Pages Navigation Menu

Sewall’s History

Sewall was established in 1944 when Dr. Henry Sewall, a Denver physician, deeded his Capitol Hill home in the middle of 13th & Vine Streets to the cause of helping children and adults with physical disabilities. In its earliest years, “Sewall House” provided rehabilitative services to those impacted by polio, cerebral palsy and other disabling conditions. Later it was also the location of Denver’s very first Easter Seals chapter.

In the early 1960s, Dr. Sewall’s home was replaced by a state-of-the-art clinic facility after the Sewall Ladies Auxiliary and supporters embarked on the organization’s first Capital Campaign. It was launched in 1963 and named Sewall Rehabilitation Center, to provide physical therapy and rehab services to children and adults. People were assisted with mobility, physical therapy, and at one time there were services for auditory disabilities related to hearing loss.

Sewall’s mission evolved in response to changing needs in our community. In 1970, Sewall was selected to create one of the nation’s original Head Start programs for children with physical and cognitive disabilities. Because of this program’s success, federal funding was granted for the Sewall Early Education and Development (SEED) project – a federal demonstration project to assist children with physical and developmental disabilities.

To launch the project, Sewall established a cutting-edge service delivery model: Teams of educators and therapists joined together to holistically address all developmental areas, and to provide therapeutic services within the natural setting of the preschool classroom. This transdisciplinary approach, considered revolutionary in the early 1970s, continues as a hallmark of Sewall’s service delivery today.

The SEED project’s success in promoting each child’s individual development, coupled with the movement to “mainstream” children with special needs, guided Sewall’s evolution. Today, Sewall Child Development Center is dedicated to meeting the needs of all children by providing early childhood education and transdisciplinary support in inclusive environments.

In the 1980s, the clinical mission shifted to become Denver’s first inclusionary early education program as Federal laws (such as IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Act) were developed to support access. Clinical therapies for children shifted to the nearby Children’s Hospital and adult supports shifted to other area hospitals and clinics.

In 2014, the Sewall community celebrated 70 years of service. It was a significant milestone year for many reasons. In 2014, a partner non-profit organization of Sewall, REACH Charter Elementary School, was approved by the Denver Public School Board to extend Sewall’s 100-percent high-quality inclusionary education model through Fifth Grade. In 2015, REACH began operating in Denver’s Congress Park neighborhood at 940 Fillmore Street with PreK to Second Grade in the first year. Third grade began in 2016; Fourth and Fifth grades begin in 2017 and 2018 school years, respectively. In 2016, Sewall headquarters joined REACH operations on Fillmore Street.

The mission of Sewall Child Development Center provides inclusive, joyful learning environments using the power of partnerships, diversity, and belonging to enrich the social and academic growth of every child and family. Children of all learning styles, including those with special needs, learn and grow together at Sewall. Each child is supported by a team of high-quality professionals to make certain that each child’sindividual academic, social, emotional, and cognitive needs are met.

Sewall is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization, so contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Sewall does not deny service to a child based on the family’s ability to pay. As a result, one-third of the budget must be raised from the community to provide high-quality services to all children enrolled. (For every $1 invested in high-quality early childhood education, society is repaid as much as $17.)

Contributions are deeply appreciated 24/7 at Sewall.org/Donate and may also qualify for the Colorado Childcare Contribution Credit.