The Kenny Rogers Children’s Center, which has provided a wide array of occupational, physical, and speech therapy to children since 1973, has recently undergone a 7,000 square foot expansion. This expansion has added a Motional Analysis Lab to the center, which is currently the only one in the state of Missouri.
In addition, The Kenny Rogers Children’s Center has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health. With the help of this grant and its current resources, the center is able to serve more than 350 children with special needs up to the age of 21 with no charge to the families.
“I am thrilled by the support that the Kenny Rogers Children’s Center continues to receive, and I think this grant speaks to the level of quality the staff has achieved. I am so proud to be associated with this center and the community,” says Country Music Hall of Fame member Kenny Rogers. “The center continues to provide such a wonderful service for families, at no cost to them. In an effort to keep it all going, I will be coming back to Sikeston in 2014 for a fundraising event. I hope to see you all there.”
The current success of the Kenny Rogers Children’s Center began back in 1973, when Helen Shelton, who had a child with cerebral palsy, took it upon herself to attend seminars and educate herself on how to provide local pediatric therapy. With the help of Tom Richey, PT, who began volunteering Saturday mornings to perform evaluations on disabled children, the Scott-Mississippi-New Madrid Counties United Cerebral Palsy Center was formed in 1974 with five clients.
By 1977, the center had expanded into a new location and with the help of fundraising by the Sikeston Eagles, served 23 children. Kenny Rogers, who was the year’s featured performer at the 25th annual Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo, was so blown away by what the Jaycees did for the community that he donated to them a $25,000 Arabian stallion. Rogers’ donation allowed the Jaycees to use the funds to better the community, and they eventually were able to auction the stallion off for $75,000. This sum of money provided Shelton and Richey’s Center with the new potential for growth in the years to follow.
Kenny Rogers, the Gatlin Brothers, and other stars participated in benefit concerts throughout the ‘70s, which eventually generated enough funds to lay the foundation for the new Kenny Rogers United Cerebral Palsy Center of Southeast MO. After its completion in June 1979, the center experienced numerous growth opportunities, beginning with a telethon started by Nick Zaharopolis and Kenny Bridger in 1980. To this day, the annual telethon remains a standing tradition to raise money for the center, which officially changed its name to Kenny Rogers Children’s Center in 2000. The year 2009 saw the return of Kenny Rogers to Sikeston when he performed his fourth benefit concert (this time alongside Neal E. Boyd of “America’s Got Talent”). This concert, in addition to raising funds toward the now-completed expansion of the Children’s Center, gave Rogers a personal opportunity to meet members of the staff and the children in their care.
Throughout the history of the Kenny Rogers Children’s Center, there has never been a shortage of generosity on the part of the community, the stars, and all of those who have worked hard to make the center what it is today. The now 17,000-square-foot facility continues to grow to this day and has become as one of the county’s premier facilities.