The Kenny Rogers Children’s Center has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health. The center, which provides occupational, physical and speech therapy for children, recently underwent a 7,000 square foot expansion and, coupled with the grant, will now be able to serve more than 350 children with special needs 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,” Kenny said. “I am so proud to be associated with this center and the community. 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 center began in 1973 when Helen Shelton, who had a child with cerebral palsy, attended seminars and worked to educate herself on how to provide local pediatric therapy. With the help of physical therapist Tom Richey, who volunteered on Saturday mornings, 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, 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, which allowed them to use the $75,000 the stallion brought in at an auction to better the community.
Kenny Rogers, the Gatlin Brothers and other stars participated in benefit concerts throughout the ‘70s, which eventually generated enough funds for the new Kenny Rogers United Cerebral Palsy Center of Southeast MO. It was completed in June 1979 and a telethon to support the center began in 1980 and continues today. The center officially changed its name to the Kenny Rogers Children’s Center in 2000.