica is our family’s angel. She was sent to us in August 2015 when she began working with our son. Through our journey with her, she has helped our son grow immensely in all aspects of his life despite his Autism diagnosis. She has also been there as our support and one of his biggest advocates!”
Parent: “We have had the great pleasure of working with Jessica as a parent of a child on the Spectrum, a parent of an intern at her business, and as fellow philanthropists. Jessica is a person who always puts the needs of others over herself, doing anything and everything she can to provide access to activities for children of all abilities. As our now 8 year old son has grown up, he has had the opportunity to play in a soccer league, take karate lessons, enjoy yoga, music therapy, socialization classes, auditory processing classes, see the Easter Bunny and Santa, and many other activities, all because Jessica made those options available to children in a setting they could handle. Our oldest son (18) was able to learn the importance of supporting a community and the responsibility of running a business working alongside Jessica as one of her summer interns. Jessica doesn’t do these things to inspire people, she does them because she believes in her heart it is the right thing to do, and that is why she is inspiring.”
Student: “Jessica has created the most rewarding internship placement in our community. She displays endless gratitude and kindness to everyone, no matter who they are. Her family deserves the utmost recognition for their contributions. Observing Jessica’s therapy sessions was one of my favorite things to do. What she does for these children and how much she impacts their lives is amazing. She has become a role model of mine due to her drive and passion. It is evident how much she inspires people in the community every day to do what they love. I know this because she inspires me continuously.”
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart - our hearts - for supporting our mission.