Forward Together Campaign Exceeds $10 Million Goal

Parent Talking to Child

ChildServe announced today, its largest fundraising effort in the organization’s 92-year history, the Forward Together campaign, has surpassed its $10 million goal. The campaign was launched in December 2018 with an anticipated three-year timeline. Thanks to the generosity of 168 donors, including 97 first-time contributors, the Forward Together campaign generated $10,640,164 in 16 months.

“In the midst of navigating COVID-19, ChildServe supporters have proven that even when we’re apart, we can still move Forward Together,” said Teri Wahlig, M.D., ChildServe CEO. “We are so grateful to our board members who helped lead this charge and the incredible generosity of our donors who believe in our mission to help children with special healthcare needs live a great life. Our services impact more than 4,600 children across Iowa each year, and we are proud to further fulfill an important role in pediatrics for children and families when they need it most.”  

“ChildServe’s mission is what touches the hearts of our donors and supporters. As a result, this campaign will allow for new construction projects and expanded programs that will enable more children in Iowa to receive the care they need. That’s what makes our work and the generosity of our donors worthwhile,” said Tom Mahoney, ChildServe Forward Together Campaign Chair. “I am grateful to all the donors who enable ChildServe to offer continued hope and expert care to even more children and families in Iowa.”

With fundraising complete, ChildServe is moving forward to bring the three campaign initiatives to life. The initiatives include: opening a pediatric behavioral health clinic, building a new pediatric inpatient rehabilitation unit, and expanding specialized, 24/7 nursing care for individuals with complex medical needs. 

Behavioral Health

Through the Behavioral Health program, ChildServe mental health experts help to fill the care gap in pediatric mental health services for children who also have developmental and intellectual disabilities or other medical diagnoses. With growth enabled by the Forward Together campaign, ChildServe anticipates serving over 1,400 children in the Behavioral Health program within the next three years. This would double the number of children served annually when the campaign began in 2018. ChildServe’s Behavioral Health program currently includes autism treatment, mental health therapy, and psychological testing. Construction has begun on the Variety Behavioral Health Clinic at ChildServe in Johnston. The clinic is named in honor of Variety – The Children’s Charity of Iowa in appreciation of the organization’s lead gift of $1 million.

“Giving children and families access to behavioral health services helps them turn their dreams of a great life into a reality,” said Misti Johnson, Director of Behavioral Health Services at ChildServe. “Everything from their daily interactions with family and friends, their ability to connect with others, their success at school, as well as their personal safety and happiness, will be positively affected. As we see construction move forward on the new clinic, and see additional experts added to our team, we are thrilled to know that more children in central Iowa will soon have access to life-changing services.


Phase 1 of construction is complete at the Variety Behavioral Health Clinic, located within ChildServe’s Johnston location. Phase 2 will begin in the near future.

Complex Medical Care 

ChildServe offers the only licensed long-term care program in Iowa for children and young adults with complex medical needs. The Forward Together campaign will expand this level of specialized 24/7 nursing care to the growing population of individuals who previously would have aged out of the program into an adult system with few, if any, appropriate placement options. 

Thanks to partnership with the state of Iowa, ChildServe was able to extend our care license to offer long-term care services to individuals with complex medical needs through age 30,” Dr. Wahlig said. “The Forward Together campaign is giving us the means to add both space and team members who have specialized training in caring for individuals with complex medical needs. One of the most rewarding aspects for our team members has been partnering with parents to continue to serve their child, who may have aged out of our program, for many years to come. It has been a heartwarming experience to accomplish this tremendously important work.” 

ChildServe has added five beds and specialized equipment to its current inpatient unit and opened the first group home in the state designed to care for young adults with complex medical needs in the fall of 2019. This six-bed group home in Des Moines has enabled individuals who at one time lived in ChildServe’s long-term care unit to be able to live in a community home environment with 24/7 nursing care. 

Pediatric Rehabilitation

The Forward Together Campaign will allow ChildServe to build a state-of-the-art inpatient rehabilitation medicine unit, the only pediatric facility of its kind in Iowa. Its areas of specialization include pediatric brain injury, multi-trauma, orthopedic, spinal cord injury, burn and wound care.

“This new unit will allow ChildServe to enhance care for children with injuries, impairments and other rehabilitation needs as they transition from hospital to home,” said ChildServe CEO Teri Wahlig, MD. “Kids who come through our doors for inpatient rehabilitation have a wide range of needs, but we meet them where they’re at and help them take the next step forward.”

Construction will begin on this one-of-a-kind service in the coming months. Learn more about the Forward Together campaign and see our donor list.

JoJo’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit is expected to serve more than 2,000 children in the next 10 years. The unit was named as a surprise for ChildServe trustee and campaign donor Joanie Houston, whose grandchildren call her JoJo.

Forward Together Campaign Committee
  • Tom Mahoney, Chair
  • Teri Wahlig, MD, CEO
  • Kip Albertson,
  • Jerry Deegan
  • Nick Gerhart
  • Joanie Houston
  • Brian Laurenzo
  • Chris Littlefield
  • Larry Stelter
  • Tom Stewart
  • Kim Willis


ChildServe improves the health and well-being of nearly 5,800 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs.

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