Dr. W. Barnett Owen and University of Louisville physicians saw an unfulfilled need in the Louisville community in the early 1920’s- a place for children to receive long term quality medical care. Dr. Owen asked members of the community to help fulfill this need, and in response, the Kosair Shrine Temple formed Kosair Charities Committee Inc. Other organizations including Junior League and the local Rotary Club also stepped up to help realize this need for our community’s children. In 1923, the committee incorporated and purchased six acres of land on Eastern Parkway for a children’s hospital. On May 12, 1926, the first ten patients were admitted to Kosair Crippled Children Hospital—a facility for the treatment of crippled children regardless of condition or financial standing. The active and associate medical staff was composed of 102 physicians and surgeons who were recognized as leaders in their particular fields. Initially, the hospital had 50 beds, an operating room, kitchen, and brace shop. Kosair Crippled Children Hospital grew quickly and by 1939 reached a capacity of 100 beds. During the same year the hospital became accredited by the American Medical Association. In the 1940s and 1950s, polio treatment became a high priority, and the hospital was filled to capacity at all times with polio patients. Due to the growing needs of the hospital, in 1952, the W. Barnett Owen Memorial Annex was added and the building was remodeled making Kosair Crippled Children Hospital a state of the art facility. In 1977, heavy emphasis was placed upon treating and educating abused children. In the late 1970s, the care for children continued to change, and Kosair Charities Committee began to collaborate with the Children’s Hospital, part of Norton Infirmary, under the advisement of University of Louisville pediatric physicians. As orthopedic care become less prominent, the community required a facility to immediately treat critically ill or injured children. This resulted in the consolidation of Kosair Crippled Children Hospital and the Children’s Hospital, effective May 1, 1981. The merger of these hospitals opened the door to a greater range of services offered to children needing medical care. Today, we know this collaboration as Kosair Children’s Hospital.
In 1982, since it no longer had the responsibility of operating a health care facility, Kosair Charities was able to broaden its scope of support. It began providing grants to support pediatric programs such as The Kosair Charities Pediatric Convalescent Center at the Home of the Innocents. Kosair Charities also began to provide individual help to children outside hospitals through the Special Kids program, which arranges for medical referrals, financial assistance and transportation. The property on Eastern Parkway, which once served as Kosair Crippled Children Hospital, is now the campus for the Sam Swope Kosair Charities Center. In 2013, Kosair Charities opened its East Campus on Bluegrass Parkway, which houses Louisville Pediatric Therapy Center, Bluegrass Center for Autism, and Heuser Hearing Academy. Today, through an extensive grant program, Kosair Charities is able to support over 90 agencies around the state that provide crucial medical care to children. Kosair Charities also provides grants for rent-free office space for non-profits including: CASA, Epilepsy Foundation, The KIDS Center, Huntington’s Disease Foundation, Louisville Metro Police Foundation, Spina Bifida, Trust for Life, and the University of Louisville Autism Center, Pediatric Center and Pediatric Dental Clinics. Today, Kosair Charities is the largest charity for children in the history of Kentucky and Southern Indiana. For over 90 years, they have been exemplifying their mission of protecting the health and well-being of children and providing Kosair Kids® with better tomorrows. Dr. James Ramsey, President of the University of Louisville said it best when he said, “the children of our area have no better friend than Kosair Charities.”