EPU Founder Retires

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38 years ago a Fresno woman started a non-profit group to help families with kids facing developmental challenges. But Marion Karian has now decided to retire. (KFSN)

Karian started Exceptional Parents Unlimited (EPU) back in 1976. She had no idea the EPU Children's Center would touch so many people.
38 years ago a Fresno woman started a non-profit group to help families with kids facing developmental challenges. But Marion Karian has now decided to retire.

Karian started Exceptional Parents Unlimited (EPU) back in 1976. She had no idea the EPU Children's Center would touch so many people.

Smiling kids with developmental disabilities receive one-on-one attention at the center. Marion Karian initially formed EPU as a support group for parents with children born with Down Syndrome. 38 years ago she was working as a nurse at Valley Children's Hospital.

Karian explained, "One of them asking me very poignantly what do other mothers do? I thought, I don't really know but let's bring you all together and maybe you can all help each other in ways I cannot."

Karian never imagined the EPU Children's Center would today serve 800 families each week with a budget of close to $7 million.

Marion's vision was, "To open the minds of families to build hope, to build dreams and to build expectations."

The original group of babies served by EPU in 1976 took another photo together when they graduated from high school. It was a gift for Marion. One of the young men in the picture even got married.

Karian said, "We have made a difference because the thought of a child with Down Syndrome getting married 38 years ago was really unheard of. But they have wonderful lives. They have jobs."

Now the center serves families dealing with many different kinds of challenges.

Karian said, "We realized in the early 1990's we were seeing a lot of babies born exposed to illegal drugs and alcohol and those families needed a different kind of support."

Karian has been busy saying goodbye to staffers but will always be available for advice.

Marion will be replaced by Ellen Knapp, who previously headed the Central Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.



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