Patti Simcosky had no idea what to expect when she brought her daughter, Paige, to the Sunshine Center more than 20 years ago.

Patti Simcosky had no idea what to expect when she brought her daughter, Paige, to the Sunshine Center more than 20 years ago.

All she knew was that she needed the proper intervention.

“It worked,” Simcosky said Saturday night, the night when hundreds of people gathered at Riverport in North Kansas City for the annual Sunshine Center Auction. “They put us at ease.”

While this was the 16th year for the annual auction, the Sunshine Center has been around for 35.

Saturday night’s event was meant honor sponsors and recent graduates and to raise money and awareness for the center.

Nancy Lewis, a committee member and spokesperson for the Independence School District, said this year’s event was special because the center had reached a milestone – one of many hopefully to come, she said.

“We’ve had some changes, but the most noteworthy is that the Independence School District took us over within the last year,” Lewis said. “That and it’s the 35th year, and that’s special to us.”

Serving children with special needs, organizers and volunteers describe the center as not so much educational as family oriented.

From birth until the age of 5, children with specific needs interact with their environment.

There are mirrors, rugs, treasure baskets; sensory tables and books and musical instruments, and toys for pretend play. 

More than that, children learn and focus on advancing language ability, mathematical reasoning and scientific thought. Lewis said the aim is to prepare the children for assimilation into the classroom.

Simcosky, whose daughter graduated from William Chrisman High School in 2007, said the education was invaluable to her daughter. And since then, like many parents, Simcosky became a committee member.

“They’ve become like a family to us,” she said. “Serving on the committee is a way to give back to them.”

On Saturday, the center raised approximately $5,200 in open donations – not counting the silent and live auctions. Lewis said such money is one avenue the center depends on to keep functioning. In the future, Lewis said the center will add programs and/or expand.

“Right now we’re keeping steady,” she said.

Founders of the organization – Betty Snapp and Barbara Fears – were also honored on Saturday, and Independence School District Superintendent Jim Hinson said he and the board welcomed the center into the district.

“We’re about serving the needs of children,” Hinson said.