Celebrating a Personal Call to Serve at the Advocacy Awards Dinner

Notes from the President: 

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: 


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:


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:


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:


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.


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.”


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:


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:


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.

WUSA9 Danny 7

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.


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.


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:


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.

MLK Day 2018

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.

Looking Back on 2017

Notes from the President:


As 2017 winds down, it’s a chance to reflect on the past year and Easter Seals Serving DC|MD|VA’s impact on our community and the supporters who made it possible.

The year started with a personal and professional milestone, as well as an organizational one. There was a passing of the leadership torch at Easter Seals as I succeeded the legendary Lisa Reeves as President and CEO. Lisa retired after 17 years as the head of Easter Seals and 35 years with the organization. She dedicated her professional life to helping the community, and it is both an honor and a responsibility to follow in her footsteps.

The Board of Directors, staff, and community leaders honored Lisa with a farewell celebration in the Richard & Rae Swirnow Center of Excellence in Training. In recognition of her visionary leadership, we dedicated The Lisa A. Reeves Community Room in the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Adult Day Services in The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center.

March brought us The M&T Bank Bright Stars. For 20 years Easter Seals has partnered with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to bring joy to children who otherwise might not be able to attend because of their disabilities or special needs. While 2017 marked our final year with “The Greatest Show On Earth,” as the Circus has now closed, we will now be partnering with Disney on Ice to continue the Bright Stars legacy of fun for children and fundraising to support vital Easter Seals services. To learn more about or support Bright Stars at Disney on Ice Presented by M&T Bank on February 15, 2018, please click here.

The Bright Stars event provides vital funding for our programs and helps make profound, positive differences in the lives of children like James. This year, our child development centers  helped nearly 400 children reach their potential and receive the highest quality early education, therapy services and equipment they need to thrive.

In May, Easter Seals honored those “Changing Lives” and presented our Advocacy Award to Ellyn Dunford, Military Family Advocate and spouse of General Joseph Dunford, 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Dan Valenzuela, President of Safeway Eastern Division, in recognition of their commitment to advancing opportunities for children and adults with disabilities or special needs, active duty military and veterans and their families.

Held at the Washington Hilton Hotel, the annual awards ceremony and dinner drew more than 600 guests and sponsors, and raised more than $900,000 to support crucial Easter Seals programs throughout the region.  During the event, Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Kyle White announced a $10 million investment in Easter Seals by the Cohen Veterans Network (CVN) to launch the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic. The Cohen Clinic provides behavioral health and support services to veterans and their families throughout the greater DC region. This transformational investment will expand the reach and impact of our programs and services and change the lives of thousands of veterans and military families in our community.

In 2018 we will present our Advocacy Award to Steven A. Cohen, Chairman & CEO of Point72 Asset Management and Founder of the Cohen Veterans Network as well as General and Mrs. Mark Milley, the 39th Chief of Staff of the US Army and Military Family Advocates. For more information about the 2018 Advocacy Awards, please visit our website here.

The summer was a busy time of construction at Easter Seals as we removed our administrative offices from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center and devoted the entire building to client services.  As part of that renovation, we’ve now celebrated the Grand Opening of the Cohen Clinic and are already serving over 70 veterans and military family members.  It’s an honor to have a recently retired Air Force Colonel, Dr. Tracy Neal-Walden, as the Director of the Clinic, and if you read her guest blog you’ll see why.

The Cohen Clinic is the latest addition to the array of services Easter Seals offers veterans, active duty servicemembers, National Guard and Reservists and their families.  The Veteran Staffing Network has now placed over 1900 veterans in 23 states, and coached thousands more as they transition from military to civilian life.

In our three Adult Day Services centers across the region, adults and seniors are thriving each and every day, as are their caregivers. Our staff organizes activities at our centers and in the community, like hayrides, holiday parties, birthday celebrations, gardening and more. We also have the great fortune of having the support of volunteers to help celebrate birthdays, organize fun activities, and help us strengthen the community.

So, as you can see, 2017 was a busy year for Easter Seals and I’m excited to be able to tell you about our priorities and plans for 2018 in my next blog post. But for now, let me wish you all the happiest of holiday seasons and my hopes for peace and happiness in your lives and across the world.

Unlocking Easter Seals’ Potential

Notes from the President:

Jon still

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu



I’m excited to share that this past weekend Easter Seals Serving DC|MD|VA began an important, guided journey working with Unlocking Potential, a new nonprofit founded by Carly Fiorina. The goal of this journey is to strengthen our leadership capacity so that we can do even more for our community. We chose to work with Unlocking Potential because its philosophy is so aligned with Easter Seals’ core values. It was founded on the leadership philosophy of its Chairman, Carly Fiorina, that leaders are made, not born; that everyone has far more potential than they realize; and that people living closest to the problems are best positioned to solve them.

CSF still3

It is so humbling to lead the incredible Easter Seals team. Over 50 of our team members from all levels of the organization chose to spend their weekend – in the midst of the holiday season – at a leadership workshop. Led personally by Carly Fiorina, the team worked to understand our opportunities and needs and begin the hard work of defining solutions that will position us to expand our services and impact on the community. The program was great because it balanced important, far-reaching leadership lessons with a practical, implementable focus. Amazingly, at the end of two full days of hard work (and, let me repeat, on a weekend!), the team was laughing, excited, and energized by the existing strength of our organization and  the opportunity build on it to do more.

Lynn still

I am personally so grateful for the opportunity to learn from Carly and her team, and I wanted to share a few takeaways. Surprisingly for me, a crucial lesson was not just what Carly said, but her demonstration of true leadership behaviors. For example, she was truly present in every session and synthesizing the comments and feedback real-time – she wasn’t just delivering a planned lecture, but making her key points in the context of Easter Seals’ unique questions, comments, and position. It reminded me how important it is for me to step back and focus on the moment, no matter how many other things may need my attention – that’s living our core value of Respect.

Lab still

She also reminded us that criticism is the price of leadership. Easter Seals is stepping up to innovate, and with innovation comes risk. Sometimes we might not achieve every goal, and the naysayers will be quick to say “I told you so,” but in trying we achieve a lot more for our community.

As we worked together, we identified some important opportunities for the Easter Seals team. For example, as the organization grows, we must ensure that all of our team members understand the breadth and scope of our services and their important role in our success.. We all want to speak with pride about the great things Easter Seals does, and help our community members access our services, but we can’t do that without sufficient information. This is an important opportunity for me as CEO to ensure that I communicate to every team member both what we do and how important each individual is in delivering our mission.

Marlo still

Frankly, there’s also some fear about the pace of change, and that’s understandable in an organization that has almost doubled in size over the last five years. I recognize that every individual who works at Easter Seals has a hard job. We are in the trenches every day delivering intensive services for the most vulnerable members of our community. That is a big responsibility. Then to say that in addition delivering an exceptional experience for every participant every day we ALSO need to innovate and change. That can be challenging, maybe even scary.

And that’s why my responsibility to our exceptional team is to ensure that they have the training and skills to take that on – to make it a little less challenging and a lot less scary – and why I’m so excited about our partnership with Unlocking Potential to build our capacity to achieve these ambitious goals.

Tim Still

It was a great weekend – and a great first step – on a 6-month guided journey with Unlocking Potential and a lifelong leadership journey for Easter Seals team members.