Today’s FACE of Birmingham is executive director of The Exceptional Foundation, Tricia Kirk. Tricia has been working with special needs adults and children for more than 30 years and has served as the executive director of The Exceptional Foundation since 2001. Under her leadership, the foundation has grown from serving 18 participants to serving 95 participants daily. Welcome, Tricia!
Are you a Birmingham native?
I was born and raised in Birmingham. My only real venture outside of Birmingham was the two summers I worked in Hilton Head, SC.
How did The Exceptional Foundation come to be?
The Exceptional Foundation came to be when the opportunity arose for a couple of individuals with special needs to play after-school sports at The Homewood Parks and Rec center. The number of individuals participating continued to increase to where in 1999, The Exceptional Foundation was granted its own nonprofit status and built its own facility.
Who does The Exceptional Foundation serve, and how?
The Exceptional Foundation provides social and recreational opportunities for individuals with special needs. The school systems do a great job of educating this population, but we are the place they come to participate in sports, go to prom, take beach trips, date, attend concerts or just hang out with friends. The school-age children participate in our sports programs, summer camps and after-school programs.
Are there plans to expand?
Because of the continued phone calls from other cities, The National Exceptional Foundation has been established. Currently, there are Exceptional Foundations in Fairhope, AL, and Memphis, TN. And we have supported the successful continuation of a similar organization in Indianapolis. Birmingham is proud to be a model for other communities that strive to provide this opportunity for this special group of people.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
As a person, I’d say to be honest, look people in the eye and say thank you. As a leader, it’s to not let your heart overrule your brain. It is easy to pull at my heart with the population The Exceptional Foundation serves, but sometimes to maintain the quality of the programs and safety of our participants I have to put my heart aside.
What event are you most looking forward to?
Now that our Chili Cook-Off is over and was such a huge success, I really think I am looking forward to next year’s Chili Cook-Off!
What’s your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
That’s an easy one — Lake Martin with family and friends! Nothing is any finer!
Do you have a favorite restaurant?
Not a restaurant, but eating any meal at Frank Kirk’s home. He’s my husband’s identical twin, and he is a fabulous cook with a great home and yard.
What are you listening to?
Rob Conrad in the morning, and Bruce Springsteen any other time. Always!
What are you reading?
Nothing now, but David Baldacci will be my summer reading while sitting on the dock. Pinterest is not reading, but I have found it relaxing.
Do you have any personality quirks or irrational fears?
Some people think my high energy level is a quirk; I personally like it. I like my clothes hanging in the “correct” order. I don’t do any accessories — I wore the same pair of earrings every day for a year. As for fears, I really don’t like being inside by myself after dark. Outside after dark is not nearly as bad. Oh, and matching clothes. I don’t fear it, but it is just awful.
If your house was on fire, what’s the one nonliving thing you would grab?
Since Will and I have just moved, my children have their childhood memorabilia. So probably my sewing machines and hand-sewn heirloom baby clothes.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding friends, family and faith.
My sewing machines, my old blue bedroom slippers, and fried chicken and bacon.
Thanks for sharing, Tricia! To learn more about The Exceptional Foundation, visit the website at www.exceptionalfoundation.org.
And thanks to Beth Hontzas for today’s fabulous photos!