The special populations program at JCPRD began in 1969 with a grant from the Joseph P. Kennedy foundation. Funding received from that grant was directed toward the formation of a full day-full summer day camp for special needs children throughout Johnson County. In it's heyday, the program enrolled 100 children with a variety of special needs including hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, and developmental disabilities. The camp served participants ages 5 to 21.
For many years the eight-week full day summer camp was the sole program offering for special needs individuals.
In 1978, the JCPRD wrote a Federal grant to fund a full-time special populations coordinator position. The summer camp program was expanded to include school year Friday night social activities for special needs teens, holiday dances, trips, Saturday afternoon recreation and field trips for elementary children, after school art classes, and Friday night bowling for teens and adults. Then in 1995, JCPRD was approached by Shawnee Mission School District with a proposition to transition over the school district's Special Olympics program to our agency. The agreement was for the school district to continue to fund Special Olympics for a period of three years while JCPRD identified alternate funding sources to support the program. The Special Olympics program has continued under JCPRD leadership since that time.