Originally known as the Taylor County Society for Crippled Children and located in a wing at an elementary school, the name was changed in 1956 to West Texas Rehabilitation Center to better describe the scope of services that were offered.
The first Executive Director and Physical Therapist was Shelley Smith. Shelley had obtained his degree in 1951 with the idea of becoming an athletic trainer. During his training with polio patients at Herman Hospital in Houston, he saw many people from West Texas who were having to make the travel to Houston to receive the services they needed.
His experiences there influenced his ideals and philosophies; "I noticed that only the wealthy got first-rate service and treatment. The middle and lower income people would end up in hock for the rest of their lives." With the initial seed planted, Shelley Smith arrived to take over the reins and help 'grow' a type of rehabilitation center somewhere in West Texas that would provide a service for all handicapped, regardless of financial status or race.
The first of many volunteers to champion the beginning of our hope to build a treatment center for children with Cerebral Palsy were from the Junior Service League (later known as the Junior League of Abilene). Over the years, volunteers have continued to play an important role in the development and operation of the Rehab Center. Hundreds of local citizens serve on the WTRC board, raise funds through their participation in events, and help with daily operations.
From these humble beginnings, West Texas Rehabilitation Center has been dedicated to helping people become self-reliant. We have grown to a multi-campus organization with corporate headquarters in Abilene, and campuses in San Angelo and Ozona. Every year, we treat thousands of patients who dream of independence, dignity and freedom, regardless of their race, color, creed, place of residence or ability to pay. Donated dollars continue to play a big role in helping us to expand our services to meet the ever-increasing demand of taking care of our friends and neighbors right here in West Texas.