The Kessler Foundation was established in 1985 and is one of the largest public charities in the United States supporting people with disabilities. Kessler Foundation Research Center has research programs designed to improve function and quality of life for persons with spinal cord and traumatic brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis and other neurological and orthopedic conditions. Kessler Foundation has also distributed millions of dollars to programs that promote the employment of people with disabilities through its "Transition to Work" Signature and Community Employment grants. The Foundation's Special Initiative grants also support related community programs like ThinkFirst, an injury prevention program for children. Kessler Foundation has a full-time staff of 90 individuals, divided between two locations in West Orange, NJ.
Over sixty years ago, Dr. Henry H. Kessler founded the Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation; a hospital dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with physical disabilities. Following World War II, the institute served disabled veterans and civilians. In 1951, it received a grant from the State of New Jersey toward a pre-vocational diagnostic unit. The vocational education program for people with physical limitations matched interest and abilities with previous work experience and assisted patients in job placements. Responding to an increased demand for services, in 1961 the Institute expanded from 16 beds to 48 beds. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the institution continued to expand both in terms of patient capacity as well as outpatient facilities.
In August 2003, the Henry H. Kessler Foundation sold Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation to Select Medical Corporation. The Foundation continues its focus on rehabilitation research, education and community programs. The Foundation continues to distribute funds to support the scientific research at the Kessler Research Center and employment programs that help people with disabilities return to work.
Kessler Foundation's research division is called Kessler Foundation Research Center. It includes 90 staff members who work in such research areas as neuropsychology, neuroscience, outcomes assessment, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, rehabilitation engineering, gait analysis and motor control.
Kessler Foundation's "Think First" is a community health education program presented to New Jersey school children in grades K-12. The program serves to educate children and teens about safety and injury prevention and promotes greater respect for people with disabilities. The information is presented by a survivor of spinal cord injury who delivers safety messages and shares his or her personal experiences. The program is the state chapter of a national "Think First" network.
WheelBlazers is a wheelchair racing team for individuals with physical disabilities. The team gives participants the opportunity to be a part of a competitive, organized sports team. Throughout the summer and fall the team practices regularly and participants in regional races.
Due to national trends among people with physical disabilities, Kessler Foundation decided to strategically focus the majority of its external grant allocation toward increasing the employment of people with physical disabilities.
The Kessler Foundation's "Transition to Work" initiative seeks to support organizations and programs that serve people with physical disabilities through training, job placement and other support services. The Foundation does so through Signature and Community Employment Grants.
The Signature Program Grants are multi-year grants supporting large initiatives that increase opportunities for New Jersey citizens with disabilities to obtain competitive employment. Grants amounts are $100,000 to $250,000 each per year, for maximum project funding of $500,000.
The Community Employment Grant program supports projects, programs, pilot initiatives, and creative solutions that work toward improving the employment and career advancement of New Jersey citizens with disabilities. Grants are for one year and range from $25,000 to $50,000 each.
Kessler Foundation sponsors the Telecommuting Pilot Project with $438,687.[when?] Run by the Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), the program matches individuals with severe physical disabilities who can work from their homes with employers who need services and support. More than 25 individuals have undergone job and vocational placement assessment and have received vocational counseling and technical support as well as job placement assistance.
On October 12–15, 2008, Kessler Foundation co-sponsored the International Conference on Behavioral Health and Traumatic Brain Injury hosted by St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center. The conference brought together medical and behavioral health experts from around the world to address the challenges of rehabilitating Iraqi war veterans with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Attendees included experts in medicine, psychology, psychiatry, neuropsychology, neurosurgery, epidemiology, public policy and rehabilitation from the U.S., Europe and South America. The conference's objective is to formulate a report for Congress outlining steps the government should take to respond to the needs of individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Kessler, Dr. Henry H. Kessler (1968) The Knife is Not Enough. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
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- “Kessler Foundation Sold Kessler Institute to Select Medical Corporation”
- “About Think First”
- Matteson, Stefanie (3 June 2004). "Athlete refuses to let accident slow him down" Courier-News.
- “Kessler Foundation Announces 2008 Grant Opportunities for People with Disabilities in New Jersey”
- Dilworth, Kevin C. (10 April 2008). "At-home work plan promoted for disabled" The Star-Ledger.
- Superville, Denisa (10 June 2008). "Conference to focus on brain injury; St. Joseph's will be host." The Record.