Donation to fund new pediatric behavioral health clinic

Parent Talking to Child

Variety – the Children’s Charity announced today the organization will gift $1 million to ChildServe’s Forward Together campaign. Launched in December 2018 with a goal of raising $10 million, the campaign is the largest fundraising initiative in ChildServe’s 91-year history. The campaign will enable ChildServe to open a pediatric behavioral health clinic, build a new pediatric inpatient rehabilitation unit and expand its ability to provide specialized, 24/7 nursing care for individuals with complex medical needs.

“Current research indicates one in 59 children in the country are diagnosed with autism, and there are more than 100,000 children with special healthcare needs in Iowa,” said Teri Wahlig, M.D., ChildServe Chief Executive Officer. “As we listen to families, we often have to think outside the box to create the programs they need. That has led ChildServeto develop services that haven’t been seen before, such as Autism Day Health or our comprehensive care options for kids with complex medical needs. Variety has played an essential role in helping turn our big dreams into reality.” 

Variety’s commitment will enable ChildServe to open its new pediatric behavioral health clinic that will provide services to thousands of children who also have a developmental disability. ChildServe is uniquely positioned to provide care to children with dual diagnoses. The clinic will consist of space on the first floor of ChildServe’s Johnston location, and include treatment rooms, multi-purpose areas, a play area, offices and other spaces devoted to therapy. The clinic will be named in honor of Variety – the Children’s Charity.

The clinic will expand ChildServe‘s service capacity in the areas of early identification and early intervention, behavioral health assessment, treatment and evaluation, care coordination and community-based supports.

ChildServe will also expand its behavioral health team to include additional mental health therapists, psychologists, applied behavior analysis specialists and a developmental pediatrician.

The organization will partner with hospitals and other providers of behavioral health and disability services. ChildServe anticipates serving 750 children by the program’s third year and more than 1,400 children annually when full capacity is reached.  

“Variety is proud to provide a grant of $1 million to ChildServe’s Forward Together campaign so they can do what they do best – provide a better life for children with special needs and their families,” said Sheri McMichael, Variety Executive Director. “Our board felt strongly that support of this magnitude would leave a legacy for both of our organizations, all in the spirit of allowing children to reach their full potential.” 

Over the past 40 years, Variety has enabled ChildServe to grow its capacity and expand service offerings to fulfill its mission – to partner with families to help children with special healthcare needs live a great life. Variety is ChildServe’s largest cumulative donor with contributions exceeding $5.7 million.

To date, ChildServe has raised more than $8 million as part of its Forward Together campaign. To donate, or to learn more, visit


About Variety – the Children’s Charity

Variety – the Children’s Charity is dedicated to improving the lives of children who are at-risk, underprivileged, critically ill or living with special needs. Funding is provided to programs and initiatives that directly impact the well-being of children throughout Iowa. For more information on how you can be a part of Variety’s work please visit


About ChildServe

ChildServe knows kids and specialty healthcare. When parents have questions about their child’s health and development, ChildServe is there with answers and support for the whole family – to move Forward Together. ChildServe’s team of experts helps identify and meet the unique needs of children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs to help them live a great life.

For over 90 years, ChildServe has partnered with families to provide much-needed healthcare services and support for children, teens and young adults. We currently offer more than 30 services, including pediatric rehabilitation, physical, occupational and speech therapy, long-term care, behavioral health, Autism, and more to meet the needs of more than 4,600 children across the state each year. ChildServe recently announced the Forward Together Campaign, the organization’s largest fundraising campaign to date, with a goal of $10 million dollars to expand facilities and enhance the complex medical, pediatric rehabilitation, behavioral health and autism programs.


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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