Changing Lives Through the Years:
A Brief History of UCP Central PA

For over half a century, UCP Central PA (UCP) has been meeting the needs of individuals of all ages and all types of disabilities. Since its inception in 1953, UCP Central PA has led the way in providing services and supports for individuals with disabilities and their families


In December 1953, a devoted group of parents, led by John P. Kessler, Sr., whose son had cerebral palsy, came together to forge a better life for their children with CP. The group sought to make significant changes in the public perception of children with disabilities, while striving to improve their quality of life. Their efforts led them to form a therapy clinic for children with CP at Polyclinic Hospital in Harrisburg. The clinic eventually became the CP Center; it relocated to Market Street in Camp Hill in 1955. There the staff provided a classroom program and therapies for children with CP.

In the 1960s, the CP Center became United Cerebral Palsy of the Capital Area and the scope of the mission expanded to serve children with all types of disabilities. An array of services for adults was added during the 1980s and 1990s, as was the creation of the assistive technology department. In August 2000, the name was legally changed to United Cerebral Palsy of Central Pennsylvania, Inc., or UCP Central PA. What began as a therapeutic service for children with cerebral palsy has evolved over the past 60 years. But the organization has remained true to the Kessler family’s original purpose: to forge a better life for those with special needs.

1950s

Began providing therapy services for children; started volunteer-run child care center; implemented community-supported youth program.

1960s

Seventy-five percent of the operating budget comes from the United Fund (currently known as the United Way); started a Courage Club day program for adults with disabilities.

1970s

Provided services to more than 100 children and adults with disabilities; established the only federally funded child care center for children with disabilities in Central PA; received an award for sustained performance, breadth, and growth of service from the state affiliate, UCP of PA.

1980s

Provided center-based Early Intervention (therapy) services; established Adult Day Programs in three counties and opened three Community Homes in Cumberland County; implemented the Assistive Technology Program; began coordination of in-home supports to help people with disabilities remain in their home and local community; $300,000 in revenue, 40 staff, 120 consumers (1983).

1990s

Opened the Capital Area Children’s Center to enhance our ability to provide Early Intervention, child care and preschool services; implemented Family Support Services and the Summer Recreation Program; $2 million in revenue, 99 staff, 810 consumers (1993).

2000s

Provided 11 Adult Day Programs throughout five counties; expanded philosophy of Adult Day Programs to include concept of a neighborhood focus; opened Hope Springs Farm; in 2006, established the UCP Foundation of Central PA, a 501 (c)3 nonprofit foundation and Type 2 supporting organization of UCP Central PA; $16 million in revenue, 480 staff, 2,400+ consumers (2007).

Provides community and center-based programs and services in 17 Central PA counties

Operates 44 facilities, including the Capital Area Children’s Center, 19 adult day programs in five counties, 17 community homes and 12 apartments, and community support services (three locations in three counties)

Changing Hands program now provides hundreds of assistive technology devices and home medical items more than 200 local individuals and families, free of charge

Opened new Alternatives adult day program in Milton (Northumberland County)

Expanded Pathways program to Cumberland and Northumberland Counties

Began a collaborative arrangement with the Penn State University Cooperative Extension to increase awareness of the AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians program

Opened three new community homes in Mifflintown, Lewistown, and Beaver Springs.

UCP is working to serve the community for generations to come. The following are some of the initiatives planned for the coming years:

  • Expand services for children and adults with Autism.
  • Address the unmet and evolving needs of individuals with disabilities in the Central Pennsylvania community.
  • At the federal, state, and local level, advocate on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families.
  • Provide a range of options for individuals with disabilities to secure meaningful employment.
  • Provide opportunities for children and adults with disabilities through the creation of accessible playgrounds and fitness trails in Dauphin and Cumberland Counties.
  • Expand Community Home and Supported Living programs.

Get In Touch

UCP Central PA
55 Utley Drive
Camp Hill, PA 17011 map/directions

Local: 717.737.3477
TTY: 717.737.0158
Toll-Free: 800.998.4827
Fax: 717.975.3333

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