In 1965, students with mental retardation, multiple handicaps and severe handicaps were not accepted into Prince William County schools. That year a group of families determined to provide an education and a means to more independent living for their children with disabilities sold fireworks at a stand off Sudley Road in Manassas to raise the funds to open a private school. The Didlake School came to life, providing education and training for 16 students in its first year. Later, an Adult Activity Center was started and a Sheltered Workshop began to provide jobs for people with disabilities.
On Saturday, July 2nd, fireworks were the theme again only this time they were set off in celebration of the organization’s 40th anniversary. In the 40 years since its founding, Didlake has grown to become a major employer and a leading provider of services for people with disabilities. It employs more than 800 people in 20 locations throughout the DC metro area, and 75% of those employees are people with severe disabilities. The varied staff includes artisans who restore antique chairs and workers who do bulk mailing and light assembly for a number of regional clients. Others recycle materials for hi-tech companies, and handle custodial services for three of the Pentagon’s five floors. Didlake’s rehabilitation programs are internationally accredited and serve more than 1,400 people annually.
To celebrate its achievements, Didlake, Inc. entertained more than 200 staff members and their families at the Potomac Nationals game on July 2nd, where the company hosted a picnic complete with a giant birthday cake – on the stadium grounds. Afterward, the group moved to reserved seating for the game at Pfitzner Stadium, where Didlake employee David Lunaas threw out the first pitch. Following the game, the season-high crowd of more than 4,500 spectators was treated to a large fireworks display sponsored by Didlake, Inc.