IN PROGRESS: TERI’s Campus of Life, San Marcos, CA

VODA’s been working with a great new client for the last couple months in San Marcos, California.  The TERI organization serves the needs of people with autism, with a range of educational and vocational training opportunities.  We’ve been working with TERI to assist in planning a new 20-acre campus in San Marcos, incorporating landscapes of many kinds, including a major agricultural production element.

A recent article discussed one family’s efforts to help raise funds for the construction of this innovative campus:

Rancho Santa Fe resident spearheading fundraising effort for unique campus devoted to serving children and adults with special needs

By Diane Y. Welch

Rancho Santa Fe’s Dawn Hummel is proving her metal as chair of the capital campaign to raise funds for an innovative San Marcos university-style campus.
The unique 20-acre campus is named the Charles R. Cono Campus for Life Quality. The campus was named for the lead benefactor who purchased the land for the Training, Education and Research Institute (TERI), a longstanding nonprofit organization that serves the needs of children and adults with developmental and learning disabilities.

Verna Harrah, Linda Edwards and Dawn Hummel

Hummel has taken on the challenge of heading up a committee to raise $20 million to complete the campus by 2014, with a goal to raise $5 million this year alone.

The first phase of the campus was recently completed and a gala was held to celebrate the ribbon cutting of its first building, the Harriet E. Pfleger Therapeutic Equestrian Center. The Harriet E. Pfleger Foundation donated $1 million to build the horse barn which houses six horses and will serve 150 riders.

The gala event, Cuvee delle Vite, chaired by Hummel, is TERI’s largest annual fundraiser to date. It was kicked off with a $100,000 donation from Grant General Contractors, partners for construction of the new campus. In addition, sales of fine art created by clients of TERI and donations by family members and friends added more than $230,000 to the building fund.

Hummel said that every fiber of her body and spirit is committed to this fundraising mission. She brings to this commitment a prior history as a determined trailblazer and advocate for those with autism and learning disabilities.

She was a single mother living in Los Angeles when her son, Jonny, then 2 1/2, was diagnosed with autism. That was almost 20 years ago, when there weren’t many services and programs for children with autism, said Hummel. “It was left to the mothers who fought day and night to find out about autism, to fight for the services that we needed to get.”

When Hummel moved to New York in 1992 she was frustrated that there was no school for Jonny close by. Through fundraising, she initially started a pre-school for special needs newborns through 5 year olds, and then founded the Child Development Center of the Hamptons, a learning center for K-7 special needs students that by 2001 became an inclusive environment that integrated regular students.

In 2004 the center was housed in a permanent school structure that was named The Zimmerman Hummel Building of Humanity in honor of Hummel whose “Open to All” philosophy was controversial at the time but now is fully recognized.

Ironically, her son never benefited from these schools. “Fighting the education department to get approval for them always took two years, and he was always two years ahead of me,” Hummel explained.

The family moved to Rancho Santa Fe in 2005 when Hummel learned of TERI’s Oceanside-based Learning Academy that serves students up to age 22. “People forget that children with autism become adults with autism, so I started looking all over the country for a school for Jonny with a program that he could be in for his lifetime,” Hummel explained.

Founded in 1980 by Cheryl Kilmer, TERI is recognized as a model program in the state of California for the quality of services it provides to its clients. For Hummel’s family, it has brought immeasurable joy. “It is so wonderful to see Jonny enjoying life, and being so individual, so independent. I notice how happy he is, I see it in his eyes, I see it in his heart,” said Hummel. “And now Jonny is having the opportunity to go to college which is something that I am very proud of and that I want to be a part of.”

Hummel is grateful to the Rancho Santa Fe community for its generous financial support. Funds for TERI have been granted by the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund, the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, Linda Pfleger Edwards and the Harriet E. Pfleger Foundation, and, most recently, by Verna Harrah, whose support will fund the Culinary Institute, and Recreation Center on the campus. Ultimately, the campus will include life quality planning and coaching, fitness and aquatics, arts, culinary, IT, medical, agriculture, research, green/sustainability and academic curriculums for preschool through 12th grades and adult education/vocational training.

“For my son this will be like Princeton, or Stanford, or Yale,” said Hummel. “This is the first [type of campus of its kind] on the face of this earth, and we are proud to be a part of it.”

On Sunday, August 14, the San Diego Polo Fields will have a day to recognize TERI, with the TERI riders doing a demonstration, and TERI artists exhibiting their work which will be for sale. To learn more about TERI or to find out how to leave a lasting mark on the campus through its brick campaign, visit or text or email .