.,After attending a graduation ceremony of Holy Family Academy in Manchester, NH, Christopher asked the question, “Why can’t I go there?” The reason was clear, you are totally blind, you have autism, you would need support services that are costly. There would be few, if any teachers trained in special education, plus, the academics are rigorous, above your comprehension level. Months later I would discover that they had changed their admissions policy, they were open to each and every student that came through the door. I had nothing to lose, why not show them how Christopher learns and talk about the possibility of him entering 8th grade?

After our hour-long meeting, we all decided it was worth venturing into. With me,  mom at his side (as a temporary paraprofessional of sorts), Christopher began his journey and Holy Family Academy began its adventure, admitting the first blind student into its school.

This experience awakened a calling, to not only advocate for inclusive education, but to make it a reality by funding teachers, para-educators and other needs. The first step in doing this was to transform our existing non-profit of Know Greater Love Ministries into the Fire Foundation of NH. After much research, the best way was to become an affiliate of the FIRE Foundation of Kansas City, MO.

It was in the Kansas City diocese that six families came together to advocate for their young special needs children to attend their parish catholic school along side their siblings. They founded the Foundation for Inclusive Religious Education (FIRE) and raised the needed funds that enabled three of the children to attend their parish elementary school. That was in 1996. Now 2024, they have invested over $7 million in inclusive education and now we carry their torch into NH.

Our experience was messy, difficult and all-consuming at times.  What mattered most during those days was that Christopher was in a nurturing environment, being who he was meant to be. He had the opportunity to attended catholic school like his siblings. He impacted the school with his talents, with his humor and most importantly, the example of his life. We are all created in the image and likeness of God, and through this, Christopher showed others that he too is just as valuable.

Christopher’s education at Holy Family Academy came with a huge price tag, well above his tuition. This is one of the main reasons FIRE Foundation of NH exists. There is a need, a great need not just for additional staff funding, but for coming along side administrators, teachers and paraprofessionals willing to expand their teaching methods and knowledge of disabilities.  By embracing all learners, we show “all are welcome” with dignity, love and grace.   Join this exciting mission that changes not only the lives of the student, but the family, the school and the parish community.  click here to find out more.

Together, we can make this happen!!!!!


With gratitude and inclusion for all,

Christine Duffley

FIRE Foundation of NH

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Fire Foundation of NH is pleased to be an affiliate of Fire Foundation of Kansas City, MO