A One-of-a-Kind Center for Children and Families

Joe Duggan, Communications

August 26, 2019

Britain Development at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission has always provided outstanding therapy and education for children with special needs and their families. But it did so in a converted school built in 1949.

Now the program operates out of the B.E. Smith Family Center in Merriam, Kansas, a new, award-winning space designed to be as unique and special as the children it serves.

“There’s really no other therapy model like ours and there’s no other facility that’s built like ours,” said Shannon Lockwood, pediatric occupational therapist for Britain Development.

                                                                                                                                                            AdventHealth Shawnee Mission

The services Olsson provided to the $24 million project included landscape architectural, site civil, survey, and geotechnical. We focused on the site development so the professionals at AdventHealth could focus on providing the best possible outcomes for children in their new 62,000-square-foot facility.

In return, we received the privilege of helping improve the lives of families in our community, said Korey Schulz, project leader with Ochsner Hare & Hare, the Olsson Studio.

 “It’s an awesome facility,” he said. “I feel like this was one of the best projects I’ve been a part of. Kansas City is fortunate to have a facility like this – it will help a lot of kids.”


In fact, the project recently won an award of merit in the Engineering News-Record's Midwest Best Projects competition. 

One of many unique aspects of the center is that it houses AdventHealth Shawnee Mission Early Learning for the children of hospital associates and physicians. The two programs share space and some programming, allowing children of all abilities to interact and learn from each other.

“We’re going to have children leaving our program who have a greater knowledge and understanding and compassion for kids of all abilities,” said Amy Milroy, director of Britain Development.

The program currently serves 230 children with special needs from birth to age 6. Early Learning serves more than 600 children from infancy through age 12. The hospital’s foundation helps support Britain Development so that no families are turned away for financial reasons. About 90 percent of families receive some assistance.

We worked alongside project partners such as EYP, Turner Construction Company, SVPA Architects and others. AdventHealth asked the team to help answer one question above all others: What does the best look like?

The question was first posed by Doug and Nan Smith, the lead benefactors of a campaign that raised more than $20 million and attracted more than 2,000 donors. Doug is former CEO of B.E. Smith, a healthcare executive search firm founded in 1978 by his late father, B.E. “Pete” Smith.

The AdventHealth team researched and visited the best child development centers in North America to get ideas and inspiration for the new building. They needed tools and features to better connect with children who may not play with conventional toys or learn while sitting at a desk.

The center features cutting-edge adaptive equipment, fiberoptic displays, lighted bubble tubes, a high-tech aquatic area, music therapy areas, and designed acoustics throughout the building. The Britain Development classrooms open to an inclusive outdoor playground shared by both programs.

Another feature that makes the center unique is the Variety KC Compass harness system, which allows kids with mobility challenges to practice walking, standing, and communicating with their peers face-to-face.

Those are the things the experts at AdventHealth know all about, not sanitary sewers, soil testing, or how to maximize the possibilities envisioned for the site. That’s our department.

Something else we’re good at: Never forgetting who has the most at stake in a project.

Shannon shared an anecdote about a piece of playground equipment from the old site they wanted to add to the family center. She had anticipated resistance, figuring someone on the team might argue that acquiring all new playground fixtures would be easier and better.

Instead, Korey arrived at a subsequent meeting with ideas for incorporating the legacy equipment into the new project. He had even measured the equipment himself.

“It felt really nice to be in great hands,” Shannon said of Olsson. “These people are here, they’re capable, they’re knowledgeable, and they’re listening to us.”


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