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Gov. Bill Lee and First Lady Maria stand with an adult resident of BrightStone in Franklin on Friday, Aug. 13.

Gov. Bill Lee and First Lady Maria visited Franklin on Friday to speak to the impact BrightStone will have with its new 140-acre campus.

The nonprofit that aims to equip adults with special needs with life skills, will  see its 23,000 square foot facility and residential homes open later next year.

Founded in Franklin in 1999, BrightStone is a nonprofit organization that serves adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities by equipping them with the skills to lead fulfilling and independent lives. First operated out of a small space in the People's Church — now Church of the City — the organization soon moved into a 9,000 square-foot facility on Southeast Parkway Court, though has been fundraising for its latest expansion for years.

“We are so grateful to be able to celebrate a pivotal turning point for the BrightStone family with the generous supporters and community leaders who have helped to make this important dream of expanded programing, expanded facility, and adult living options a reality for our BrightStone students,” said Brenda Hauk, president and CEO of BrightStone.

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BrightStone CEO Brenda Hauk shows attendees the ground on which the new campus will be constructed.

“We are especially honored for the recognition that Gov. Bill Lee and First Lady Maria have given our students, families, and staff as we seek to establish the first campus of its kind in Tennessee for adult students who have special needs.”

In addition to the governor and first lady, Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson and Franklin Mayor Ken Moore were also in attendance.

BrightStone Board member and former CEO of Kirklands Mike Cairnes, who himself is the father of a special needs adult, also spoke to the impact BrightStone will have on generations of families.

"The 140-acre property is now a reality and will service over 100 adult students, and will have a residential component that will be live in 2022," Cairnes said. "Moreover, it will be a beacon for the rest of Tennessee and all over the United States. I can relate, because I'm a parent of a special needs adult. The impact of family is palpable."

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The new BrightStone campus project was approved for construction by the Williamson County Commission in early 2020.

While two residential homes and a 23,000 square-foot facility will be complete in the fall of 2022, the campus will eventually include a horticulture center and enterprise retail store, an equine therapy arena and stables, a chapel, an aquatics center and gymnasium, as well as additional options for student housing.

Standing in front of what will eventually become that sprawling 140-acre campus, Lee spoke to his support for BrightStone's mission.

"As a look across this audience, I see a lot of people that I know from this community who have made this happen: a decade-long commitment from BrightStone to serve," Lee said.

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"There are moments when you realize that the things that you do outside of your regular every-day life are really worth it, and here at BrightStone, the foundation is eternity for all of us."

"This is going to be an example for the country of what can happen, the role that you play in showing the world that we can better a portion of our population that needs us to help them be their best."