Colorado State Elks Association

Colorado State Major Project: Laradon

In 1948, Denver postman Joseph V. Calabrese could not find a school that would teach his developmentally disabled children. Joe exclaimed, "By golly, if there’s no place for my kids, I’ll start a school of my own for them and other youngsters like them." For two years, Mr. and Mrs. Calabrese carried most of the financial load, using their $10,000 life savings to convert a house into Colorado’s only school for developmentally disabled children.

In 1950, the Colorado Elks Association voted to adopt Laradon as its State Major Project. The Elks purchased the abandoned Globeville neighborhood school from the City and County of Denver for $25,000. The Elks’ generosity turned the Calabreses’ dream, to open a special education and training center for children with developmental disabilities, into a reality. Laradon was the first private, non-profit organization in the Rocky Mountain Region to provide intellectually and developmentally disabled children individualized services and programming.

“The torch has been lit, let’s keep it burning. A great work is well on its way. Let’s see that it continues so that in years to come [Laradon] will spread like the branches of a tree and continue to grow and grow and grow!”

~ Jacob “Mr. Elk of Colorado” Sherman; at the Dedication of the new Laradon School building
February 18, 1951.

Through relentless dedication, the prediction Mr. Sherman made six decades ago has become a reality. As Laradon has grown in the number of clients and services offered, the Colorado Elks have never left Laradon’s side. Since 1950, Elks financial support has been significant. Over the past 25 years, contributions that have been made directly through various Elks organizations totals nearly $4 million.

Funding comes from a number of sources including an annual statewide drawing, benefit dinners at lodges, special fundraising events, personal donations by Elks Lodge members, bequests from the estates of recently-passed Elks members, large charitable grants from the Colorado and National Elks associations, and in-kind donations of craft supplies for the adult programs and paper goods for our school lunch program.


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For more information, contact Laradon, 5100 Lincoln Street, Denver, CO, 80216. (303) 296-2400.

Supported by
The Elks National Foundation