For decades, thousands of children with special needs and their families have found a place of comfort, healing and hope at the Lee Ann Britain Infant Development Center on the campus of Shawnee Mission Medical Center. Thanks to the generosity of Nan and Doug Smith, the Britain IDC’s impact on the local community will continue to grow in the years to come.

The Smith’s lead gift has sparked a $15 million fundraising campaign by The Foundation for SMMC to complete funding for the B.E. Smith Children’s Center. This new state-of-the-art facility will provide a new home for the Britain IDC and the Shawnee Mission Health Early Learning Center, which offers Christian-based early education to the children of Shawnee Mission Health physicians and associates. By bringing the two programs together in a new facility, SMH will be able to share resources and encourage collaboration between therapists and teachers—providing just the right care for each individual child.

“I am inspired by the joy children with special needs bring to this world, and have personally seen the positive impact the Lee Ann Britain Infant Development Center has on the children who graduate from its program,” said Doug Smith. “Nan and I hope the B.E. Smith Children’s Center will allow children to benefit from the enhanced programming and alleviate some of the financial burdens their families may be experiencing, in addition to providing affordable Christian-based child care for the associates of Shawnee Mission Health.”

Lee Ann Britain Infant Development Center

The Britain IDC was started by Lee Ann Britain in 1972 with the vision of providing therapy, education and emotional support to families whose children were experiencing developmental challenges. While her work was received enthusiastically by the families who saw its remarkable results, the program struggled to maintain funding and was forced to relocate numerous times in its early years. In 1977, the Britain IDC came to SMMC, where it would find a permanent home.

Today, over 200 children with special needs from birth to age six come to the Britain IDC each year to receive holistic, collaborative care from a team of physical, occupational and music therapists, speech language pathologists, early childhood special education teachers, applied behavioral analysts, social workers and paraprofessionals. A unique aspect of the center’s approach to care is the involvement of parents and siblings in the process of therapeutic treatment and education, helping families come together to embrace the future challenges of a life with special needs. Thanks to the generous support from donors to the Foundation for SMMC, many children receive full or partial scholarship assistance to support the cost of therapies not covered by insurance, and no family is ever turned away based on their ability to pay.

“We serve families who are in a very vulnerable place,” said Amy Milroy, director of the Britain IDC. “They’re embarking on a journey filled with the unknown and they often experience feelings of fear and hopelessness. We extend to them the healing hand of Christ by providing love, hope, patience and kindness. Through our therapies, education and support, we are helping to create a perspective of hopefulness versus hopelessness.”

Learn more about the Britain IDC

Shawnee Mission Health Early Learning Center

In 1979, SMH made the bold decision to open an on-site early learning center, one of the first employer-based centers in the country. At the time, a nation-wide nursing shortage threatened the hospital’s ability to meet the growing healthcare needs of the community. The addition of the ELC had an immediate positive impact on SMH’s ability to hire and retain top quality associates and provide superior patient care.

The ELC currently serves over 600 children each year, ages six weeks to 12 years, with a curriculum committed to developing the whole child—socially, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, academically and physically. The center’s family-friendly policies, including flexible scheduling that accommodates the needs of clinical professionals, embody the culture of caring at SMH and enable associates to perform at their best, knowing their children are cared for in a loving and secure environment.

Learn more about SMH’s Early Learning Center

Growing for the Future

Since their beginnings, both the Britain IDC and ELC have grown and thrived. Now, the B.E. Smith Children’s Center will help fulfill a great community need by providing a new home for both centers. These programs are currently housed in the oldest buildings on the SMMC campus, which present significant obstacles to their future growth. The Foundation’s $15 million philanthropic campaign will enable SMH to construct a state-of-the-art facility, increase the number of children served, and deliver an even higher standard of care and education.

“Generations of community children will have a bright future because of the B.E. Smith Children’s Center,” said Lou Gehring, senior executive director of The Foundation.

Learn how you can help

Stefanie Tapke is a writer for Shawnee Mission Health.