W&A Celebrates Extra Special People’s Ground Breaking Event


After 3 years of planning, Extra Special People broke ground on ESP’s new home.
The 14,000 sq. ft. facility will help ESP achieve their dream of serving special-needs children beyond the limitations of their current campus. Over 100 community supporters gathered together on Friday, June 5 for a celebratory breakfast and groundbreaking ceremony. Laura Whitaker, Executive Director of ESP, shared some inspiring words about the event’s significance to families of children with developmental disabilities.

For the last 25 years, ESP has served extra special children through summer camp, after-school enrichment programs, and weekend activities in its current facility in Watkinsville. ESP has grown to serve 300 families in the Watkinsville area and the 8 surrounding counties in a “building the size of a tennis court,” according to Whitaker.

Martha Wylie, the late founder of ESP, started the program without a permanent building. Her husband, Peter, attended the celebratory event.

“She would have been out of her mind,” Wylie told Athens Banner Herald. “She had been working with handicapped kids since she was a child. That’s where she learned to talk with them.”

Whitaker believes the current building does not serve the growing communities and families who depend upon ESP and its programs. The goal of having a new facility was born about five years ago, during an ESP board meeting, Whitaker said.

Three years ago, ESP launched its first-ever capital campaign to build a more accessible facility. On her blog, Whitaker explained how local business experts viewed her dream as “too lofty.”

However, despite fear of failure, Whitaker pursued the dream and in a little over two years ESP raised the funds necessary to complete the new facility.

W&A Engineering had faith in Whitaker’s dream. The team has led the designing process since the site since project’s inception. For over two years, W&A has guided the organization through the visioning, planning, and designing processes.

Jon Williams, President of W&A, spoke at the ground breaking ceremony. He is eager to begin construction on the new facility that will provide not only high quality amenities to ESP children and families but room for future growth as well.

Jon Williams

Due to the generosity of the Watkinsville VFW and the City of Watkinsville, ESP’s new facility will be seated on 1.6 acres. W&A will combine the new building and the existing ESP facility to form a 2.1 acre campus.

ESP Building

The new facility will make it possible for ESP to serve more children. ESP will renovate and maintain the existing building to serve as a gymnasium for the campus.

“We have had a fantastic group of consultants all of who donated time during the design process to help make this project a success,” Williams said.

ESP’s ribbon-cutting ceremony is expected to take place in about a year.


Extra Special People empowers children & young adults with developmental disabilities to cultivate skills, self-confidence, and relationships through recreational therapy, community involvement, and the arts. With the support of volunteers and donors, the ESP team gives participants and their families the gifts of acceptance, hope, and the opportunity to not just survive but to thrive.

For more info visit: http://www.extraspecialpeople.com

Photo credits: ESP Facebook Page

ESP family, friends, and supporters gather to celebrate the new facility's ground breaking ceremony. Photo credit: ESP Facebook