Wayne Kistler died Sunday, March 12, 2006, at the age of 86. He will be missed but his contributions to the Center, the community, and the lives of thousands of families will live forever.
The Gregory Kistler Treatment Center For Children started with one family’s dream and two rooms in a hospital 27 years ago, and the Center has grown into a 12,000-square-foot facility in Fort Smith.
But the original dream remains the same: To provide help and hope for families with children who need rehabilitative treatment.
“He worked very hard and sacrificed a lot for the Center,” said Dick Fuhrman, a longtime friend of Kistler. “He enjoyed life.”
Wayne and Betty Kistler’s 6-year-old son, Gregory Kistler, was struck by a car in 1962, and suffered severe head injuries that caused him to be partially paralyzed. The Kistlers had to drive thousands of miles to receive medical treatment for their son. They recognized a need for pediatric rehabilitation services in the area.
Twelve years later, their granddaughter, Michelle Kistler, was born with spina bifida. The Kistlers knew it was time to start a therapeutic rehabilitation center in Fort Smith to bring help and hope to other families in the area.
“The Kistler Center has been the number one priority in that family,” said Ralph Smith, board of directors’ member of the Kistler Center and friend of Wayne Kistler.
Wayne and Betty Kistler started The Gregory Kistler Treatment Center For Children in 1978. They raised money for the Center, and Wayne Kistler designed and built some of the equipment that is still used today.
His determination and hard work helped the Kistler Center become the only outpatient center in the Arkansas and Oklahoma region that specializes in treating children. The Center has served more than 2,500 children and families.
“The family had their share of tragedies and disappointments, but they never let it get them down,” said Smith.
Wayne Kistler continued to be involved with fundraising activities until about three years ago when he was not able to get around well any more, said Fuhrman.
Kistler also provided treatment for any child, regardless of the family’s ability to pay.
“It was always Kistler family policy that no child would ever be turned away because of financial circumstances,” said Smith.
Despite all of his accomplishments, Kistler is remembered as a humble man. He never took any credit for what he did,” Smith said.
Kistler’s dedication continues to provide help and hope for area children with disabilities.