Elwyn, a Delaware County nonprofit that provides services for people with disabilities, is embarking on its first major new building in 19 years.
The building will have Bruce Wechsler's name on it.
His parents, Alan and Laura Wechsler of Center City, see Bruce Wechsler Hall as a way for their son, who was severely disabled as a child by a staph infection, to be remembered. It will house 36 people who need intensive medical care when it opens next summer.
"Everybody makes their mark in life, and we wanted him to be able to make his mark in life," said Laura Wechsler, who at 75 still works as a psychotherapist. "This hall is something that will carry his name and be important for a lot of people." Alan Wechsler, now retired, owned Cherry Hill Photo.
The Wechslers gave the lead donation - $1 million - for the $11.5 million project, which will house people with physical and cognitive disabilities such as mental retardation and cerebral palsy who need significant nursing care. Many will be older, but some may be young people who are ailing or dying, said Sandy Cornelius, Elwyn's president. Elwyn will provide hospice services.
Cornelius said the first residents would be people already living at Elwyn, but the facility eventually could serve people from other agencies. Advocates believe too many people with mental retardation are in nursing homes.
"There is no hospice program that's really welcoming to this population," Cornelius said. The new hall "may end up becoming a regional center for certain kinds of conditions."
Cornelius said people with disabilities live much longer now than they used to and need a new kind of facility. The new building on Elwyn's Media campus will have two 18-unit wings with wider-than-usual halls and doorways. There will be extensive space for family visitation, treatment, and dining.
When Bruce Wechsler arrived at Elwyn at age 8, there were bars on the windows.
Born healthy, he developed a staph infection after his circumcision. The infection spread through his blood to his brain. He had to have 14 operations, including one that removed half his brain.
His mother estimates that his brain operates at the level of a first grader, but he has far more sophisticated social skills. Alan Wechsler described his son as happy and outgoing.
When he was younger, Bruce Wechsler could run and play basketball. Now 52, he needs a wheelchair and is paralyzed in one arm but is not yet sick enough to move to the building that will bear his name.
"I think that he's going to have to eventually move into that facility," his mother said.