Our Story

Over the years, TradeWinds has helped more than 15,000 people with special needs achieve greater independence, dignity and personal freedom. We currently serve nearly 900 individuals and their families in Northwest Indiana.

Because “special needs” cover a wide range of challenges and care requirements, TradeWinds delivers a wide range of flexible individualized services with an unwavering commitment to excellence from an outstanding team of professionals, staff, volunteers and supporters.

Established as the Lake County Association for Crippled Children in the 1940s to provide speech and occupational therapy services, the nonprofit agency was rebranded and incorporated as TradeWinds in 1967 after moving into a new 15,000-sq-ft home in Gary.

Referred to as the “Labor of Love” by visionary director Ted Dombrowski, the facility earned a Presidential Commendation for being the largest US rehabilitation center built entirely by local volunteers. At the same time, a group of 46 generous business leaders took it upon themselves to donate and raise operating funds to sustain TradeWinds. This elite fighting force for children with special needs became Pirates, Inc. and has contributed more than $3 million in ongoing support for children’s services over the years.

As the children at TradeWinds grew, services to support the transition into adulthood – from school to work and home to community – were added. Three new wings dedicated to adults were built to provide space for a day program, pre-vocational training/industries and community employment services. Residential services for group home and supported living were also offered.

Years later, with building maintenance costs escalating, TradeWinds was offered the opportunity to remodel and move into a donated building near the I-65 interchange at US 30 in Hobart. After carefully considering all options, the Board and leadership team decided to make the move.

Thanks to our new central location in Northwest Indiana, more people with special needs and their families are learning about TradeWinds. Since moving in early 2014, our service provision is up nearly 40%, and an additional 10,000-sq-ft across the street has been leased to accommodate this growth.

Partnerships with Deaf Services in January 2014 and The Chicago Lighthouse in June 2015 further enhance the services provided at TradeWinds for people with special needs in Northwest Indiana.