Easterseals goes the extra mile to ensure that children with special needs can lead meaningful lives. We're able to do this because we have YOU as a partner.
Through early intervention and inclusive early childhood education to autism diagnoses and specialized therapies, young children with special needs CAN have a clear path to success from the start. You can make that happen with your financial gift!
Easterseals Northeast Central Florida would be honored to receive your year-end or monthly gift to support children with special needs –- and the families who love them. Would you consider a year-end or monthly gift? Your kindness in giving flows to literally thousands of local children. Click this link to give easily or to learn more about the giving levels.
As you consider your gift this year, we invite you to read the stories of Easterseals Ambassadors Carl and Scarlett. Their families share their stories so that you can learn more about Easterseals services and the impact you make through your financial support.
You can count on Easterseals to continue to go the extra mile until every child with special needs is 100% empowered with the services and supports they need to thrive. Please join us with a year-end gift today! Thank you!
Grinning ear to ear with twinkly brown eyes smiling beneath plastic blue-rimmed glasses, Carl, age 3, exudes
happiness and love. His parents Angela and Steve have taught him such things, just as Easterseals’ Early Steps is
teaching Carl how to grow and learn through physical, occupational and speech therapies. Angela and Steve appreciate the Easterseals therapists’ teamwork approach and how they encourage their confidence. “They always explain things even if they might not be what we want to hear,” said Angela. “The therapists redirect us in ways that are better for Carl. The growth we have seen in him has been phenomenal.”
Scarlett is a curious, sweet-tempered five-year-old who’s been in the Easterseals of Northeast Florida family since her birth. Her connection with Easterseals began via her enrollment in Early Steps when she was only a few months old. The in-home visits by Early Steps therapists began soon thereafter. When Scarlett finished the Early Steps program, she entered Easterseals Charter School in DeLand. Some of the challenges Easterseals therapists have addressed with Scarlett include walking and communication. Today, Scarlett is much more exploratory and inquisitive, too, evidence she’s on the
Easterseals’ work with children and families is often visible. After all, some of a child’s most obvious developments include how they progress from crawling to walking, how they learn to feed themselves, or how they learn to read. The list goes on.
But, as most know, Easterseals services attend to the whole child – including his or her social development, emotional development and creativity.
Thanks to a recently received financial contribution, Easterseals’ Early Childhood Education Center, Daytona Beach, soon will begin offering the “Create a Pal” program to its students, allowing teachers to help children better develop important social-emotional skill sets.
Through Create a Pal, teachers will be able to create magical experiences for the children already enrolled, while allowing new students to Create a Pal (stuffed animal) when they enroll at the Center. The fuzzy friends they make with through their own creativity can comfort them while they’re at school and go back and forth from home to school with them every day as well.
“Being able to tie in the creativity of making your own stuffed animal friend with our curriculum is amazing,” said Principal Margaret Smith. “We can use the Create a Pal machine to enhance everything we do, particularly when it comes to social-emotional learning.”
“We’re grateful to the donor who made this program possible in our school,” said President/CEO Bev Johnson. “With Create a Pal, our teachers are able to provide yet another way to encourage children’s creativity and support them in their emotional development. Those are two features of our Early Childhood Education Centers that truly set them apart from other centers.”
Teachers are being trained in how to bring Create a Pal to life and parents of students at the school soon will be able to register their children for the program. It’s only a matter of time before Easterseals’ Early Childhood Education Center is brimming with fuzzy friends and extra-wide smiles.
William Arthur Ward once wrote, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
What wise words he shared with us; they’re particularly salient during this season of giving, when we are reminded of all the gifts for which we are grateful.
At a recent board meeting, Easterseals Board Member and Officer Constance Yuschok voiced her gratitude for the Easterseals’ commitment to her family. Her daughter AnnaHart has received Easterseals services for many years and has grown into a flourishing and beautiful young woman.
Constance’s heartfelt sentiments regarding why she proudly supports Easterseals with her time, talent and treasure touched all present at the meeting. We gratefully share them with you below:
• I am grateful to my dad, Dr. Treloar, for immediately recognizing the needs of his two-day-old granddaughter, Annahart, and knowing whom to ask.
• I am grateful to Lynn Sinnott, Bev (Johnson’s) predecessor, for referring my Dad to Easterseals.
• I am grateful for the Early Intervention and subsequent years of all types of therapy provided by Easterseals which helped turn my daughter's disabilities into abilities!
• I am grateful to Amal, AnnaHart’s physical therapist, who taught her to walk after many sessions and years of work.
• I am grateful to the sensory therapist who wrapped AnnaHart in rolled-up blankets, had her do hand stands (or knee stands, as it were), thereby lessening AnnaHart’s sensitivity to noises.
• I am grateful to the speech therapist who helped AnnaHart develop muscles in her face, try to overcome hypotonia, and make sounds and talk.
• I am grateful to Dorothy Lefford, the occupational therapist who helped AnnaHart try to obtain some coordination with puzzles, etc., in order to write, as well as deal with her swallowing and food issues.
• I am grateful to the behavior therapist who taught us how to try to manage AnnaHart’s outbursts.
• I am grateful to Easterseals for giving my daughter the opportunity to be her best self! AnnaHart now lives at Stewart Home School in Frankfort, Kentucky, where she can be more independent, have friends, be surrounded with others like her, have a productive life and help others at her school with equine therapy.
• And finally, I am grateful for all of the Easterseals leaders who support Easterseals not only with time, treasure and talent, but also allow other children and adults the opportunity to turn their disabilities into abilities too.
During fiscal year 2019, Easterseals Northeast Central Florida made an incredible impact on children, families and our community. Here are some results by the numbers:
Need a healthy break from caregiving? Joey’s Gift Respite, an Easterseals program, is designed to care for your child with special needs between the ages of 1-18. Joey’s Gift Respite offers four-hour breaks on designated Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The next session will be Saturday, November 16 from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. at Easterseals Northeast Central Florida, 1219 Dunn Ave, Daytona Beach.
Trained staff and volunteers care for children in a safe and fun environment. Siblings are welcome, too. Plan to pack a lunch for all children attending, and if needed, include personal hygiene supplies or medications.
Complete the enrollment form for Joey’s Gift Respite if it’s your first time attending. All caregivers must sign up online in advance or call Easterseals at 386-944-7816 at least five days before the scheduled program.
Take a break, with confidence, with support from Joey’s Gift Respite. Take time to take care of you.
When Bob and Wendy Minotti’s beloved son Joey passed away, they committed themselves to a mission of love in Joey’s name. They established Joey’s Gift, an effort to ensure that families with disabled children have access to the respite services necessary to keep their children close and families intact.
The Minottis, drawing from their own experience of being forced to place Joey outside the home, have created a pathway of hope for other families dealing with the stress of constant caregiving. Partnering with Easterseals Northeast Central Florida in 2007, Bob and Wendy continue to realize their dream of helping others through Joey’s Gift Respite Care program at Easterseals.
Easterseals understands that parents who may have left their child with special needs for the very first time could feel extremely anxious. That's why Easterseals offers free care and encouragement for parents of children with disabilities and allows them to take a short, healthy break with their spouse, go shopping alone, or carve out time to offer focused attention to another child in the family. The greatest impact of the Joey’s Gift program is the precious opportunity for families to feel comfortable and entitled to a short healthy break.
Will you help Easterseals keep this robust and important program flourishing in our community? Your financial gift will continue and enhance Joey’s Gift FREE monthly events. You can Adopt-A-Day, sponsor the Fun Day activity, or just help with crafts and snacks. If you feel led, you can help EXPAND respite care to Easterseals DeLand center and Project WARM in Bunnell.
When grateful parents return from their break, we often hear, “It gives my husband and I a few hours a month to relax, enjoy a little freedom, and get a much needed break” and “Parenting alone is hard, especially with a child with special needs. Now I have a few precious hours each month to recharge so I can be at my best.”
In short, a healthy break is a priceless gift! Joey's Gift spreads a message of caring, compassion and understanding, delivering a unique gift and highly practical need expressed by families.
You may donate to support Joey's Gift Respite program online here or contact Susan Moor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-944-7820.for more information.
Easterseals Northeast Central Florida has created a new category for recognizing outstanding staff members as part of its “Emerging Leaders” awards.
Recently at Easterseals' annual meeting, board member Melissa Burt DeVriese recognized three staff members recognized by their supervisors for overall initiative and growth mindset for the Easterseals organization. The honorees -- Deanna McGrath, Michelle Bucalos and Christina Hopkins -- are listed below. Read more about them and join us in recognizing their incredible effort, top-notch professionalism and investment in Easterseals mission!
Deanna McGrath, School Therapy Coordinator and Autism Case Manager – Deanna stepped into a new position at Easterseals as a school therapy coordinator last year and hit the ground running. She has assisted in scheduling, paperwork, is known for her consistent friendliness and upbeat attitude. She’s also an impressive seeker of new opportunities for the organization as a whole.
Michelle Bucalos, Programs Manager – Michelle is a lifelong learner and has jumped at opportunities that have presented themselves. She was one of the first staff members to fully engage in the training and use of Easterseals' donor relations management system, and she recently began writing grants as well. (Notably, Michelle found two grants that may be a good fit for Easterseals, researched them, wrote the narratives and secured funding for Easterseals through both opportunities!)
Christina Hopkins, Assistant Principal, Charter Schools – Christina has worked tirelessly building her team and building relationships in DeLand to increase quality and improve our students and families’ pre-school experiences at the Charter School there. She has done an outstanding job advancing the school, surpassing all expectations with performance. Christina is dedicated to her job and her team and families and demonstrates it daily. Most recently, she oversaw a complete renovation of the DeLand location as she acted as project manager, cheerleader, a hands-on "worker bee" and role model. Christina and her team did an incredible job to transform the Deland Charter School into a charming, inviting community school.
We are thankful for Deanna, Michelle and Christina and their ongoing efforts to help Easterseals fulfill its mission: to provide exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities.
Learn more about Easterseals programs and how our incredible team brings them to life at www.eastersealsnecfl.org.
Recently, during its annual meeting in Daytona Beach, Easterseals Northeast Central Florida officially recognized its 2019-2020 Board of Directors.
2019 Lily Award Winner and longtime Easterseals supporter Len Marinaccio commented to the assembled crowd regarding the board’s exceptional leadership and commitment. It’s because of that leadership, he said, that Easterseals is a thriving, growing and dynamic organization.
Officers of the board were installed:
Returning board members include: Matt Birnie, Lonnie Brown, Pam Browne, Sheryl Cook, Ed Dimayuga, Myra Middleton, Nancy-Ellen Otte, Paul Schandel, Don Sciotto, and Darlynn Tacinelli. Also pictured are honorary board members Jim Barocas, Patti Parsons and Becky Rutland.
The 2019-2020 board also includes new members, whose three-year terms begin this year. They are:
After recognizing the board, Len turned his attention to remembering two talented Easterseals champions who passed away earlier this year: David Hood and Gloria Cook. Both were Easterseals Honorary Life Directors.
Len remarked that during Easterseals nomination process this year, the Governance Committee unanimously favored bestowing the title of Honorary Life Director to another of Easterseals’ best and brightest champions: Sheryl Cook. With a wide smile and full heart, Sheryl accepted the honor.
Lastly, Len installed the new Board of Directors during the annual meeting, reminding the audience of the board’s values and expectations for service. Those key values include customer focus; commitment to excellence; dedication to stewardship and philanthropy; a focus on communication; dedication to respectful service; a commitment to integrity; and being an advocate for Easterseals, demonstrating its purpose in the community.
Easterseals Northeast Central Florida is ever grateful for the commitment of its volunteer board and looks forward to a productive year ahead! We thank the members for for their service.
I’m Tami Krüger, the Provider Relations Specialist for the Easterseals North Beaches Early Steps (NBES) program, covering Volusia, Flagler, Lake, Putnam and Sumter counties. The NBES program provides early intervention services to children aged 0-3 with special needs and/or developmental disabilities. My primary responsibilities as Provider Relations Specialist are provider recruitment of pediatric Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists/Assistants, Physical Therapists/Assistants and Infant Toddler Development Specialists (ITDS); provider credentialing with NBES; provider quality assurance (QA) via provider record audits and reviews; and provider liaison with the Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) Medicaid program and insurance networks.
Easterseals became an important part of my life when I enrolled my daughter, Chloe, in daycare at Easterseals’ Child Development Center in February 2016. She was a year and a half old and began in the infant room. I had noticed that Chloe was not trying to talk as much as other children I noticed at drop-off or pick-up times. Chloe’s second birthday was approaching in a few months and I brought up my concerns with her pediatrician. He said to wait until she turned two, as babies have a vocabulary explosion around two years old and he didn’t feel she needed my request for a speech evaluation referral.
One day while picking up my daughter from daycare, I was briefly talking with the receptionist about my concerns of Chloe talking and she told me to do a “parent referral” to Early Steps. I did not know what Early Steps was at the time and would discuss the option with my husband. Not long after, I found out about a job opportunity with Early Steps as the Provider Relations Specialist and applied for the position in June 2016. I got the job and began as the Provider Relations Specialist in August 2016. During my first few weeks, I spoke to my co-worker and Intake Specialist, Diane Brock about this “parent referral” for Chloe and how it worked. Diane explained how the evaluation and program worked. To my amazement, the parent referral was quick and easy, and by the end of the day, Chloe was scheduled for an evaluation with Early Steps in late August 2016 – she had just turned two and there was not much improvement with her speech.
Chloe was evaluated by the amazing Early Steps team, a Speech Therapist and an Occupational Therapist, with my assigned Family Services Coordinator present as well. Chloe was found eligible for the program and would begin receiving Speech Therapy once per week. There was no out-of-pocket cost to parents, either insurance paid for the sessions, or Early Steps would pay as last resort if child had no insurance. Another perk to this fabulous opportunity for Chloe – the speech therapist saw Chloe in the natural environment, meaning where Chloe normally spent her days. Her Speech Therapist was fabulous and saw her weekly at the daycare, sending me updates each week on what they did during sessions and what my husband and I should work on with her during the week at home.
Although Chloe understood what we said to her, she could not express what she wanted or needed. It was heartbreaking to watch her try to communicate with us and get frustrated and cry or shut down. Over a short time, we noticed a huge improvement with Chloe’s communication, her demeanor improved, and she was happier overall. I ended up moving Chloe to a daycare in Palm Coast, closer to home in 2017 just before Chloe turned three. Our amazing Service Coordinator set up transition for Chloe to receive Speech Therapy through the Flagler County Schools system after she turned three. The transition between the Early Steps program and the Flagler County Schools system was seamless and very easy.
Chloe just turned five, she is in the Kindergarten DREAMS accelerated program at the elementary school, is still receiving Language Therapy at school each week, and is a chatter-box! You would never know she had a speech delay a few years ago. That parent-referral was the best decision I have ever made in my life, and Chloe is living proof that Early Intervention works!
It has been three years since I began working with the Early Steps Program and over four years of Easterseals making a positive impact on our family. I have the unique ability to understand the value of Easterseals and the North Beaches Early Steps program as a parent and as an employee. I have had many discussions with NBES providers about my experience as a parent of an Early Steps child, and the benefits of open communication between the parents, therapists, and Family Service Coordinators, ensuring the child received the services they need. Over the past three years, I have learned so much about the North Beaches Early Steps program, but the most important thing I have realized is that every single person in our program genuinely cares about the children and their needs being met. I personally have seen my supervisor and the Program Director, Stephanie Ellis-Clark, bend over backwards to ensure the children and employees receive what they need. I am truly proud to be a part of this amazing program!
The Easterseals mission of “Taking on Disability Together” was experienced first-hand in my family. Beginning with the suggestion of making a “parent referral” for Chloe with Early Steps from the Easterseals’ Childcare Development Center receptionist, to the knowledgeable explanation of the program and providing the intake information, the ease of scheduling Chloe’s Early Steps eligibility clinic evaluation, the expertise of the evaluating therapists, the amazing service coordination, and the beneficial weekly therapy, my daughter found her confidence, her happiness, and most of all her voice.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone involved in Chloe’s amazing transformation and helping her find her voice!
I’m Lauren Burkhalter, a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. I’m also the Chair of the Easterseals Northeast Central Florida board of directors. My primary responsibilities as board Chair are to lead the board of directors in its many responsibilities as well as help drive mission awareness and board participation for the organization.
Amazingly, I’ve been a board member for more than a decade; time flies! My father Steve served for many years on the board before me. I was aware and appreciative of Easterseals’ mission and services to our community during his time of leadership, and I soon wanted to serve on the board and continue to make a difference myself.
I have a long history with Easterseals. When I was young, my parents brought me for pediatric hearing tests after discovering I may have had early hearing loss. Their positive experience was the beginning of a longtime relationship that my family would have with this incredible organization.
I’m excited about many things coming up in the next several months at Easterseals, including our “Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA” event this November 1-2. (I hope you’re excited too!) This year I have been able to get my Morgan Stanley Complex Manager to agree to go “Over the Edge” for Easterseals in the amazing rappelling event. Not only will it be fun and raise important funds for Easterseals, but 2019’s Over the Edge also will involve multiple offices across Central North Florida/Southern Georgia and include more than 200 advisors at Morgan Stanley!
As a professional with financial expertise, I know it is of utmost importance for nonprofits to have the support of their local community. I can’t think of a better way to introduce Easterseals Northeast Central Florida and all we do to my coworkers than through Over the Edge!
Why do I believe so strongly in Easterseals? Easterseals is important to our community because it provides crucial services to people all over that, without our organization, would go underserved or possibly not served at all. We bring awareness to all kinds of disabilities –- those that are seen and unseen. We provide therapy, early intervention services and even pioneered the effort to bring pediatric medical services to Daytona Beach to serve our children locally. And, we have an acclaimed Autism Center of Excellence and Charter School too. That’s just the beginning!
Many people have heard of Easterseals, but few know the depth and breadth of what we do and who we serve, and that we do it with a dedicated and knowledgeable team. I encourage you to explore our website to learn about the full scope of our services and get to know us better! When you do, it will become even more apparent why I’m proud to serve Easterseals with my time, talent and treasure.
I hope to see you at Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA! A good time will be had by all!