Jennifer got her start with the Museum when she was teaching special education in the Oak Lawn area. She wanted to get involved to lend her skills and expertise to the Museum in any way she could. Jennifer was an incredibly talented musician; she played the guitar, flute, piano and sang vocals. She used this gift and would play children’s songs at Museum events, while the children would gather around and sing along with her. With her background in education, Jennifer also worked tirelessly to help properly adapt exhibits for young children, especially those with special needs.
Jennifer went above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of all the children around her. As a teacher, she was granted a three month summer vacation. What did she do with that time? Jennifer would go back to her school to play music and sing with the special education students enrolled in summer programs. One year, after advancing her career to serve as a Director of Special Education, Jennifer went as far as testifying in court when one of her student’s families was fighting its homeowner’s association to have a fence installed for the safety of their child with Down syndrome.
While working full time, raising three children, pursuing her Master’s Degree and playing music on the side, Jennifer always made it a priority to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Not only was the Museum able to reap the benefits, but so many other children, adults and families were touched by Jennifer’s kindness.
“She always saw the best in everybody,” said Melissa Ames, Jennifer’s oldest daughter.
Despite living a healthy and active life, Jennifer was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in early January 2010. The cancer quickly progressed and she died in late March of the same year. After her passing, Jennifer’s two daughters vowed that they would continue to carry on their mother’s legacy.
In fact, while she was still in the hospital, Jennifer said to them, “You girls need to keep going.”
This last bit of advice stuck with the two women, so Elizabeth and Melissa became serious about starting their own business that would benefit children with disabilities and the families who love them. Their father, Jake, and brother, Kris, encouraged them to push forward with the startup.
Elizabeth vividly remembers saying to her sister, “We can do this. We know it’s possible and the timing is right.”
In November 2015, EarlyVention came to life - a company dedicated to providing fun, hands-on activities for children with developmental disabilities. Jennifer’s spirit lives on every day, within the sisters, within the company, within the adults with disabilities that assemble the products, and within the children and families who use these items that were specially designed for their needs.
The Museum is committed to continuing its relationship with the Ames family – the Museum Store now carries EarlyVention products and has them available for all visitors.
“The Museum has truly become family, and for that, we are so grateful,” said Elizabeth, the younger of the two Ames sisters.
We are so grateful for you, Ames family.