Luke Madson on a specially designed pediatric treadmill for therapy at the Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric Neurorecovery
Luke Madson on a specially designed pediatric treadmill for therapy at the Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric Neurorecovery

The Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery at the University of Louisville brings about recovery for children with spinal cord injuries through therapies developed by the center’s director, Andrea Behrman, professor in the UofL Department of Neurological Surgery, and her team within the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center.

Kosair Charities, which supported the program at its inception in 2014, has extended that support through 2026 with a new grant for $5.5 million over five years.

Children in the clinical and research programs of the Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery are treated with innovative, science-based therapies such as activity-based locomotor training, neuromuscular electrical stimulation and transcutaneous spinal stimulation. These therapies have led to improved strength, abilities and overall health for the children in ways their families thought would not be possible.

“We went from feeling hopeless to hopeful after just one conversation with Dr. Behrman,” said Kylee Hoelscher who, with her husband and older daughter, moved from California to Louisville in 2016 so their then-6-year-old daughter Eden could continue therapy.

“This is the only program in the world that offers hope for children with a spinal cord injury,” Hoelscher said. “When she started, Eden could not even sit up on her own and attended school at home. Now she goes to school independently and has sleepovers with friends. She rock climbs. She plays tennis. What they’re doing for her is life-changing.”

“We are grateful to Kosair Charities for their continued support for the Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery, a remarkable program that gives hope for recovery to children with spinal cord injuries – hope and care they can find almost nowhere else,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapdudi. “This support, along with that of other pediatric research and clinical care programs at UofL, will help us fulfill our commitment to advancing our health, not only for children in Louisville and Kentucky, but the world over.”

In addition to the multi-year, $5.5 million in new funding for pediatric neurorecovery, Kosair Charities has designated $900,000 this year for other pediatric programs at UofL:

  • $475,000 for the Kosair Charities Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine, led by Melissa Currie, professor of pediatrics, to support education, research and advocacy to help curb all forms of child maltreatment.
  • $225,000 to purchase cardiorespiratory monitors at the UofL Health – UofL Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, led by Tonya Robinson. These cardiorespiratory monitors provide real-time and trended vital signs, allowing for a comprehensive evaluation of an infant’s current status and of changes occurring before a devastating event. The monitors assist in determining the causes of medical events and help prevent them from happening again.
  • $200,000 for pediatric cancer immunotherapy research at UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center, directed by Jason Chesney, that will allow the center to build on the cancer immunotherapy drug discovery work begun in 2020 that already has revealed new small-molecule inhibitors.

“Everything we do is for children, whether it be with spinal cord injuries, cancer, those born prematurely, or vulnerable – every child who has specialized needs – they are the motivation behind everything we do,” said Keith Inman, president of Kosair Charities. “There’s no better investment than the children in our community, and we simply cannot do this work without partners like the University of Louisville. The partnership of UofL and Kosair Charities helps ensure so many children have the healthiest lives possible.”

At the Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery, the funding from Kosair Charities will support further advances in therapy for children with spinal cord injury, as well as research and training for future researchers and providers. It also will enable the program to accept younger and medically complex children, develop a teen-focused, recovery-based program and study neuromodulation, a way to stimulate the spinal cord and improve mobility and health.

“Children with spinal cord injury are at risk for multiple medical and health complications. This grant from Kosair will allow us to expand our focus to improve areas of their health beyond movement,” Behrman said. “This will not only get these children physically better, but help them have a healthy life.”

The Madson family also relocated to Louisville for this program, moving from the Minneapolis area to ensure their son Luke could continue the therapy, based at UofL Health – Frazier Rehab Institute.

“The more Luke moves, the more alive he is,” Sarah Madson said of her now-2-year-old son, who was the youngest child to start the program at 15 months. “When we arrived, he was crawling on the ground, maybe doing little circles, with no forward movement. He is now walking in a walker everywhere and engaging with the world. This program has meant everything to us.”

The grant announced today brings Kosair Charities’ total support for the center to $13 million.

In April, UofL and Kosair Charities celebrated a milestone of topping $50 million in gifts from Kosair Charities to UofL since 1982. The grants announced today bring that total to $56.8 million.