Jojo’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit, a new 23,000-square-foot inpatient rehabilitation unit at ChildServe in Johnston, will provide eight inpatient rooms as well as a six-bed nursery for infants to stay while receiving treatment. The newly renovated space features an extensive therapy gym that adjoins ChildServe’s therapy pool area, which has recently undergone maintenance and restoration. Photo by Duane Tinkey

ChildServe will soon open its newly completed inpatient rehabilitation unit, Jojo’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit. The 14-bed unit, which replaces a smaller inpatient rehabilitation unit that has operated since 2007 at ChildServe’s Johnston medical campus, provides the only free-standing, comprehensive pediatric inpatient rehabilitation program for children and teens in the state of Iowa.

As a specialty pediatric health care provider, ChildServe provides more than 30 services to over 5,200 children across Iowa. The nonprofit provides care for children and teens, from birth to age 21, who have experienced medical conditions related to brain injury, spinal cord injury, orthopedic rehabilitation, and burn and wound care, as well as providing follow-up care for neo-intensive care unit infants after they leave the hospital.

The new center, which encompasses about 23,000 square feet within ChildServe’s 181,000-square-foot medical complex, includes eight inpatient rooms for children to stay while receiving rehabilitation treatment, along with a six-bed nursery. The bright, open unit features dedicated spaces for play areas suited for children of different ages — including a sensory wall with colorful interactive touch-light games for toddlers, a play space for infants and even a hangout area for teens.  

Natural lighting from large windows provides a cheery therapy gym space that offers state-of-the-art equipment and technology, including specialized technology to help children walk, an antigravity treadmill, an aquatics center, and multiple functional electrical stimulation technologies such as the stepper, bike and Xcite.

ChildServe’s rehabilitation program is led by Dr. Fred Klingbeil, who is Iowa’s only board-certified pediatric physiatrist. “Dr. Fred, as we call him, is a unifier for pediatric rehabilitation in the state of Iowa,” Wahlig said. “He has forged partnerships and collaboration for the betterment of pediatric health care with hospitals and healthcare organizations at the local and regional level.”  

“ChildServe is unlike anything else in the nation due to the breadth of connected services all under one roof,” Klingbiel said. “Our team of experts can be found in one location – at Jojo’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit. This includes a team of certified pediatric rehabilitation nurses, over 50 certified brain injury specialists, and therapists with specialized training.”  

ChildServe’s operations are self-sustaining, primarily through Medicaid funding that pays for the costs of the treatment, Wahlig said, while donated funds are used to enhance programs, purchase equipment and expand facilities.

The new unit was funded as part of the nonprofit’s comprehensive “Forward Together” fundraising campaign that was launched in 2018, which raised $10.6 million.  

“As a nonprofit organization, projects like the rehabilitation unit are made possible as a result of philanthropy,” said Dr. Teri Wahlig, ChildServe CEO. “We are proud to offer comprehensive rehabilitation services locally, so families don’t have to travel out of state for these important health care services. What ChildServe donors and supporters have made possible through their generosity is the powerful gift of hope.”

The unit is named for Joanie Houston — known as Jojo to her grandchildren — who with her husband, Dan Houston, chairman, CEO and president of Principal Financial Group, donated $500,000 for the center. Their donation was matched by a $500,000 gift by the Principal Foundation. Plaques throughout the new unit recognize numerous additional personal and corporate gifts that made the project possible.

“There is nothing more precious than a child’s health and well-being,” Joanie Houston said. “This investment builds upon an incredible 94-year history of serving children with complex medical needs and their families. We are proud and honored to be a small part of ChildServe‘s history of success.”