Monday, May 7, 2012

“Your People”

The humble beginnings of Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC) started as a gathering of seven families in the backyard of Edith and Wendell Foster.  Their common bond:  they had children with cerebral palsy.  This backyard meeting was the start of the Foster’s legacy, eventually leading to an eleven-bed residential home for children providing therapy, an education, and support.  The Foster’s commitment evolved into what is known today as a nationally-recognized non-profit organization providing comprehensive services for individuals with developmental disabilities.

For decades afterwards, many in Owensboro would view WFC as the place “where the spastics live.”  Upon learning about my interview with WFC, my dad used these exact words, representing an outdated frame of reference of his generation.  There’s no denying WFC’s earliest name was The Davets Home for Spastic Paralysis, which was later changed to The Spastics Home and School.  “Spastic paralysis” was the medical term used in the 1940’s to describe the condition which is medically defined today as cerebral palsy.  Since working at WFC, and after a gentle lecture about the outdated term, my dad now says, “I saw your people at the mall today.”  God love him, that’s progress for him and far better than his using the “S” word.

During his military career stationed in numerous states, Mr. Foster seized every opportunity to meet with physicians specializing in the care for children with disabilities.  Upon his return to Owensboro, KY, Mr. Foster implemented the knowledge he learned from these medical specialists. He built equipment and administered “therapy” for their daughter Louise and other local children who had cerebral palsy.  This simple get-together in the Foster’s backyard morphed over sixty-five years into an organization offering a comprehensive array of services for Western Kentucky that includes two residential programs (Centre Pointe Cottages and Supports for Community Living) housing 83 individuals with developmental disabilities.  But wait!  Wendell Foster’s Campus is so much more than just a residential campus!

In 1986, WFC built the Green Therapy Pavilion to provide a state of the art facility where those in our residential programs could receive therapeutic treatments.  Over time, WFC recognized an unmet need for families caring for loved ones with developmental disabilities in their homes.  In 1997, the Green Therapy Pavilion became licensed as a comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility (CORF) to offer outpatient therapies including speech, occupational and physical therapy.  This facility’s services also include the Kelly Autism Program (KAP) which provides an afterschool program for children age seven through young adulthood diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum Continuum.  It also houses the Western Kentucky Assistive Technology Center (WKATC) which offers an assistive learning lab and a lending library of assistive devices that facilitate and increase the functionality for those with disabilities.
Through WFC’s CORF, I will meet, observe, and understand the unique challenges many with cerebral palsy and/or brain damage face and how they’ve overcome them and function despite them.  I will witness the drive and determination, and the triumphs of perseverance of those working and receiving services within the walls of the Green Therapy Pavilion.

In the Next Blog Entry:  The Campus Geeks - The two gals who staff WKATC are passionate about their work  . . . what makes them good at what they do and their efforts successful in empowering those with disabilities.
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