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  • The origins of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute

    Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute was formed in June 2013 through the merger of Courage Center and Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, part of Allina Health. Both organizations bring a strong history of service to people with disabilities to the new Institute.

    About Sister Kenny

    Elizabeth Kenny was born in Australia in 1880. She was trained as an army nurse and treated the sick for 31 years in the bushlands of Australia. She was granted the honorific the title "Sister" - used in Commonwealth countries for "nurse."

    Sister Kenny beside a child's bed

    In 1911, when she encountered her first case of polio, Sister Kenny was unaware of conventional polio treatment - immobilizing the affected muscles with splints. Instead, she used common sense and her understanding of anatomy to treat the symptoms of the disease.

    Sister Kenny applied moist hot packs to help loosen muscles, relieve pain, and enable limbs to be moved, stretched, and strengthened. The theory of her treatment was muscle "re-education" - the retraining of muscles so that they could function again.

    In 1940, Sister Kenny traveled to the United States and eventually to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where, in 1942, the Sister Kenny Institute was established. Her pioneering principles of muscle rehabilitation became the foundation of physical therapy.

    Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute became one of the premier rehabilitation centers in the country, known for its progressive and innovative vision.

    About Courage Center

    Courage Center was founded in 1928 as the Minnesota Society for Crippled Children and Adults. The organization is dedicated to meeting the changing needs of children and adults with disabilities, with an emphasis on advocacy and recreation as well as rehabilitation.

    During the 1950s and 1960s, under the visionary leadership of then Executive Director Wilko Schoenbohm, rehabilitation and training centers were established, a camp for people with disabilities was opened, and public advocacy work continued.

    In 1973, the Golden Valley facility was dedicated by Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Additional locations were opened later in Stillwater, Burnsville and Forest Lake, along with an adaptive sports program in Duluth.

    Courage Center and Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute partnered to create AXIS Healthcare, a new health care model for people with disabilities that became operational in 2001.

    In 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Courage Center was one of 26 nationwide recipients of the Health Care Innovation Award. The three-year $1.8 million award allows Courage Center to further develop its patient-centered medical home model for people with disabilities and complex medical conditions.

    Polio survivor plays the cards he was dealt: A look back at Sister Kenny's polio treatment

  • Timeline

    • 1928: Minnesota Association for Crippled Children (later became Courage Center) incorporated.
    • 1938: First 10-day camping session for people with disabilities is held near Hinckley, Minn.
    • 1942: Sister Kenny Institute established in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
    • 1952: Sister Elizabeth Kenny, the Australian nurse who pioneered physical therapy treatment for polio, died.
    • 1955: Salk vaccine developed to prevent polio.
    • 1957: Courage Cards business launched.
    • 1963: Sister Kenny Art Show for Artists with Disabilities established.
    • 1973: New Courage Center facility dedicated by Julie Nixon Eisenhower; Federal government enacts Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
    • 1975: Sister Kenny Institute merged with Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
    • 1981: Sister Kenny Institute received its first accreditation by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF); reaccreditation received in each survey year thereafter.
    • 1984: Sister Kenny Institute received the Outstanding Facility Award by the National Association of Rehabilitation Facilities.
    • 1987: Sister Kenny Institute awarded the Governor's Award for Application of Innovation and Technology.
    • 1989: Kenny Kids Pediatric Rehabilitation program opened.
    • 1996: Cars for Courage vehicle donation program launched.
    • 1998: Courage and Sister Kenny Institute create AXIS Healthcare, a new health care model for people with disabilities
    • 1999: Sister Kenny Sports & Physical Therapy Center network established for outpatients. Sister Kenny Foundation formed.
    • 2001: Courage partners with Habitat for Humanity to build first accessible home equipped with assistive technology.
    • 2003: Courage receives Federal government's New Freedom Initiative Award for innovative vocational and assistive technology programs.
    • 2005: Sister Kenny Spine Center opened.
    • 2008: Sister Kenny Research Center facility opened at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
    • 2009: Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation (CORe) program established by Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.
    • 2009: Two Courage Center wheelchair basketball teams, the Rolling Rowdies and Jr. Rolling Timberwolves win their divisions in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA).
    • 2012: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announce that Courage Center is one of 26 nationwide recipients of the Health Care Innovation Award.
    • 2013: Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute formed through the merger of Courage Center and Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.

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