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 Linda Brooks helps Next Steps take some next steps.
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.
Brooks has been advocating for postsecondary options for students with intellectual disabilities for over 20 years. Her interest and concern for the lack of programs began when she was searching for postsecondary programming for her daughter Wendy, who has Down syndrome.
"I had a terrible time trying to find education classes for Wendy once she had aged out of the school system," said Brooks. "I went through the State and through the private sector and was astonished that there was nothing for her. Wendy needs educational stimulation to continue to make progress. My search proved to be very disappointing."
A few years ago, Brooks urged the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center to address this crucial need and committed a gift to help make this happen," said Elise McMillan, J.D., VKC UCEDD co-director. "Linda’s vision and commitment provided a strong foundation for statewide coalition building and looking at such programs nationwide-which have now culminated in Next Steps at Vanderbilt, thanks to the her gift and a 3-year grant from the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities."
Brooks is especially encouraged by the program’s inclusion of independent living skills in the curricula and by its focus on employment.
"As more and more people find out about the program, the movement will grow bigger and stronger," said Brooks. "More people will want to join, and before you know it, there will be programs all over the State. As Vanderbilt is successful, other colleges and universities will want to step on board and develop programs of their own. I couldn’t help Wendy go to college all those years ago, but I can help the young kiddos now who are capable and willing to learn."
"On behalf of Next Steps at Vanderbilt and the entire Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, we thank Linda Brooks for her knowledge and for her commitment to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families," said Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., VKC director. "Her willingness to share her expertise and her generosity with this financial gift will assist students with intellectual disabilities as they transition into life after high school, as they are exposed to the exciting life of a college student, and as they secure meaningful employment which will bring them closer to leading independent lives."
Linda Brooks currently serves on the Leadership Council of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and is on the boards of the Siloam Family Health Center and the Brookwood. Community in Brookshire, Texas. She is a member of the Ambassador’s Circle of Centerstone and is a past board member of Brightstone, Progress, the Nashville Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Centerstone, and the Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee. Brooks earned her B.A. degree from East Texas State University in 1962. In 1968, she married Samuel Allen Brooks, Jr., who died in 2003. They have three children, Wendy, Dan, and Ashley.
Winter 2010 Discovery
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."
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.
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.