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.
How the Team William helped children with Down syndrome read.
In 2004, Andrea Blake McDermott, MEd’06, was enrolled in the Special Education program at Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development. During her time at Vanderbilt, Andrea had the opportunity to tutor William Spickard, a 7-year-old with Down syndrome who was learning to read.
In addition to her commitment to education, Andrea is also a devoted marathon runner. During her time as a graduate student, she had the bold idea to combine her passions for running and reading to endow a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Reading Clinic scholarship fund so that other children with Down syndrome could learn to read.
Over the past eight years, family, friends and community members have helped achieve Andrea’s goal, through gifts both small and large. William’s sister Anna Spickard and her high school friends began a 5K run. Together they established an endowment for reading scholarships, offering children with Down syndrome the opportunity to attend the Reading Clinic at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.
In 2012, the power of this collective support led to the establishment of the Team William Discovery Grant, funding novel research to promote optimal development of children with Down syndrome.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Robb and Mary Jane Swaney were able to apply their life passions to the support of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center mission. Robb, an architect and committed philanthropist, brought to life a specially designed, accessible playground where young children with and without disabilities can now play together. Mary Jane, an artist, supports programs that nurture budding artists with developmental disabilities.
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.