This webpage is devoted to telling the story of a woman who has impacted literally thousands of lives just by being who she was. By the time you finish reading this page, you will have read about the major events that took place to form the company we now call the Lori Knapp Companies, but also the humble beginnings of a family who wanted something better for a little girl who was unable to care for herself and do the kinds of things other kids were able to.
Since 1972, the Lori Knapp company has provided a long list of long-term care & human services solutions. The overall mission is to provide quality of life opportunities in community settings for people who need specialized long-term supports. This mission is accomplished through well-trained, competent, and caring people, as well as partnerships with government and other public and private agencies.
The original pioneers of our company were members of the Donald F. Knapp family, which included Don Sr., Bette, Lori Jane, and Don Jr. It was the love, hard work, dedication, and persistence of these people that paved the way for a new kind of service within the borders of the state of Wisconsin...something never attempted before.
Lori Jane Knapp was born on August 15, 1959 to Don and Bette Knapp in the small town of Prairie du Chien, WI. Due to complications at birth, Lori entered the world with cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities. Despite these shortcomings, Don and Bette loved their daughter as they did any of their other children.
During the era of Lori's birth, families with children with a disability had few choices in terms of services, living arrangements, & even education. It was very common for persons in the medical community to recommend that children with handicaps reside in some kind of institution to have their cares provided for. Following suit, Don Sr. and Bette decided that it would be best for her to live at a state institution because there was no other options available. Starting at a young age, Lori entered Central Wisconsin Colony and was one of hundreds of children being served in her ward.
To keep the family connected, Don Sr. and Bette drove to Madison, WI to visit Lori every other weekend. They would stay in a motel with her, because they wanted to be a family. Eventually it became obvious to Don Sr. and Bette that Lori was failing to thrive. They wanted something better for their daughter. This eventually led to the first "Lori Knapp Home"
During Lori's younger years, many parents and forward-looking professionals envisioned a world where people with disabilities were offered comprehensive education and a variety of choices for community services and living arrangements. The desire to see something better for Lori became the grassroots mindset that birthed the beginning of the Lori Knapp, Inc.
Don Sr. and Bette began working with people from the state of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin ARC, as well as people from Central Wisconsin Colony to formulate a brand new kind of community living option for Lori. The end result of this work was a new "model" for providing services for children with disabilities, like Lori. In retrospect, this groundbreaking model was often described using phrases like "homelike", "family-like", and "individualized care and attention".
During the Summer of 1972, work started on the development and construction of what was then called the "Lori Knapp Home", in Prairie du Chien. On November 1, 1972, a 13-year-old Lori was able to move back into her home community. But it didn't stop there. Additionally, her parents were successful in having seven other children from state institutions join their daughter, Lori, in their "own home."
The Lori Knapp Home strived to provide a place all eight children could call their home...a place to grow, excel, and be a part of their community. This new community-based home was an overall success. From a bird's-eye view, the Lori Knapp Home started our company on the path of learning and growing as well. Sure, there were challenges, and they didn't know all of the answers. But, It took the effort of everyone to make the Lori Knapp Home successfully working as a family, the combined effort, diligence, and love is really what aided caregiving success in 1972.
Because of the success of this new venture, the "Lori Knapp Home" gained national attention. Folks from all over the United States visited the home and were interested in learning about this new idea of serving children and adults with disabilities in the community. For Don Sr., it became his cause to help others understand how these children would thrive in a "family home" environment. He went out of his way to meet and talk with people about how they could change people's lives by doing things that not a lot of other people considered possible.
Thinking toward the future, Don and Bette thought it best not to stop at just one Lori Knapp Home. Eventually, Lori and the other children would become adults and their needs would change. In 1973, the "Meadow Lane Group Home" was designed to serve eight adults in the local Prairie du Chien, WI area.
A lawsuit was brought against Don Sr. and Bette by citizens who lived near the Meadow Lane home putting at risk the future of the home. This lawsuit progressed through Circuit Court to the Wisconsin Supreme Court where a favorable verdict was granted in favor of Meadow Lane. This court case set precendent law to allow people with disabilities to live in their own communities. Despite the effort and cost of this lawsuit, Don and Bette never gave up on the eight precious individuals who lived in the new Meadow Lane home. Those people were, in essence, family.
On a positive note, since the events of 1973 the relationship between the folks living at Meadow Lane and their neighbors has been on good terms.
Lori Knapp Inc. continued to provide for the care needs of many more adults with disabilities in the Prairie du Chien, WI area. Whether from state institutions, local nursing homes, or home settings, folks with disabilities were offered the chance to live in the community through the efforts of the Knapp family.
During this time, Donald B. Knapp Jr., the son of Don Sr. and Bette, took on the role of CEO. In turn, the Lori Knapp Companies began expanding inside and outside of the Prairie du Chien area, serving many more adults and children.
In 1980, services expanded in Crawford county: Adult Family Homes (AFHs), Community-Based Residential Facilities (CBRFs), Supported Apartments, the Community Support Program (CSP), Supportive Home Cares (SHC) Program, and a Personal Cares (PC) program.
In 1995, services expanded into Richland county: Adult Family Homes (AFHs), Community Support Program (CSP), Supportive Home Cares (SHC) Program, Leased Employee program, and a Personal Cares (PC) program.
In the late 1990's, services expanded into Ashland county: Supportive Home Cares (SHCs) Program, a Leased Employee program, and a Personal Cares (PCs) program.
In the early 2000's, services expanded into Fond du Lac county: Adult Family Homes (AFHs) and Supportive Home Cares (SHCs).
In the early 2000's, services also expanded into the La Crosse county: Adult Family Homes (AFHs), a Community-Based Residential Facility (CBRF), a Child Treatment Foster Care program, and Supportive Home Cares (SHCs).
Since 1972, the ability of the Lori Knapp companies to change lives started with the birth of our co-founder, Lori Jane Knapp. Those in the company were deeply saddened that the world was forever changed when Lori passed away in her apartment in her home community of Prairie du Chien.
Despite her death, the Lori Knapp companies are more determined than ever to continue the traditions, quality services, and mission unique programs that have grown and developed for nearly 50 years. Lori has, in fact, often been described by many individuals across the state and the world as a kind of “pioneer”, who helped change the world simply by who she was. Not many company founders can tout this fact.