By Autumn Jarrett
Peoria resident Christopher Allen has been attending ACCEL’s Adult Service Program since May 2011.
ACCEL is a nonprofit organization serving children and adults who have developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, cognitive disabilities and behavioral disorders.
Allen first came to ACCEL in 2011, working in the t-shirt department within the Adult Service Program. There, he learned new core skills that would last long beyond his time printing and organizing shirts.
Once his inner salesman skills began to shine, Allen continued to adapt as he worked in ACCEL’s different departments.
Following his time in the T-shirt department, Allen spent the next couple of years outdoors where he would pick up and recycle trash before he found his true calling at ACCEL’s coffee shop in February 2014. In addition to his work at the coffee shop, for the last several years, he also worked at St. Mary’s Food Bank, AASK and Mark’s Model Mart.
“I just love to do things that make others happy,” says Allen. “During my time in the coffee shop, I used sales pitches to encourage the sales of our bakery items – it worked more often than not.”
Throughout his time with ACCEL, Allen gained the confidence and skills that would propel him to chase his ultimate dream career: a monster truck curator at the International Monster Truck Museum & Hall of Fame in Auburn, Indiana.
“At ACCEL, I learned the different behaviors and skills of the workplace including money handling, communication skills and the importance of being on time and following directions,” says Allen. “ACCEL made me the person that I am today – hardworking and unstoppable.”
His family will be moving to Indiana soon so Allen can assume his new role at the museum.
“I will be giving tours, explaining the history, keeping the trucks and display cases clean, giving speeches and writing for the museum’s newsletter,” says Allen.
Allen credits his confidence to ACCEL and the staff that continued to lift him up during his time in their programs. “Without ACCEL, I wouldn’t be giving speeches, tours or have these other skills,” he says. “And I am forever grateful to them for that.”
“ACCEL isn’t a one-size-fits-all,” he continues. “They customize treatment for all including treatment for people on all ranges of the [autism] spectrum, including those who are high on the spectrum like myself.”
Allen has also promised the ACCEL team a virtual tour of the International Monster Truck Museum & Hall of Fame. For more information about ACCEL and their programs, visit accel.org.