It has been a long journey, but a facility has just opened its doors in Middleton to give parents of special needs children a place to go to and recharge their batteries.
It is estimated that 7,500 children under 5 years of age with special needs are living just in Dane County alone. That statistic, among other things, highlights the number of caregivers in the Madison area that simply need a place to take a break and rest.
And that's who the people behind Gio's Garden hope to help.
"It's primarily for families of children with developmental or physical disability diagnoses," said board president Sandy Tierney, of the mission behind Gio's Garden. "But they're not able to access, adequately access respite at this time."
The respite center is named after the son of WISC-TV anchor Charlotte Deleste.
"It's not just about Gio," said Deleste, who founded the organization. "It's about all the other kids they represent. All the kids with special needs and their siblings who are affected by something."
It will be a safe place for children like 3-year-old Rylan, who was born with fluid on his brain.
His mother, Jennifer Schmidt, said that finding a qualified caregiver for a child with special needs can be a challenge. She said just having a few hours to rest is important.
"We can see how important it is to have those extra, that extra free time to do whatever it may be even if it is to take a nap," said Schmidt.
About 250 people attended Sunday's grand opening and toured the renovated Victorian house that Gio’s Garden now calls home.
Deleste said she wanted to find a way to celebrate the spirit of the children who inspired the facility.
Now, those faces are creatively captured in a colorful mural featuring Charlotte’s own son.
"(The artist) even captured his toothless grin, and his crooked smile," said Deleste. "So, every time I walk in there, Gio's always smiling back at me, and Gio's looking over all the kids that come into the house."
Gio’s Garden welcomed their first family into their respite care system on June 1.
A fundraising event for the facility called "Rock for Respite" is happening Friday, June 8, at the Brink Lounge in Madison. Tickets are on sale now for $35 in advance or $40 at the door.
For more information, visit http://www.giosgarden.org.