Vanderbilt Kennedy Center

The Impact of Giving

Each year, gift contributions from individuals and organizations help to fuel the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center's mission by allowing it to expand its research, training, clinical services, and more.

Read the stories below to see how others have generously contributed to the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.

You or your organization can make an impact, too!

There are several ways you can contribute to the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center mission.


Through her support of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center's art program, Mary Jane Swaney is sharing her passion for art with people with disabilities of all ages.

A Passion for the Arts, a Passion for Service

How Robb and Mary Jane Swaney brought arts and play to children with disabilities.

Mary Jane Swaney has a special appreciation for the old saying, “To give is to receive.” Mary Jane’s late husband Robb, an architect and committed philanthropist, was instrumental in the design and construction of a special playground for Vanderbilt’s Susan Gray School. Inspired in the wake of tragedy, Robb took to his life’s passion to make a difference in the lives of young children with and without disabilities. Dedicating his time, energy and resources, Robb oversaw every aspect of this special project, even as he was coping with his own devastating illness. Although he passed away before the playground’s dedication, he was able to see children at play there during the final weeks of his life, the greatest thanks he could receive.

Mary Jane, a talented artist, also recognized the importance of utilizing her passion in her efforts to give back. Over the years, she has given thousands of dollars to support art workshops at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, nurturing budding artists with developmental disabilities. Her support has opened doors for our workshop participants and allowed her to share her own personal passion and talent for art. As Mary Jane says, “The reason I continue to give is because I have experienced these workshops and it is such a joy to see the participants respond and just blossom. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing to see.”

In addition to these generous gifts, Mary Jane recently established a charitable gift annuity to benefit the growing arts program at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Not only does the annuity offer tax benefits, it also provides guaranteed income for life in the form of quarterly payments. All while allowing Mary Jane to support a program that is near and dear to her heart.

To learn more about opportunities to support the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s arts program, please contact Jan Rosemergy at or (615) 322-8238.


Committed to Inclusive Postsecondary Education—Carol Henderson

VKC Leadership Council member Carol Henderson has been a long-term supporter of inclusive education for students with disabilities. In 1996, she and her husband endowed the Britt Henderson Training Series for Educators in memory of their son Britt. This year, Henderson has given a significant 4-year financial gift to the Next Steps at Vanderbilt program, a 2-year certificate program for students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.

Read how Carol Henderson supported inclusive education for students with disabilities.


Joy of Discovery

Through the Martin McCoy-Jespersen Discovery Grants in Positive Psychology, Martin’s parents are providing others "a way to be more like Martin" and for each to find, "in their own way, the fullness of life."

Read how the McCoy-Jespersen Family’s gift for research in positive psychology is a living memorial to their son Martin’s positive, joyful spirit.


Linda Brooks Helps Next Steps at Vanderbilt

Next Steps at Vanderbilt, the first postsecondary certificate program for students with intellectual disabilities in Tennessee, received a generous gift from longtime supporter, friend, and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Leadership Council member Linda Brooks and her family.

Read how Linda Brooks helps Next Steps take some next steps.


Team William Runs for Down Syndrome

Andrea McDermott Sanders, Vanderbilt special education alumna (M.Ed. 2006) and VKC Leadership Council member, completed her eighth Country Music Marathon in 2012 to raise funds for the Team William Scholarship Fund for students in the Vanderbilt Kennedy Reading Clinic. Andrea's efforts have raised more than $180,000 since 2004 to provide financial support for students with Down syndrome attending the Reading Clinic. A former reading tutor, Andrea established the scholarship in honor of William Spickard, one of her students. William's family has partnered with Andrea in raising support. In 2009, Anna Spickard, William's older sister, organized the Team William 5k,
an additional fundraising event. In 2012, they funded the Team William Discovery Grant
to advance research on Down syndrome.

Read how the Team William helped children with Down syndrome learn to read.


Grandparents, The Landreth Family—Catalysts for Discovery

Autism, like other developmental disabilities, affects not only a child but also the immediate family and extended family. Grandparents play important roles-loving caregivers, creative resource finders, dedicated advocates. And in some instances, grandparents may be able to provide gifts for research to find answers that may help create a better future for their grandchild and for other children with developmental disabilities. This is the story of the Robert E. Landreth Family.

Read how the Landreths enabled important autism research.


Nashville Predators Help Struggling Readers Score

Grants from our corporate donors have the ability to improve the lives of children with disabilities and families in Tennessee. We would like to express our gratitude to the Nashville Predators Foundation for awarding the Vanderbilt Kennedy Reading Clinic with a grant that allowed eight students to participate in the program on scholarship. Funding like this is essential in order to provide critical learning intervention to youth who do not have the financial means to attend the clinic. We are grateful to the Nashville Predators Foundation for the hand they lent in improving children’s lives in our community.

Read how corporate donors such as the Nashville Predators Foundation are able to help children in Middle Tennessee learn to read.


The Gift That Keeps Giving

Grants from our corporate donors have the ability to improve the lives of multiple children in Middle Tennessee. One child who benefitted from the generosity of Dollar General is nine-year-old McKenzie. Because of the scholarship they provided, she was able to enroll in the Reading Clinic at a critical point in her learning.

Read how corporate donors such as the Dollar General are able to help children in Middle Tennessee learn to read.


Music of the Heart

See how one Nashville couple was able to help teach people living with developmental disabilities how to use music therapeutically, while also supporting research in human development and training for professionals in the community.

Read how Lorie and John Lytle brought music to the lives of people with developmental disabilities.