Kentucky’s largest children’s charity in history has allowed children to live their lives to the fullest for almost 100 years and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon
By Rachel Porter
Photos provided by Kosair
In 1923, no one could have imagined purchasing six acres of land on Eastern Parkway in Louisville, Kentucky, would become the spark that ignited change and support to over 80 organizations, including countless children across Kentucky and Southern Indiana today. As Kosair Charities is approaching its one-hundredth year, there is no better time to explore the history and impacts on the community. We spoke with Senior Vice President of Strategy and Outreach, Lindsay Wehr to discuss the past, present and future of Kosair Charities.
In the early 1920s, several doctors, lawyers and community members saw a need for disabled children that other hospitals were not meeting. Dr. W. Barnett Owen, a nationally known orthopedic surgeon at the time, decided to pursue building the Kosair Crippled Children Hospital. With the aid of local Shriners, they could secure the land to make the beautiful Tudor-style building possible. In just three years, the hospital admitted the first ten patients. “It became the first and original children’s hospital not only in Louisville but the region,” said Wehr. What truly distinguished the hospital from others was that it supported children aside from a family’s ability to pay and utilized forward-thinking medical approaches at the time, such as new braces, different therapies, the original iron lung and even school for long-term patients.
During the high times of the polio epidemic in the 1940s, the hospital reached up to 100 beds. Kosair continued growing and began collaborating with other hospitals such as Norton Infirmary. “Our ability to serve children in a greater way expanded in the 1980s,” said Wehr. “All of the beds were moved downtown to a children’s hospital to become the granting foundation we are today.” Therefore, Kosair Charities was no longer a medical provider but a resource that met the needs of children that were more than just physical while still upholding the mission of ensuring children live their lives to the fullest.
“Kosair Charities, as a grant-making organization, can fund organizations that help children and is also able to grant money to families and children directly,” said Wehr. The grant program is the most prominent, annually granting an average of $10 million to over 80 organizations that benefit children. Kosair Charities has five focuses: medicine, research, education, social services and child advocacy. The focuses do not change; however, a specific direction may be more prevalent than others one year. In this instance, Kosair’s main priorities fall under social services and child advocacy.
“We realized that consistently Kentucky is number one, so the worst, in regards to child abuse and neglect. The Face It Movement was founded in 2013 to help fix this issue through a three-pronged approach,” mentioned Wehr. The approaches include public awareness, getting the word out, best practices, what people can do, policies and laws to prevent or punish. The movement that began with five organizations is now up to 115 across the state, attempting to fulfill one of the three-pronged approaches.
Kosair Charities continues to ensure children a happy life through generous donations and support from the community. Through this, Kosair can help numerous nonprofits and currently work with 150 families. “Families can apply directly for assistance for things like medical bills, therapy, etc., to help fill the gaps,” said Wehr.
Kosair strives to continue making the next 100 years as impactful as the first 100 have been, even if they don’t know what is next. “What we do know is that 100% of children have a need, and we have always tried and will continue to try and anticipate the needs of children to most effectively help.
928 Eastern Parkway
Louisville, KY 40217