It’s been two years since Daytona Beach native Patricia Potts joined the Easterseals Northeast Central Florida family as a volunteer, and she continues to be a proud part of the organization.
Patricia is a virtual “Jill of All Trades” in her weekly volunteer role in the Easterseals Autism Center of Excellence, handling everything from filing therapy notes to updating medical records. She assists staff with making copies, keeps tabs on important office supplies and equipment and organizes information packets about Easterseals, among many other tasks.
Patricia’s love of Easterseals and organizations that assist children with disabilities blossomed at an early age. Her heart was forever changed by early interactions with them, so when it came time for her to seek volunteer work, she returned to support their missions.
“When I was a little girl growing up in Daytona Beach, my grandmother worked at a school for children with physical and mental disabilities,” said Patricia. “My school was next door, so I walked over after school and waited for my grandmother to get off work before we walked home together.
“During that time, I attended many field trips with grandma and the school’s teachers and children,” she continued. “I made friends with the students; we walked and talked and played games together. I was curious about them. I think that even as a child I knew I was seeing children who many other children never even knew about. It always has left a special place in my heart.”
Patricia is particularly impressed by the role Easterseals plays in supporting families of children with autism.
“I believe Easterseals’ work with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is especially important in our community,” she said. “Under Dorothy (Lefford)’s direction, the therapists and everyone involved have so many resources to assist children with autism.”
One of her favorite events at Easterseals Northeast Central Florida is World Autism Day.
“World Autism Day at Easterseals the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen,” remarked Patricia. “Educated people from all over come to this event and offer their time and expertise to help parents, grandparents, guardians, family members and friends who are affected by autism. I encourage everyone to take part!”
Patricia said supporting the staff is her goal in volunteering at Easterseals.
“I want to help them have a good day at work,” she said, “and take a little stress off their day.”
Each year, Easterseals Northeast Central Florida serves more than 500 children who have been diagnosed with ASD. The nonprofit agency also operates the Autism Center of Excellence – a one-stop center for diagnosis, interventions and case management for children who were referred by their physician for evaluation of ASD. To learn more about Easterseals’ autism services, visit http://www.easterseals.com/necfl/our-programs/. For questions about the free autism screenings, please call 386-944-7815 or email Davine Vincent at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Margaret Smith, Easterseals Charter School Principal. Margaret oversees the Charter School programming at Easterseals Northeast Central Florida locations in Daytona Beach and DeLand.
For Margaret, building trusting relationships with Easterseals families through leading the Charter Schools is Job One.
“My goal is ongoing collaboration to assist families,” she said. “I want to be known for in my position as being an effective leader that always puts the needs of our children first.”
As a leader within the Easterseals family, Margaret strives to be known by others as visible, available, approachable and collaborative.
“One advantage to working in a team-focused environment is that I am always being surrounded by team members who want the best for our students,” she said. “The collaboration and motivation to do what is best for our children is at the forefront of all our decisions.
“Having a ‘Kids First’ philosophy means that we work with children and families to meet each child’s individual needs,” she added. “We collaborate with families to provide tools needed to shape the future of our early learners.”
Margaret said she’s grown personally and professionally watching Easterseals teachers learn new strategies and apply them to the students.
“Collaborating, watching the learning process of others and delving into the next steps are wonderful ways of ensuring the natural process of learning and problem solving,” she said.
When people think of Easterseals, Margaret wants them to think about positive relationships, entrusting the Easterseals team to promote the highest level of learning and development for our students.
Get a glimpse into the magic of Easterseals Charter Schools and learn more about this outstanding Easterseals’ program by visiting us online.
If you plan to attend the Nov. 1-2 Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA fundraiser for Easterseals and NASCAR Foundation, be sure to cheer for Matt Birnie as he stands atop the 8-story International Motorsports Center and prepares to rappel. He’s not fond of heights, but he loves Easterseals, and that’s why he’s being brave for courageous kids again this fall.
The 38-year-old account executive at Brown & Brown has been connected to Easterseals for more than 30 years – ever since his brother began receiving services as an infant. Matt’s brother signed up to go Over the Edge in November and Matt will be joining him again in a show of support.
Last year, when Matt was approached by Easterseals Northeast Central Florida’s VP-Planned Giving Susan Moor about rappelling in support of Easterseals for the first time, he had an instant and strong reaction.
“I asked Susan if she was crazy,” he recalled. “Heights are not my favorite thing.”
As a veteran “Edger,” Matt’s hoping to continue to motivate others to keep conquering and overcoming their fears.
“Considering all the challenges children who are helped by Easterseals face, (rappelling) is a minor challenge for me,” he said. “When I’m up there, I just keep saying to myself, ‘Don’t look down. Don’t look down.'
“I’ve seen what Easterseals has done to change our family in time of need, and I’ve seen how it’s helped my brother become who is today,” said Matt. “I feel very passionate about supporting it.
“Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA is a fun event that really makes a difference,” he added. “I know firsthand how Easterseals serves the community; Easterseals is an organization that does things for families in need and can help kids live out their dreams. Why not do it?”
We want YOU to consider being an Edger with Matt this November! Raise funds for Easterseals and NASCAR Foundation while having a blast being brave for courageous kids. To learn more about Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA, to sponsor a rappeler, sponsor the event or sign up for a spot on the ropes, visit www.daytonaovertheedge.org.
Everyday heroes, thrill seekers and community leaders are invited to BE BRAVE FOUR COURAGEOUS KIDS during the third annual “Over The Edge At ONE DAYTONA” (OTE) event on November 1-2, 2019.
Registration is now open for individual fundraisers! The first 140 fundraisers who raise a minimum of $1,000 will earn their spot to go Over the Edge of the west-side façade of the 102-foot-high International Motorsports Center, the headquarters of NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation (ISC).
Register and learn more about the event at www.DaytonaOverTheEdge.org, and follow the event’s progress at https://www.facebook.com/DaytonaOverTheEdge/. We want to cheer you on as you go Over the Edge for kids!
About The NASCAR Foundation
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Inc. (NASCAR) established The NASCAR Foundation in January 2006 to support initiatives that positively affect the lives of children throughout the United States. The 501(c) (3) non-profit entity partners with medical experts and other charitable organizations to fund children’s health care programs. The NASCAR Foundation has cumulatively donated $32 million to reach more than one million children.
About Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida
Easterseals has been helping individuals with disabilities and special needs, and their families, live better lives for nearly 90 years, and serves more than 17,500 individuals and families with a range of disabilities to achieve their full potential. With facilities in Daytona Beach, DeLand, Bunnell, and Leesburg, Easterseals’ purpose is to the way the world defines and views disability...whether physical, intellectual, emotional or social, by making profound, positive differences in people's lives...everyday.
Easterseals Northeast Central Florida is offering free autism spectrum disorder (ASD) screenings for children ages 18 months to 17 years at its Daytona Beach location, 1219 Dunn Ave.
Walk-ins are welcome weekdays from 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Parents and guardians should allow 20-30 minutes for the screening once the appointment begins.
More than 2 million Americans live with ASD, a neurological developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. With love and community support, they can live independent and productive lives.
Each year, Easterseals Northeast Central Florida serves more than 500 children who have been diagnosed with ASD. The nonprofit agency also operates the Autism Center of Excellence – a one-stop center for diagnosis, interventions and case management for children who were referred by their physician for evaluation of ASD.
To learn more about Easterseals’ autism services, visit http://www.easterseals.com/necfl/our-programs/. For questions about the free autism screenings, please call 386-944-7815 or email Davine Vincent at email@example.com.
Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery is at the top of the heap of the fantastic options at ONE DAYTONA – the Daytona Beach area’s epicenter for premier retail, dining and entertainment. And again this year it's joining forces to support Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida and The NASCAR Foundation for Charity Pint Nights, a unique beer tapping with $4 pints from 6-9 p.m. on Thursdays Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17.
All donations go to Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA, which benefits both charities with its rappelling event Nov. 1-2. (Rappelers sign-up is live on daytonaovertheedge.org. Don’t miss the fun!)
Rock Bottom is passionate about pints and maniacal for malts! Its local brewmaster creates handcrafted brews that range from crisp to roasty and everything between. Rock Bottom beers have won gold, silver and bronze awards around the country.
If that’s not enough to get you to hit Rock Bottom for Charity Pint Nights, Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery serves fine fare, too. The menu features savory starters like asiago artichoke & crab dip andbacon cheddar poppers and wings, while the entrée menu features steaks, salads, pizza, tacos and crafted items including pretzel-crusted chicken, Cajun pasta and shrimp & grits. Lighter fare is also available, as are mason-jar desserts! Who’s ready for bourbon pecan pie or salted caramel toffee? Yes, please!
Find Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery inside ONE DAYTONA at 1864 Victory Circle, building K. Rock Bottom is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. – midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.
ONE DAYTONA is open from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday - Saturday, and Sundays from noon – 6 p.m. Check out all its offerings – including Cobb Daytona Luxury Theatres and soon-to-open GameTime Family Entertainment Center, and get to know ONE DAYTONA.
To learn more about Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA, to sponsor a rappeler, sponsor the event or sign up for a spot on the ropes, visit www.daytonaovertheedge.org.
My name is Kelly Parsons Kwiatek, and I’m the Immediate Past Board Chair for Easterseals Northeast Central Florida and Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Halifax Health.
At Halifax Health I am responsible for “all things legal” within the Halifax’s healthcare system. In my board position with Easterseals, I participate in the oversight and strategic direction of the organization. (I also see myself as a sounding board for our President/CEO Bev Johnson when needed.)
If my calculations are correct, I began my role on Easterseals’ board of directors 15 years ago, and I never looked back.
Like many volunteer leaders at Easterseals, my relationship with the organization has a personal beginning. When I was a little girl, my mom was the fundraising chair for our local Easterseals. Among other accomplishments, she helped start the Harley Davidson Bike Raffle (with the help of then-staff member Mary Harowski). That annual raffle raised thousands for local Easterseals families during its glory days.
If you’ve been in Daytona Beach for many years you may remember the Harley raffle. I have memories of my mom going nightly to Main Street in Daytona Beach during Bike Week to volunteer, all dressed in her (conservative) leathers. She’d take donations for raffle tickets for Easterseals, getting bikers excited about the chance to win that pristine machine. Every year she’d take me with her for a daytime shift so I could help. That’s how my involvement with Easterseals began…via my mom!
Another reason for my passion for Easterseals is the experience that my family has had with my aunt. She was born with cerebral palsy. She went through several surgeries as a child, but she didn’t have the benefits of Easterseals programs. I feel they would have changed her life for the better. I was very close with her and had always wished for her an improved quality of life in several respects, which is what I feel Easterseals does for clients and their families. Our services are irreplaceable.
Looking ahead, I’m excited for all the events on the horizon at Easterseals; I hope you can become involved in them too! Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA on November 1-2 and Walk With Me in April…those are the kinds of events that are important to our Easterseals community. During those times, we share moments as a group of people within our “family” who assemble – be it for a few minutes or a few hours – to support each other and the cause. It’s meaningful.
Easterseals Northeast Central Florida gives people in our community -- real people who we know who are going through a difficult or transitioning time – something vitally important: hope. It gives them hope through community and guidance and services. Is there anything more powerful?
I invite you to learn more about Easterseals Northeast Central Florida and consider giving your time and resources to help us continue to make a difference as we take on disabilities together.
I’m proud to serve as your Immediate Past Board Chair and thank you for all you do to help Easterseals make an impact every day. What a wonderful mission to be a part of.
Do you have a preschool child who is challenged by special needs and/or disabilities? Easterseals Charter Schools may be the perfect fit for your little one.
In Daytona Beach and DeLand, Easterseals Northeast Central Florida Charter Schools provide hands-on and comprehensive education for students ages 3 to 5. The inclusive classroom setting integrates students with special needs and typically developing students with the Easterseals Child Development Center. This helps all students achieve the best possible outcomes.
Just take a look at Walter, a student who graduated last year from the Easterseals Charter School in DeLand. “Walter loves school,” noted his mother. “So for us it was just important that he felt safe and welcomed. Easterseals Charter School was fun for him, and he looked forward to going every day.” Walter’s teachers ensured he transitioned well and gave him whatever downtime he needed. They accommodated his schedule and kept his parents aware of any issues in the classroom.
“My son felt safe and comfortable to grow and learn at Easterseals,” Walter’s mom said. “I can’t ask for more from a school.” When it was time to leave the charter school, Walter was ready to face new challenges and learn with his brother and friends at a public school in DeLand.
Fast facts about Easterseals Charter School:
Additional programs offered at Easterseals Charter School:
Easterseals Charter School’s Lead Teachers hold teaching certificates from the State of Florida, and must meet the same requirements as teachers in Volusia County public schools. Furthermore, Associate Teachers must have a minimum of an Associate’s Degree (two-year degree) in the early childhood education field. Preferred teacher’s assistants hold a CDA credential. All teaching professionals at Easterseals Charter School are offered opportunities for development and continuing education.
Want to know more about Easterseals Charter Schools? Visit us online or call 386-944-7801. Get to know more about why Easterseals Charter Schools may be the perfect learning environment for your little one.
It’s hard to believe, but summer vacation is more than halfway over. And while many students need a few weeks to get accustomed to a summer schedule, the same is true for the start of school after a summer full of different routines, environments and structure.
Children on the autism spectrum may need extra help and support transitioning back to school too. Easterseals Northeast Central Florida is here to help. Below we’ve collected suggestions on how to best assist young people with autism in successfully starting the new school year; suggestions that also will help parents and caregivers chart the course with greater ease:
And finally, ask for help when you need it, and leave the past in the past. Every school year is different, and challenges change along with them. This year won’t be like the ones before, so be ready with resources and an open mind. Reach out to your friends, family, and your Easterseals support team. We are here to help you and your child succeed in the new school year…and all year round.
Sources: AutismSpeaks.org, IanCommunity.org, Chla.org
By Bev Johnson
President/CEO of Easterseals Northeast Central Florida
This April, Easterseals Northeast Central Florida welcomed 100 teams and more than 650 participants to its annual Walk With Me fundraiser at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. This year’s event was as impactful as always – bringing awareness to Easterseals' many abilities-focused programs that help young and old reach their highest potential. It also celebrated national Easterseals 100th birthday, which was April 22.
It’s true: Easterseals has advocated for people with disabilities for 100 years. But what’s worrisome is how effectively Easterseals will be able to affect the next 100 years with the limits imposed by insurance companies. Our effectiveness in the next century will not be limited by expertise, need or heart; it will be limited by health equity that’s on the verge of extinction.
After years of decline, Florida’s uninsured children rate increased in 2018. The issue entered the spotlight when the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families released a report not long ago that stated Florida, after years of declining numbers of uninsured kids, is seeing an increase in uninsured children.
It’s a sudden, unsettling trend that all of us should care about, and we should anticipate it will continue until we collectively decide that it’s unconscionable.
The report’s authors, Joan Alker and Olivia Pham, state that 12 states had rates of uninsured children that were significantly higher than the national average, and Florida’s included. Of the state’s youth (18 and under) population, 7.3 percent are without health insurance –- that’s around 200,000 children. The authors flatly declare: “The nation’s many years of progress in reducing the number of uninsured children came to a halt and reversed course in 2017.” Florida is at the top of this most unfortunate list.
Easterseals Northeast Central Florida, which offers services throughout Volusia and Flagler Counties, experiences this insurance-coverage deficit daily. In addition to offering scholarships to families whose children are uninsured, Easterseals also often offers scholarships to children who are underinsured. This means that families have commercial health group insurance, but their policies do not offer specific therapy disciplines, or they may be severely limited in quantity. (For example, the health group insurance may offer 30 therapy sessions for the child, versus the recommended 3-times-per-week for 6 months recommendation by healthcare providers.) Alternatively, the deductible may be so high that families can't possibly fund services before co-pays set in.
The number of children enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP and non-group coverage declined this year in Florida. Why? According to Alker and Pham, factors include national political efforts to repeal the Affordable Care act, the cap on federal Medicaid funding, and the unprecedented delay by Congress to continue CHIP funding (which allowed for its temporary lapse).
Further, the study reveals, because many of Florida’s children have immigrant parents (though these children are U.S. citizens themselves), and because the current Administration has instituted policies that target immigrant communities, it’s likely these parents are deterred from enrolling their children in national healthcare programs. According to KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation to track the well-being of children in the United States, 1.355 million children of immigrant parents lived in Florida in 2016. The number increases yearly.
Why does Easterseals care? Why should you care? Easterseals understands that when children do not receive the healthcare they need, they are less successful in school. And then, this lack of achievement follows many of them through life, affecting their ability to thrive as productive members of our communities. This long-term reality impacts our economy, our healthcare system, our workplaces and our neighborhoods…everything.
Let’s be Americans who believe in achieving health equity for all Americans. When we believe this, we must support the position by our actions. We need to urge our Representatives to focus on child healthcare priorities. Call the District offices in Washington, DC (202-225-2706), DeLand (386-279-7343), Palm Coast (386-302-0471) or Port Orange (386-756-9798).
Our country has the most advanced medical care available in the world. However, how well we can access this care largely depends upon our health insurance allowances. For the vulnerable of our communities – including children who are uninsured and underinsured – obtaining the health care needed to thrive isn’t a right; it’s a privilege.
Easterseals is doing its part. Florida, will you do yours?