PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — After more than four decades as President and CEO of Easterseals Central Illinois, Steve Thompson announced his retirement.

“The opportunity to work with so many remarkable people along the way is probably the standout memory I’ll always have at Easterseals,” said Thompson.

During his first year, the organization served 875 families and in 2021 they served more than 5,000.

Thompson’s journey at Easterseals Central Illinois started in 1981.

“I came to Peoria out of the University of Illinois to help grow community-based recreational opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Thompson.

So that’s what Thompson did. Thompson said during his time, they have expanded to six locations.

“We will be moving into the new YMCA in Bloomington Normal in August, which is a state-of-the-art facility. Timber Pointe Outdoor Center in Lake Bloomington. Our Easterseals Learning Academy in Germantown Hills. A couple of other locations, so a lot of changes, a lot of growth. When I started, I think we had about a dozen staff, and now we have well over 200,” said Thompson.

One of those staff members is Molly Hoogeboom, who is the Community Engagement Manager at Easterseals Central Illinois.

“When I first met Steve, it was about 30-something years ago. I attended Easterseals as a child, so Steve has watched me grow up in every capacity,” said Hoogeboom.

Hoogeboom said when Steve first made the announcement, they notified families that worked with Steve since the beginning of his journey.

“The feedback and the response we got was so telling of the man Steve is despite us being an organization that serves so many, Steve really took the time to know and meet the families because I think for him that puts the mission at the forefront of everything that he did,” said Hoogeboom.

Effective immediately, Melissa Riddle will step into the role of president, assuming responsibility for all aspects of Easterseals operations.

Thompson’s retirement will take effect on Aug. 31.