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Sunshine Kids

The new Sadlek Sensorium helps special-needs children integrate sensory and spatial information

When children are able to gather and process sensory information, they are free to learn.

When children are able to gather and process sensory information, they are free to learn.

In 1953, the year Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as president and Vero Beach got a brand-new ball park called Holman Stadium, Sunshine Physical Therapy Clinic was founded on 17th Avenue, across the street from the Hibiscus Bowl, Vero Beach High School’s first football field. 

In the spirit of community that still characterizes Vero Beach and Indian River County, the land for the clinic was donated by the county, while the wood frame building, transported on rollers from its original location, was a gift from prominent Vero Beach land developer W.C. Graves Jr. Grafting the building to its new location was made possible by the generosity of the local Building Trades Council, whose member carpenters and electricians contributed their time and services to clear the site and ready the building for use. 

Today the surroundings are still open, a Florida scene of diamond-hard sunlight and sky, the landscape marked only with a few vernacular homes, the Boys and Girls Club to the north, the Hibiscus Bowl across 17th Avenue, upgraded in 1967 with concrete stands and a name change to the Citrus Bowl. During school hours, traffic on 17th Avenue is almost non-existent, making it easy to get to Sunshine Physical Therapy Clinic. Half-hidden behind a stand of oak trees, from the outside modest and unassuming, the clinic, like the concrete used to upgrade the high school’s football stadium, has improved with age.  It began as the County School for Handicapped Children, a name that was soon changed to Sunshine Center, a reflection of the pervasive optimism of the day, as well as a new sensitivity to who was called what. In 1953, with 10 patients per month, the facility’s programs of speech and physical therapies were designed to meet the needs of youngsters challenged by birth defects, the aftermath of accidents or disabling diseases such as polio. A year after its inception, the center was incorporated as a non-profit organization, making it eligible for funding from agencies such as the March of Dimes, the Easter Seal Society and, sometime later, the United Way. In 1959, when the Indian River School Board assumed responsibility for educating the mentally challenged, the focus of Sunshine Center shifted, and occupational therapy was added as a treatment modality.