Creating Leaders to Achieve More Together

Notes from the President: 

jonAs Easterseals DC MD VA embarks on implementing our ambitious strategic plan and realizing our vision of creating a hopeful, inclusive community where ALL individuals realize their potential and live meaningful lives, I’ve been struck by the increased need to enhance the leadership skills of our entire team, so that we can achieve more together.

As an organization, we are already more than halfway through a six-month journey with Unlocking Potential Foundation. This is a leadership program founded by noted executive and political figure Carly Fiorina focused on enhancing leadership skills at all levels of the organization – from direct care staff to executives – which I wrote about in a previous blog.

GWBPC Stand To - Module 1. Photo by Grant Miller

On a personal level, I am also honored to be part of the inaugural class of The Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program, an initiative that helps develop the leadership skills of individuals serving our nation’s veterans. By participating, I hope to learn as much as I can about good leadership and serving veterans effectively.  In the first session, we heard from the great minds of President George W. and Mrs. Laura Bush, The Honorable Bob McDonald, Gen. Stanley McChrystal (U.S. Army, Retired), David Brown, Tom Luce and Keith Hennessey.

Recently the initial convening was held in Dallas, and I want to share some of the learnings that are important to our community. At the start of the session, Kacie Kelly, program director at the Bush Institute, reminded us that the key to reducing veteran suicides is not just better crisis care, but rather “creating a life worth living.” I was immediately struck because it reinforced the awesome power of our own vision – to create a hopeful, inclusive community where all people achieve their potential and live meaningful lives.

GWBPC Stand To - Module 1. Photo by Grant Miller

Maureen Casey, CEO of Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, also reinforced the importance of serving the entire community. She reminded us that military spouse unemployment (16 percent) and veteran underemployment (15 percent) remains at an all-time high, despite veteran unemployment rates dropping over the last few years.

I am proud that the Veteran Staffing Network (VSN) and Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Easterseals serve the entire military community – spouses and family members, guard and reserve, wounded warriors – in addition to veterans. We help military families on multiple levels from providing counseling, childcare and respite care to finding employment. Additionally, the VSN not only focuses on finding veterans jobs, but on long-term career placements with higher salaries. And our recent partnership with Blue Star Families will help address the high unemployment and underemployment of military spouses.

GWBPC Stand To - Module 1. Photo by Grant Miller

For nearly 100 years, Easterseals has been a leader in serving individuals with disabilities or special needs. We have always known that family support is crucial to successful outcomes. That is why we extend our services to caregivers as well. As we continue our work making profound, positive differences in the lives of people of all ages with disabilities, special needs, military backgrounds and their families, I want to highlight just a few key ideas that I took away with from The Bush Institute that I plan to apply as head of this great organization:

  • Focus on values-based leadership and explain your values to the team, so that they can grow in their decision-making capabilities.
  • Be intentional by setting a small number of priorities and referring back to them daily to avoid distraction.
  • Assign a rotating “devil’s advocate” to ensure you hear all perspectives before making decisions.
  • Leverage data so you’re not just another guy with an opinion.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on our vision or leadership.  Please email me jhorowitch@eseal.org.

Easter Seals Celebrates and Supports Mothers

Notes from the President: 

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Mother’s Day is May 13. As a community-based organization dedicated to fulfilling our mission of making profound, positive differences in the daily lives of people of all ages with disabilities, special needs, military backgrounds, and their families, Easter Seals is pleased to celebrate this special day and support Moms and their families all year around.

We also recognize that it’s important for mothers to get a break to care for themselves sometimes. That’s why Easter Seals Serving DC MD VA has a respite program for families of children with disabilities or special needs, and their siblings, including military and Wounded Warrior families. Respite days prevent burnout and keep families whole.

Cheryl Niles is a military spouse with two daughters, one of whom has significant health problems and requires constant care. She learned about Easter Seals respite care from a resource on base and she said it was a defining moment for her. She worked with Easter Seals to set up regular in-home respite care for her daughter Madeline every week. “You can’t just have a babysitter when you have a child with so many needs,” says Cheryl.  “But because of Easter Seals, I can truly take comfort in knowing that we have someone who is qualified to take care of our daughter.”

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In addition, Cheryl’s girls enjoy community-based respite events monthly at our Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center. Children are paired one-on-one with volunteers through a careful matching process, then  spend a fun day doing age-appropriate activities. Then their mothers – and other caregivers – can take a break from caregiving while knowing their children are having a wonderful time.

The events provide one-on-one interaction between children and trained volunteers and have included magicians, face painters, clowns, petting zoos and other engaging, hands-on activities.

Jaster Family PhotoAnother mom, Megan Jaster, has four children with different special needs and a spouse who deploys regularly. In addition to in-home respite, her kids come to the monthly events to have fun. “At Easter Seals, my kids can just be kids, with other children with special needs and without,” Megan says.

If you’d like to volunteer in the respite program or need respite support, please contact Brooke Kaiser at bkaiser@eseal.org.

So, happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there and especially to mothers of children with disabilities and military children.

Celebrating a Personal Call to Serve at the Advocacy Awards Dinner

Notes from the President: 

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On May 22, 2018, we will gather to honor the Cohen Veterans Network and General Mark and Mrs. Hollyanne Milley, 39th Chief of Staff of the United States Army at our Advocacy Awards dinner.

I look forward to this event each year as we celebrate the hopeful, inclusive community created by Easter Seals’ incredible staff, and honor advocates who have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to advancing opportunities for children and adults with disabilities or special needs, including military families. The Advocacy Awards Dinner also brings together leaders in business, government relations, and professional services along with military and government dignitaries to support vital Easter Seals programs and celebrate our collective impact on our community.

MG-Mark-A.-Milley.jpgThis year we are pleased to honor General Mark A. Milley 39th Chief of Staff of the United States Army and his wife of 33 years, Hollyanne Milley. General Milley has been in the Army for 35 years. He has led forces in Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, and he served on the operations staff of The Joint Staff as a Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon. General Milley assumed duty as the 39th Chief of Staff of the United States Army on August 14, 2015, a position he continues to hold.

Mrs. Milley is a nurse and spent eighteen years working in a hospital setting as a Critical Care Nurse in intensive care units and emergency rooms. For the last 13 years she has specialized in Cardiac Nursing. In addition to serving as an advisor to Easter Seals as a member of our Ambassador Committee, Mrs. Milley volunteers with and advises several organizations including the Red Cross, USO, and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and Remote Area Medical in the Appalachian Mountains each summer to tend to those who cannot afford medical care.

MilleyWe will also recognize the Cohen Veterans Network, a non-profit organization created by Steven A. Cohen to serve post- 9/11 veterans and their military families by providing high-quality, accessible, and integrated mental health care. The Cohen Veterans Network seeks to improve the quality of life for veterans, including those from the National Guard and Reserves, and their families regardless of discharge status. Cohen Veterans Network works to strengthen mental health outcomes and complement existing support to save lives, save families and save futures.

Through a national network of Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics, including the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Easterseals, veterans, their families and the family members of active duty military receive low to no-cost, personalized, and evidence-based mental health care, case management support, and local referrals to deal with other stresses like unemployment, finances, housing, and legal issues. cvn-summit-homepage

Easterseals has been proud to partner with Cohen Veterans Network. The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Easterseals opened last November and has served nearly 200 veterans and family members to-date.

I would like to thank our Inspiration Sponsor for this event, Transformation Systems, Inc., as well as our Independence Sponsors Booz, Allen, Hamilton; Citi; and OptumServe. In addition, I want to thank our Media Sponsors Washingtonian and Washington Business Journal.

If you are interested in being a sponsor of this event or purchasing tickets, you can find more information on our website or you can contact our Director of Events, Abby Cikanovich at 301-920-9702 or acikanovich@eseal.org.

I look forward to seeing you on May 22nd at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center!

Early Childhood Reflections for Autism Awareness Month

Notes from the President: 

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Education experts have long known that high quality early childhood education helps children meet their developmental milestones and prepares them to enter kindergarten ready to learn. This is true for typically developing children and their peers with autism spectrum diagnoses as well.

That’s why all classrooms in Easter Seals’ child development centers are inclusive: children with autism spectrum diagnoses, other disabilities or special needs, and their typically developing peers all learn and grow together. Our highly skilled teachers deliver lessons with a person-centered approach so that each child learns and grows in her or his own way while getting the social, emotional, and academic skills necessary to succeed in school and life.

Many special needs, such as autism, are diagnosed through observation. Therefore, having highly skilled teachers is an advantage for all children because their special need may not be apparent at birth. Even things that are screened, such as hearing, can be missed.  For example, a teacher of one of our 10-month old children noticed that the child did not respond when she sang or clapped. With testing, the pediatrician determined that the child was deaf, and he now has cochlear implants and is thriving.

The teachers and therapists in our DC, Maryland and Virginia child development centers have extensive experience working with families and early intervention teams to develop and implement education plans for children on the autism spectrum. Over our years of teaching and caring for children, we have found that in order to develop best practices that address each child, practitioners need to adapt interventions to the unique needs of the individual. To facilitate that, teachers work in partnership with parents and other professionals to create enabling environments that encourage a developmental approach to learning.

For example, one of our students, Thiago, has been using a high-tech communication device called an Accent 1000 in the classroom. His classroom teachers have worked with the rest of his family and early intervention team to integrate the device into their relationship with Thiago and to reinforce everything he’s learned about using it to communicate.

One important feature of our approach is to make sure our centers are inclusive learning environments for students with and without special needs. Our goal is to provide stimulating educational experiences that promote each child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive growth and to help each child reach his or her full potential. We have found that children learn as much from one another as they do from the adults around them so inclusive classes mean children with autism can see their peers model behavior and language.

Overall, inclusion is the process of educating a child in a way that recognizes and assesses that child’s needs. To achieve this, we create an environment where staff is willing and able to be flexible in terms of how the curriculum is delivered and to adapt the routines and physical environment within which the child is being educated.

For more information about our inclusive early childhood program for children with autism and other disabilities or special needs, as well as typically developing children, visit our website.

The Kessler Foundation Highlights the Veteran Staffing Network’s Impact on the Community

Notes from the President:

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Since its founding in 1919, Easter Seals has been focused on innovation to change the way the world defines and view disabilities by making profound, positive differences in people’s lives every day. One of our most successful recent innovations has been our Veteran Staffing Network (VSN). Conceived as a social venture to create a long-term, sustainable solution to help veterans and military family members transition to civilian careers, VSN operates nationally.

We serve businesses by operating as a staffing agency that helps them recruit and retain veterans and military family members. We help veterans, wounded warriors and their spouses navigate career paths outside the military by providing them with free coaching and placement services.

The VSN was started thanks to funding from an array of generous organizations that share Easter Seals’ commitment to helping veterans and military spouses succeed in their careers, including our Founding Social Impact Partner Capital One. Through their support, we developed our unique, holistic approach to employment services. Now the VSN is a thriving asset for both employers and veterans by providing the support infrastructure each need to succeed.

This month, we were honored to be recognized by one of our chief funding partners for the VSN. The Kessler Foundation, a public charity dedicated to improving quality of life for individuals with disabilities, is highlighting the VSN in a new Impact Report on the project. Thanks to the generous gift from the Kessler Foundation in 2014, as well as Capital One, the Call of Duty Foundation, USAA Funds, the Morris Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, and United Way of the National Capital Region, we have been able to build the VSN into a successful program that is helping thousands of veterans and military family members build a successful civilian life.

One such veteran is Mike Inzeo, who found out about VSN while he was dropping his son Mikey off at one of our child development centers. A meeting with one of our employment coaches put him on a path to the career he wanted:

The trained employment coaches at VSN work closely with all job applicants, helping them every step of the way, from writing a marketable resume, to evaluating how well a job placement suits them and their employers once they’re on the job. To date, VSN has coached 7,733 veterans and military spouses and placed nearly 1,500 in meaningful careers. In addition to coaching and job placement, Easter Seals provides comprehensive, wrap-around support services the veterans transitioning to civilian life, which also benefits the businesses seeking to hire veterans and military spouses. Those services include Little Warriors Early Education and Child Care, Military Family Respite, and The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Easterseals.

If you or someone you know would benefit from working with the VSN as either a job seeker or an employer, visit www.vsnusa.org to learn more.

Easter Seals Makes an Impact During Brain Injury Awareness Month

Notes from the President:

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March marks National Brain Injury Awareness Month. The impact of brain injuries has received a lot of attention in recent years and with good reason. Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a brain injury, with particularly high rates among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most of us are familiar with the concept of traumatic brain injuries, or damage to the brain that occurs due to sudden injury but we must remember that brains can suffer injuries due to internal events as well, such as stroke, blood clot, or even the presence of a brain tumor. Other kinds of brain injury can exist from birth such as in cases of cerebral palsy. Brain injuries can result in a multitude of disabilities ranging from the cognitive and emotional to physical limitations.

The vast majority of brain injuries are, fortunately, mild and come with a good prognosis for recovery. We know a great deal now about concussions, which are especially prevalent among children ages 0-4 and among older teens ages 15-19. We also see concussions among adults ages 65 and older, who are prone to falls. With proper care, a person can recover from a concussion with little to no long term effects.

For children with serious brain injuries, Easter Seals is there with early intervention services to assess a child’s needs and build a plan for helping them reach their full potential. Whether that’s occupational therapy, speech therapy, or physical therapy, Easter Seals has decades of experience helping children and families. Our child development centers offer an integrated, person-centered approach, with therapists coming to the classroom to work with the children on-site. This gives the children continuity in their day – all kinds of learning take place in the same environment – and gives busy parents the knowledge that their child can get all the help he or she needs in one place, rather than having to neglect work or other family obligations to run from appointment to appointment. You may recall my blog post a few months ago about Mikey, a child who was resuscitated at birth and has exceeded his parent’s expectations with Easter Seals’ help.

At Easter Seals, we’re also working with veterans and their families to address the results of brain injuries and provide them with community based services to help them and their families thrive. One such example is Kevin, a veteran of Afghanistan who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving. When he returned home, he was searching for services to help his recovery and came to Easter Seals, where he learned about our Veteran Staffing Network. The VSN was able to help Kevin move back into the workforce, giving him the means to support his family over the long term.

Earlier this month, the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Easterseals participated in National Intrepid Center of Excellences’ Brain Injury Awareness Month Resource Fair at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. It was a very well attended event and we were able to connect with many patients as well as service providers to share information about our mental health services for veterans and military family members.

The programs we offer to veterans and their families include clinical and social services. Not only do we have highly skilled clinicians equipped to treat the symptoms of brain injuries and manage the emotional needs of the veterans, we can offer support and care to their families as well. The caregivers of injured veterans are in particular need of support services and respite care services so that they can care for themselves as well. This whole-family approach keeps families together and gives them a path forward for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps a time is coming when treatment for brain injuries will be as simple as a surgery or a medication but until that time, Easter Seals is working for families to give them the services they need to care for their loved ones.

Celebrating Pioneers of African American History

Notes from the President:

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Often people think that the need for aging services is “someone else’s problem” or “it won’t affect me.”  In fact, even the most extraordinary individuals can need support as they age. In celebration of Black History Month, I’d like to tell you about two such remarkable figures who I had the pleasure of getting to know when Easter Seals had the privilege to serve them as participants in The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Adult Day Services in the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center, Cicero Satterfield and The Reverend Douglas Moore.

When Cicero Satterfield and his family first came to visit our Adult Day Services, he was already in his 90s but still vibrant and impeccably dressed. That spit and polish style was a reflection of his experience as a Tuskegee Airman and continued throughout time with Easter Seals.

Cicero and President Obama

Cicero served as an airplane mechanic with the famed all-black unit of the U.S. Army Air Forces. Their struggles and triumphs were chronicled in the movie “Red Tails,” and while he was with us, he and other Tuskegee Airmen were invited to view a screening of the film with President Obama.

Cicero was born and raised in Mississippi and attended Wilberforce University in Ohio. After his World War II service, he returned to Mississippi before moving to Washington. He settled in Takoma Park, where he worked for many years as a DC social services official and served as a Boy Scout leader.  His love of children showed during intergenerational activities in the Center – he enjoyed games and reading with his young friends.

Cicero and Zadi

Reverend Douglas Moore was another client of our Adult Day Services in Silver Spring who has lived an exceptional life. He inspired a generation and helped shape the Civil Rights movement by leading the Royal Ice Cream Parlor sit-in, which took place in Durham, North Carolina in 1957. This non-violent protest caught the attention of Civil Rights leaders and activists around the country, including Dr. Martin Luther King. “I showed them that sit-ins can work,” said Rev. Moore. “Martin told me, ‘what you’ve done is extraordinary.’”

From a young age, Rev. Moore was a leader, activist and role model. He was the first black Eagle Scout in North Carolina, an African missionary and founder of the Black United Front. He was a pastor for United Methodist churches in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, as well as an avid art collector and long-time businessman, served on the DC City Council and even ran for Mayor in 2002.

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Rev. Moore came to us when his wife, Dr. Doris Hughes-Moore, was asked by Howard University to return to work after retiring.  As his primary caregiver, it was a priority for Dr. Hughes-Moore to find a quality, compassionate and nurturing daily care program for her husband. “The staff at Easter Seals is absolutely wonderful,” she said.  “I love the warmth of the staff and the beauty of the facility – Rev. Moore is comforted by beautiful things.”

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Keith Rouse is the activities director for The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Adult Day Services, and got to know both men well during their time with us.

“I’ve been working for almost two decades in adult day services, and it’s something I love,” says Keith. “It’s so fulfilling to provide every client the dignified care they deserve, but getting to learn firsthand about the struggles of these two extraordinary men, Cicero Satterfield and Reverend Douglas Moore, and how they overcame the injustices they faced has truly been one of the great honors and highlights of my work here.”

During their time with us, Rev. Moore’s legacy and continuing leadership and inspiration to his fellow clients, and Cicero Satterfield’s stories of his service with a trailblazing military unit, wove their special connections with history into the tapestry of the inclusive community Easter Seals creates for all those we serve.

Their perseverance and dignity in the face of adversity, and personal connections to historic eras and events left a lasting impression on all us at Easter Seals. It was our honor and privilege to have known and cared for them.

A Special Night of Smiles and Laughter with Bright Stars at Disney on Ice

Notes from the President:

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On February 15, Easter Seals Serving DC | MD | VA hosted our signature family event, Bright Stars at Disney on Ice Presented by M&T Bank at Capital One Arena.

As it has done for the last 20 years, Bright Stars provided a special evening of fun for families with children whose everyday obstacles may make it challenging to attend an event like Disney on Ice. Easter Seals families look forward to this event every year. As one mom said, “We are having a wonderful time!  My son has been counting down to this night! Thank you for sharing tickets with our family!” View More: http://kylebergner.pass.us/bright-stars-2018

Proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorships support Easter Seals‘ critical programs throughout the region, allowing us to make profound, positive differences in the lives of adults, children and veterans of all ages, abilities and backgrounds every day. It was a joy-filled evening for the families we serve and our supporters as we all enjoyed the spectacle of “Frozen” on ice, as well as the special appearances by Mickey, Anna and Elsa at the pre-event VIP reception at the PWC Club.

I’d like to personally thank Bright Stars Committee Co-Chairs Cecilia Hodges of M&T Bank and Craig Ruppert of The Ruppert Companies, and Founding Bright Stars Committee Co-Chair David Ross of Atlantic Realty Companies, for their hard work on behalf of the event and dedication to Easter Seals.

View More: http://kylebergner.pass.us/bright-stars-2018Their efforts ensure that we can make our programs and services available to even more families throughout the region and enable them to thrive. With their leadership, the Committee raised nearly $300,000.

Even though the event has passed, it’s not too late to help us reach our goal of $325,000. Won’t you please help us reach the finish line by making a donation today? It’s easy, fast and secure through our online form here.View More: http://kylebergner.pass.us/bright-stars-2018

And as they have done every year, M&T Bank supplied a team of volunteers brimming with an enthusiasm and energy to match that of the children as they worked to ensure everyone had a joyous time.  A look at photos of the event will reveal adults with smiles as big as the ones on the faces of the kids they were assisting. To view photos from the event, please visit our Flickr page.

I’d also like to thank and recognize all our sponsors: Presenting Sponsor M&T Bank; our Media Sponsors 97.1 WASH-FM and iHeart Radio, Great Day Washington and WUSA9, WTOP and Washington Business Journal; Bright Stars’ Empowerment Sponsors the Ruppert Companies and Alan Meltzer; and Opportunity Sponsors Atlantic Realty Companies, Specialized Engineering, The Halle Companies, David & Katherine Bradley, Jim Fontana and Rob & Linda Faktorow. We couldn’t have such a special evening for the children and families we serve without the support of these generous companies and individuals, and you can see the complete list of Bright Stars’ sponsors here.

View More: http://kylebergner.pass.us/bright-stars-2018For information about how you can support our Advocacy Awards Dinner on May 22, and Bright Stars in 2019 through sponsorships and ticket purchases, please contact Director of Events Abby Cikanovich at 301-920-9702 or acikanovich@eseal.org.

 

Help Easter Seals and M&T Bank Provide a Magical Evening for Children with Disabilities

Notes from the President:

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On February 15, Easter Seals Serving DC|MD|VA will host our signature family event, Bright Stars at Disney on Ice Presented by M&T Bank. It’s a special evening of fun for children whose everyday obstacles may make it challenging to attend an event like Disney on Ice, and every year we hear from thrilled families how much the event means to them.

In addition to providing a great evening for so many families in the community, the funds we raise through sponsors (individuals and corporations) and Bright Stars’ Presenting Sponsor M&T Bank enable us to make profound, positive differences in the lives of adults, children and veterans of all ages, abilities and backgrounds every day. Children like Daniel DeBatt, who along with his parents, Megan Scully and Chris DeBatt, were recently featured in a segment on “Great Day Washington” on WUSA9. Megan and Chris shared how Easter Seals and the staff at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Child Development Center in Washington, DC are helping their family thrive.

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The fundraising for the event is led by Bright Stars Committee Co-Chairs Cecilia Hodges of M&T Bank and Craig Ruppert of The Ruppert Companies, and Founding Bright Stars Committee Co-Chair David Ross of Atlantic Realty Companies. Their hard work and dedication to Easter Seals ensure that we can make our programs and services available to families who need us and that we can continue to innovate to meet our community’s evolving needs.

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M&T Bank is not only the Presenting Sponsor of Bright Stars, but also helps staff the event with a team of enthusiastic and smiling volunteers every year.  Led by Cecilia Hodges, the M&T Bank team of volunteers helps ensure that every Easter Seals family has a carefree and fun-filled evening.

Along with Presenting Sponsor M&T Bank, Easter Seals thanks Empowerment Sponsors the Ruppert Companies and Alan Meltzer, and Opportunity Sponsors Atlantic Realty Companies, Specialized Engineering, The Halle Companies, David & Katherine Bradley, Jim Fontana and Rob & Linda Faktorow. To see a complete list of companies and individuals supporting Bright Stars, please visit our sponsor page.

However, you don’t have to be a major corporation to be a sponsor of Bright Stars at Disney on Ice Presented by M&T Bank. Individuals, families, and companies of all sizes can support our mission by sponsoring or donating.

For more information about sponsorships or ticket sales, please contact Events Manager Megan Mills at 301-920-9702 or mmills@eseal.org.

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So mark your calendar for February 15, and join us and thousands of your neighbors to enjoy a magical evening as we discover the full story of Disney’s Frozen presented like never before at Bright Stars at Disney on Ice Presented by M&T Bank!

You’ll witness dazzling ice skating, special effects and unforgettable music that will magically transport you to wintry Arendelle.  And you’ll do so with the knowledge that YOU are making it possible for the children and adults with disabilities or special needs, including wounded warriors, military, veterans and their families enjoy a special night.  And you’ll feel good knowing that you are ensuring Easter Seals continues to create an inclusive community where ALL thrive.

I hope to see you on February 15!

Honoring Dr. King’s Legacy

Notes from the President:

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This January 15th, we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a national holiday celebrating his birthday. But did you know that by Congressional designation, the federal holiday is also a National Day of Service?

Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.”

Americans from all walks of life join together on that day to strengthen our communities by bridging barriers and working to create solutions to social problems. Doing so moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

Here at Easter Seals, we embody those ideals as well, through the work we do every day. For almost 100 years, we’ve been providing exceptional services, education, outreach and advocacy so that all people with disabilities or special needs, including veterans and military families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in our communities. In Easter Seals’ Inclusive Community, as in Dr. King’s Beloved Community, all individuals are valued and people with disabilities and special needs are embraced.

Our hardworking and dedicated staff strive to create a world in keeping with Dr. King’s vision. But we couldn’t do it without the generosity of our supporters and the commitment of our volunteers.

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And so on this Day of Service, I’d like to call attention to the service of two such volunteers, my friends Frank Finelli and Channel Hilliard with The Carlyle Group.

Frank is a West Point graduate and Army veteran who is very involved with charitable efforts to assist veterans through his work with groups like the Travis Manion Foundation (which presented Frank with its 2016 Corporate Leadership Award), and spearheads The Carlyle Group’s corporate volunteering partnership with Easter Seals.

Thanks to Frank’s efforts, volunteers from The Carlyle Group’ Washington, DC and Rosslyn, Virginia offices are a regular presence at our Child Development Center of Northern Virginia. Sometimes, the activities are simple, like painting and coloring exercises, free-play on the playground, learning time with flashcards and some dramatic play in the classrooms. Or they could be more intensive, like helping the pre-kindergarten students in our Little Warriors program improve their literacy and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

Channel serves on our Bright Stars Committee. Bright Stars is one of Easter Seals’ signature events. Thanks to the generosity of our corporate sponsors and volunteers like Channel, thousands of children and adults with disabilities, including veterans, wounded warriors and other deserving families are able to enjoy an exciting night out. At the same time, the event also raises funds for the critical services Easter Seals provides to the DC region. In the past, the event was an evening at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and now will be celebrated with Disney on Ice at the Capitol One Arena on Thursday, February 15th.

When I asked Channel for her thoughts about service work, she told me, “It is our pleasure to serve and continue to serve. I am a very spiritual person and believe that God set the example for us to make sacrifices and serve others. That is the true demonstration of love – serving one another.” 94fe29994c7b7b7ac6023baaf1c53781

Frank echoed Channel when he said, “In addition to the spiritual point on which Channel and I are completely aligned, as a veteran myself, I am honored to both have served and to now serve those who have served and their families, who make tremendous sacrifices each and every day.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” I know firsthand that people like Frank and Channel answer that question through their deeds. And help make the world a better place.

If you’d like to know more about volunteer opportunities with Easter Seals, whether it be at the corporate level, or as an individual with one of our programs, click here.