Love and concern for children with physical disabilities prompted Senator Arthur Capper to establish the Capper Fund on Christmas Day in 1920. During the early years, the costs of hospitalization and surgery for many children were paid from the Senator's personal finances. Arthur Capper made his fortune through his publishing business. He worked his way up through the ranks and eventually owned several newspapers and periodicals. He served the State of Kansas as its twentieth governor and then as United States Senator from 1919-1949.
His composing room foreman at Capper Publications, Conrad Van Natta, had a daughter with polio. He encouraged Senator Capper to "do more for the children." On September 26, 1934, the Capper Fund, an unincorporated foundation, was chartered with articles of incorporation as The Capper Foundation for Crippled Children, a non-profit corporation under the laws of the State of Kansas. The registration has been perpetually maintained in the Kansas Secretary of State's Office.
In 1947, the Topeka Orphan's Home at 3rd and Fillmore was dissolved and the building donated by its Board of Directors to The Capper Foundation. The home was remodeled at Senator Capper's request and became this area's first comprehensive rehabilitation program for children with physical disabilities.
By the time of his death in 1951, Senator Capper had gained national prominence as a publisher, statesman, and philanthropist. His bequest of 25,000 shares of Capper Publications stock left to The Capper Foundation enabled the purchase of land and construction of buildings at 3500 SW 10th Avenue. Established in 1959, the new rehabilitation facility provided programs and services for children, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and academics for kindergarten through high school.
Growth proceeded rapidly with licensing for a preschool secured in 1960, residential facilities added in 1961, and an adult work center established in 1970. In 1972, services for infants were added which provided screening, evaluation and direct service. In 1985, an aquatics facility was donated to be used for therapy, recreational activity and physical education.
A number of public policy developments influenced the type of services provided by The Capper Foundation during the late 1970s and 1980s. These included PL 94-142 (1977) which provided for individualized education for students with disabilities, PL 99-457, Part H (1986) which provided services to infants and toddlers and their families and the Tech Act (1988) which created a coordinated statewide system of technology assistance.
Emerging technologies began to have a dramatic impact on the number and types of students served. The 1980s saw a significant shift in philosophy and service delivery when Capper began providing services to students with more severe disabilities, including lower cognitive ability. The first computer (Apple IIe) was purchased in 1982, based on a request from the Speech-Language Pathology Department. Special Projects was formally established in 1983. This program provided computer training for staff (Apple Core) as well as individual instruction to students. It later became Educational Technology.
From the middle 1980s on, the number of students residing and attending school at Capper began declining as more students stayed in their homes and attended local schools. To support those students, the Outreach program was formally established in 1986 with the launching of a capital campaign to provide a van, staff and equipment to put The Capper Foundation "on the road." This program provided consultations and training, assistive technology services, and a loan bank of equipment. The outreach program extended the services of the organization to meet the needs of people with disabilities throughout Kansas and the Midwest.
From 1986-1992, The Capper Foundation was involved in four federal grants whose primary purpose was to train teachers to use assistive technology with students with severe disabilities. The experience and expertise that was developed during this time greatly influenced the future direction of the organization with regard to the application of assistive technology. In 1990, a grant was provided by the United Health Ministry Fund to establish an assistive device loan bank to allow students and families in Kansas to try out devices prior to purchase. That same year, T.M. Murrell provided partial funds, along with Southwestern Bell Telephone and the Frank Morris estate to renovate and establish an Apple IIGS lab and offices of Assistive Technology staff. In 1991, the Assistive Device Loan Bank was expanded with a grant funds.
In 1990, Assistive Technology became the new name for the previous Special Projects/Outreach Program.
A change in administration took place in 1992 with a new President and CEO being named. More staff were involved in the management of the organization and monthly total staff meetings were held along with staff brown bag lunch forums with organizational leaders.
The Infant/Toddler Program expanded, outgrowing its space in the main building, and was moved to Foster Hall in the Fall of 1992.
Based on a comprehensive strategic planning process, it was determined that the residential program would be discontinued and a 9-month transition plan was put in place to ensure the successful return of the 9 remaining residential students in Leach Hall to their home schools. The long-standing residential program at Capper was officially closed in January 1993.
During 1993-94, a Vice-President position was created for the growing area of Assistive Technology. The Professional and Family Training Program was formalized and a Rehabilitation Engineer was hired. Emphasis was placed on growth areas, such as assistive technology, training, infant-toddler, outpatient therapy services, vocational assessment for 16-21 year-olds, pool therapeutic services, childcare for children with special needs and an integrated preschool with an emphasis on students with more intense needs for therapy. A three-year strategic plan was developed and shared with the local school district outlining strategies to transition all of the students and school system staff at Capper back to be included in the public schools by 1996. All staff at the Capper Facilities were to be employed by The Capper Foundation by that time as well.
During the summer of 1994, the Assistive Technology Program was moved from the Murrell Center to the main building. A number of other programs and staff were also moved to accommodate specific program needs. The Kidlink Program traded space with the Pediatric Therapy Program to allow for a more integrated and team oriented curriculum for the preschool/childcare program.
In 1994, the Assistive Technology Program presented a proposal to a panel of consumers, along with other organizations and was awarded a sub-contract for the Information and Referral (1-800-Kan-Do-It) component of the state-wide Assistive Technology for Kansans Project.
Assistive Technology programs continued to grow and in 1994, they were separated out into individual programs each with their own coordinator: Augmentative Communication, Educational Technology and Training. Rehabilitation Engineering continued to report to the Vice President of Programs. The large physical therapy room was converted into the Training Center. A coordinator of Pediatric Therapy was named to work with local schools in providing motor services and oversee the OT's, PT's, CPTA's and therapy aides.
The transition of students continued during 1994-95 with two sessions of preschool and one school age classroom moving back to the public schools. This left two sessions of preschool and 2 school-age classrooms on-site at Capper. The Fast Forward Program was developed during 1994-95 to provide students 16-21 years of age, with multiple disabilities, an opportunity to gain vocational education and work experience and skills through community job internships. This program was a collaborative effort between a number of community groups including Cerebral Palsy of Topeka, The Developmental Disabilities Council, the Shawnee County Educational Cooperative and The Capper Foundation.
A focus on teaming and the applications of assistive technology throughout the curriculum (High Tech Tots) was the emphasis of the Kidlink Program during the 1995-96 school year. One teacher and two paraprofessionals were transferred to the USD 501 school system for the 1995-96 school year. The Capper Recreation Club was designed and implemented to provide for more participation of former students as well as students attending Topeka Public Schools in recreation leisure activities. 1995 also saw the final formal graduation of students from the school-age program.
The Capper Work Center strategically reduced the number of individuals it was licensed to serve, from 30 to 20, in 1995. The same year, it was determined that no more individuals would be accepted into the Supported Employment Program, which was developed and implemented in 1992, due to accompanying long-term support requirements and its adverse financial impact on the organization.
Collaboration between the state Part H infant-toddler services and the Assistive Technology for Kansans grant resulted in a subcontract to Capper to provide assistive technology evaluations to 100 infants across the state of Kansas during the 1995-96 school year. Pediatric Therapy provided contracted services to many local school districts serving students in the area.
The articles of incorporation and by-laws of the organization were amended in 1995. The legal name of the organization was officially changed from The Capper Foundation for Crippled Children to The Capper Foundation.
The Capper Foundation celebrated its 75th anniversary during 1995 with a year-long community celebration, activities and events, increasing awareness of the organization. This served as the foundation on which to strategically launch a capital campaign the following year.
Also, in 1995, a home page was set up for Capper on the Internet describing the services available and providing consumers an additional way to access Capper services. The Macintosh Computer Lab was completed with the purchase of additional computers. Assistive Technology in the Classroom, the first Interactive Television (ITV) course taught by Capper, was provided for 21 students in Greenbush, Kansas. The studio at the Kansas State Board of Education in Topeka was used to interact with the class in Greenbush.
E-mail, as well as electronic scheduling and calendar functions were made available organization-wide in the 1995-96 school year. In 1996, a new director of assistive technology was named, an on-site Bridge classroom was negotiated with the Shawnee County Educational Cooperative and negotiations with the USD 501 school district led to a collaborative, integrated preschool and childcare program at Capper. An education sponsorship program was developed to recruit physical therapists to ensure an ongoing source for physical therapists to support the programs at Capper.
In 1996, The Capper Foundation received the community-wide Employer of Excellence Award at the YWCA Leadership Luncheon for fostering an environment where high achievement by staff is encouraged. In carrying out its mission, Capper was honored for projecting a positive attitude toward family and personal life for staff. Training, continuing education, on-site childcare, special family activities, flex-time and health insurance benefits were also noted.
The John K. Knoll Mobility Bank, named in honor of former Chairman of The Capper Board of Trustees, was established in 1996 to loan mobility equipment to individuals in need.
The mission of The Capper Foundation is to enhance the independence of people with physical disabilities, primarily children. As a result of matching the Capper mission to Capper programs and services, plans were developed to transfer the Capper Work Center and Supported Employment Programs for adults, to another not-for-profit organization, Individualized Support Systems (I.S.S.). The transition was finalized in May of 1997.
As part of the Assistive Technology for Kansans Project, Capper was awarded the sub-contract for the 1996 state-wide Assistive Technology Conference.
A 3-year capital campaign began in 1996 to raise $3.5 million for facilities renovation, program endowment and technology.
In 1997, The Capper Foundation expanded its reach and impact by acquiring the Center for Assistive Technology in Kansas City, MO, from United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Kansas City. Capper systems were integrated with this satellite center throughout the year and assistive technology services were provided to many consumers in the Kansas City area.
The organizational structure was changed in early 1997 to accommodate changing services and be to aligned with the strategic focus and direction of the organization. The Senior Management Team was expanded to include the President/CEO, Directors of Operations, Development, Educational Services, Pediatric Therapy, Assistive Technology and Co-Directors of Early Intervention Services. The I & I group, made up of directors, coordinators and managers, met regularly to provide information and input to the Senior Management Team.
In the spring of 1997, it was determined that the U.S.D. 501 preschool classroom would be transitioned back to the U.S.D. 501 school district. Capper students in the former school age program were served through the Bridge Classroom and transitioned to area schools.
In 1997, the term "physical disability" was further defined to keep the organization focused on its core competencies of applications of assistive technology, pediatric therapies, customized services and individualized teams. More emphasis was placed on staff development, standardized processes and information systems.
On May Day, 1998, a colorful and festive Maypole dance was presented by students with and without disabilities, working together and helping each other celebrate the Renovation Groundbreaking. Following a great deal of renovation planning with valuable staff and consumer input, construction began on Phase I of the campus renovation project. Phase I included the renovation of the former Leach and Foster Residence Halls to accommodate the Kidlink Preschool and Childcare Program and the Infant-Toddler Program, a "Play Zone" addition, new hallways linking all buildings and an outdoor accessible playground.
A tremendous Capital Campaign collective team effort occurred with numerous campaign brunches, lunches and dinner meetings, tours, and presentations to corporations, civic groups and individuals. The Capper story and campaign message was shared over and over. As a result, there was an increase in Capper awareness, volunteers, donors, and support. Significant progress toward the Capital Campaign goal provided funds for facilities renovation, program endowment and new technology to benefit the children and their families served by The Capper Foundation.
Strategic and operational plans were used to focus organizational efforts. A number of systems for internal operations, productivity improvement, communications, marketing and service delivery were enhanced. Building a supportive workplace environment continued, enhancing staff benefits and their knowledge, abilities and skills with additional emphasis on staff training.
In 1999, Phase I of the Campus Renovation Project was completed. Phase II and III, which involved renovating the main building and constructing a new conference center, was completed in the summer of 2000.
"Everybody's A Star" was the theme for the Campaign Celebration Gala, held in August of 1999. Campaign volunteers and major donors were honored at this event. $4.4 million was raised in the Capper Capital Campaign, exceeding the campaign goal of $3.5 million.
The Capper Web Page was enhanced and links were added to pages featuring information on disability issues.
Extensive upgrades of Capper information systems took place, including activity reporting, networking our Kansas City office and voice mail, allowing staff to be more efficient in providing direct service.
The Bridge program was strategically transitioned back to the Topeka Public Schools at the end of the extended school year.
Capper was named an affiliate of the Topeka Evening Sertoma Club, who has a charitable focus on speech and hearing services.
The Fast Forward Program, a vocational program for teens, ended at Capper in May of 1999 as scheduled in the Strategic Plan. The local school districts provided vocational educational services through their existing programs.
The Capital Campaign success, facilities renovation, staff packing and moving, upgrading our technology and systems all occurred while simultaneously providing quality programs and services to those who needed them. This was all such a big part of The Capper Foundation in 1999 and 2000.
The new and renovated facilities containing nearly 50,000 square feet of work space have enhanced our ability to better serve our customers. Customer-friendly accessibility has been added for all Capper programs and services. Our parking capacity has been doubled and a new multi-purpose Conference Center with video-conferencing capabilities, as well as functional evaluation rooms for pediatric therapy and assistive technology have been added. Also available is a new computer/educational technology lab and workshop for rehabilitation engineering and seating/mobility. The number of children served in our Infant-Toddler Program and Kidlink Pre-School and Childcare Center will be expanded with additional space available. Our professional and family training program offerings provided by Capper staff and other professional guest presenters will be increased as well.
The availability of assistive technology services near the Colby and Oakley areas of western Kansas will be increased with an experienced Capper professional specialist in the area. She will be residing there and providing augmentative communication and educational technology evaluations and services. This will also provide us an opportunity to pilot our video-conferencing techniques and strategies with our staff and individuals receiving services in distant rural locations. Our new Conference Center and new tele-outreach services will assist us in meeting the needs of children with disabilities and their families everywhere in a cost effective and efficient manner. With these exciting developments to better serve our customers, our future certainly looks bright!
August, 2000 marked the kickoff of our $1 million Conference Center Campaign to fund the Conference Center, video-conferencing capabilities, and accessibility and accompanying infrastructure.
At The Capper Foundation, we will continue to learn from our proud past, live in the present and plan for the future. The new era we are entering will certainly be some of the most exciting times in the 85-year history of The Capper Foundation. Our future's so bright, we've gotta wear shades!
In December 2005, The Capper Foundation and Easterseals affiliate to grow our resources and services and help more children and adults living with disabilities gain greater independance.
In July 2011, we celebrated 90 Years of Building Abilities with an old-fashioned ice cream social in Gage Park. The keynote speaker was former Kansas Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum; special guests included Governor Sam Brownback, Topeka Mayor, Bill Bunten, representatives from the offices of Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran.
On January 1, 2012, ESCF united with Individual Support Systems, Inc. to provide services to children, teenagers and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
On July 1, 2014, ESCF merged with Creative Community Living (CCL) located in Winfield, El Dorado and Arkansas City, KS to continue Building Abilities Since 1920.
On July 14, 2016, ESCF hosted a birthday party in honor of Arthur Capper's 151st. birthday. Sen. Capper was also honored with a statue dedication on Kansas Ave. in Downtown Topeka. Click here to see a video of the festivities.
In October 2016, ESCF unveiled their new fresh look as part of Easterseals brand renaissance. This new look is in the form of a brighter logo, a new spin on our established name, Easterseals Capper Foundation, and a refined brand voice that will further energize our long-time supporters and inspire a new generation of friends.