The Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center Foundation was chartered in 1960, with an initial gift from Edith Wilson, widow of President Woodrow Wilson.The Foundation was organized to support the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center, the first state-owned and operated comprehensive rehabilitation center in the nation. The Center opened in 1947 to provide vocational counseling and guidance, therapy treatment under medical supervision, training opportunities, a sheltered workshop, training in the use of prosthetic appliances, speech training, and psychiatric treatment for individuals with disabilities.
The Center was originally housed in a surplus Army hospital, the former Woodrow Wilson General Hospital. Both the Foundation and Center continued to use the name of the former hospital to honor President Woodrow Wilson, who was born nearby and also signed into law the first rehabilitation program of national scope following World War I.
Under the leadership of General Harold E. Watson, the early years of the Foundation focused on acquiring a mix of private, state and federal funding to design and construct a modern campus for the Center. Slowly, the old Army hospital buildings were replaced with modern, fully accessible facilities. The Foundation then shifted gears to create new programs at the Center, securing funding and operating a number of programs that continue today such as PERT (Postsecondary Education Rehabilitation Transition).
Although the operation of all client programs have now migrated to the Center, the Foundation continues as the fundraising arm of the Center, supporting its mission of helping people with disabilities gain independence through employment. The Foundation provides resources for medical and recreational equipment, continuing education for Center staff, public transportation for clients to travel to internships and off-campus training, maintenance of the accessable Star Trail, and special capital improvement projects outside the scope of state funding.