B.E. Smith Family Center Celebrates Grand Opening

Exterior of a building.

Merriam, KS – AdventHealth Shawnee Mission continues to experience growth and is celebrating its latest addition, the B.E. Smith Family Center, a new $24 million facility that will be home to both the Early Learning and Britain Development programs, with a grand opening on Tuesday, April 30. The space fosters an environment of inclusivity – allowing children with special needs and typically-developing children to learn, grow and thrive together.

The new facility is the first building in the world to have 2,800 square feet outfitted with the Variety KC Compass harness system, which allows children with mobility impairments to practice walking, standing and interacting face to face with their peers. The system supports up to four children in each of the classrooms. The building also includes two therapy pools, one equipped with multisensory equipment including lighted bubble tubes and fiber optics, designated music therapy space and accessible playgrounds. Designed to provide a modern learning environment for children of all ability levels, the Center will foster collaboration and connection between children, families and staff, and promote understanding and inclusion of children with special needs.

Doug and Nan Smith made a lead fundraising donation to AdventHealth Foundation Shawnee Mission toward the construction of the new space, igniting a campaign that resulted in contributions of $20 million from more than 2,000 donors, including seven-figure gifts from Gary and Stephanie Goscha, Hall Family Foundation, J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation, Tom W. Olofson Family Foundation and Sunderland Foundation. Plus, in-kind donations from contractors and construction companies working on the project totaled nearly $500,000.

“The element of inclusion – children with special needs and typically developing children learning and playing alongside each other – is what has driven Nan and me to help make this project a possibility,” said Doug Smith. “We know all the children taught here will benefit from learning from each other, and they will teach all of us adults along the way, too.”

“We’re grateful to Doug and Nan for their vision, partnership and passionate fundraising support toward the B.E. Smith Family Center,” said Sam Huenergardt, president and chief executive officer of AdventHealth Shawnee Mission. “The new, state-of-the-art Center replaces two of the oldest buildings on this campus where the programs were previously housed and has helped us to overcome significant obstacles as we work to meet the health care needs of this very special community.”

Facts about the B.E. Smith Family Center:

  • Construction began in March 2018 and was completed just a little over one year later.
  • The 62,000 square feet facility features inclusive outdoor playgrounds accessible from the ground level classrooms.
  • Britain Development was founded by Lee Ann Britain in 1972 and is one of the only programs in the nation to offer comprehensive therapies, early education and family support in one centralized location.
  • The facility features three music therapy rooms, three dedicated feeding therapy spaces, two aquatic pools and a multisensory environment room.
  • The B.E. Smith Family Center is the only building in the world to have 10 rooms featuring the integrated Variety KC Compass harness system.
  • Early Learning is one of the oldest employer-based child care centers in the entire United States and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It is also the largest child care program in the state of Kansas.

The Center partnered with Turner Construction Company, Henderson Engineers, SVPA Architects of West Des Moines, EYP Architecture & Engineering, Olsson (civil engineering), Saul Engineering and Water’s Edge Aquatic Design on the project.