Kids Receive The Gift Of Books

News Release

Special Needs Kids To Receive The Gift Of Books

IA/IL QUAD-CITIES – This holiday season, the Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation has teamed up with Books-A-Million for the fourth year in a row on a community project. They invite everyone to donate books that will be given to Quad-Cities area children with special needs.

“The Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation works to benefit the lives of children with special needs and their families,” said Kristel Whitty-Ersan, Advertising/Marketing Director of Happy Joe’s. “Happy Joe’s has a long-standing tradition of commitment to these special people. Providing them with books is a wonderful way to encourage them to read and learn.”

People can donate books at the Books-A-Million (BAM) store located at North Ridge Shopping Center, 4000 E. 53rd St., Davenport, IA. BAM customers can purchase a book for this initiative when they make a purchase at the store through the holidays. Books will be given out through Hand-in-Hand, the Handicapped Development Center, GiGi’s Playhouse, and other groups that help special needs children. In past years, thousands of books have been given out through this initiative.

“We always enjoy working with the Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation on this project,” said Katey Wulf, BAM General Manager. “It’s an amazing cause. Happy Joe’s brings the smiles for these kids. They put so much love into the work they do.”

A Place In His Heart

Happy Joe Whitty, Founder of Happy Joe’s, has always had a place in his heart for people with special needs. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Happy Joe’s restaurants in 2012, Joe’s children founded the Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation as a gift to their father.

“Our dad wants to see this foundation carry out our mission of showing support for those with special needs and their families,” said Kristel, Happy Joe Whitty’s youngest daughter and one of the owners of Happy Joe’s. She explained that in the name of the Foundation, the word “Kids” is used loosely because it really benefits special needs people of all ages.

“Kids with special needs grow up into adults with special needs,” she added. “The challenges and needs of the families don’t stop once these children turn into adults.”

The Foundation offers help to families on a personal level, and often, this is assistance that these families cannot get any other way. “The grants are individualized for specific needs,” Kristel said. “We want to provide them with the tools and products they need to be successful.”

In addition to donating books, here are more ways that the Foundation has helped families and the community:

  • Teachers in Clinton, Iowa, were provided iPads for use with their special needs classes.
  • A bike was retro-fitted for a child who needed it for physical therapy.
  • A team member at Happy Joe’s has a daughter with special needs, so the Foundation provided the family with supplies they need for quality of life.

Currently, the Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation is working to increase awareness and build funds. Fundraising events include a summer golf event, a fall bike ride, a ladies luncheon and vendor boutique, and a holiday party for special needs students from within the Quad Cities school districts.

An Unforgettable Mother and Son

Back in 1968, Happy Joe Whitty worked as the manager of a Shakey’s in Davenport. One day, a customer asked if her severely handicapped son could come in to hear the piano and banjo player. “I told her, of course she could bring him in,” Joe said. “I then asked in bewilderment why she would even need to ask if she could bring her own child into what was obviously a family-friendly restaurant.”

The woman explained that her child was not welcome in some other dining establishments.

“I told her to bring everyone in: her whole darn family!” Joe said. “They came in and I fixed the boy up with a front-row seat to watch the musicians. I will remember this woman and her son for the rest of my life. That event became a turning point in my life. To this day, I am inspired to honor anyone with special needs. My goal has always been to make sure that anyone and everyone is welcome at all my restaurants, no matter what.”

If you are interested in donating to the Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation, volunteering, or requesting grant funds, please visit or contact Lisa at (563) 332-8811, Ext 201. People can donate at any time by texting HJKIDS to 76959. A link will be sent to your phone, through which you can enter your credit card number to submit a donation.

Hand in Hand

Hand In Hand was created by local Quad City parents to serve children and young adults with special needs. In addition we support the families of these children so that they can be successful at work and at home. Today Hand In Hand offers summer camps, childcare, a bowling league, overnights and even a Girl Scout Troop among its many program choices.
In addition, information about community resources is also available to parents regarding various disability issues. Learn More

Handicapped Development Center

The Handicapped Development Center supports those people with disabilities at work, at home, and in the community.

At HDC’s workshop, people learn work skills and are provided with a place where they can experience the dignity of doing real work and the pride of earning a paycheck. They can also receive the support they need to find and maintain a job in the community.
Learn More

Read the story of Joe Whitty's life.

Read the story of Joe Whitty's life.

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Helping Kids with Special Needs Across America

Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Happy Joe Whitty and his family to help meet the needs of special needs kids wherever they may be.

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Children’s Therapy Center of the Quad Cities

The Children’s Therapy Center offers medical rehabilitation therapy services to children with developmental disabilities and developmental delays.

Over the years, thousands of individuals and their families have benefited from our services – regardless of their ability to pay for the services. Now, with a focus on young children, the Children’s Therapy Center is a major service provider for children and families throughout Western Illinois and Southeastern Iowa. Learn More