Category Archives: Latest News

A Summer of Fun!

This summer, Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Camp Program was so excited to offer both in-person and virtual programming for our campers that would typically attend Camp Buckaroo or Camp Smiles! It was awesome to see so many of our camp kiddos again!

Our biggest in-person program of the summer was Smiles Family Camp: a camp for children with cerebral palsy ages 6-15 and their families! We hosted this camp during the first week of July at Camp For All; it was wonderful to see the whole families get involved in all the unique activities Camp For All has to offer: fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, zip lining, karaoke, and so much more! This program was an awesome way to continue hosting summer recreation, while still remaining socially distanced from other families! Watch Rikki & Nico’s testimony about the impact Easter Seals Camps have had on their family!

Another in-person program we hosted was Respite Camp: a morning respite program for children with disabilities ages 6-14! BIG THANKS to The Caroline School for sharing their wonderful and accessible facilities with us; we were able to host this program when school was not in session! Campers were paired 1:1 with a volunteer, who acted as their buddy and helped lead them through activities like arts & crafts, science experiments, and a fan favorite—scavenger hunt! Our campers were so happy to see their old camp buds again, and receive individualized attention from our caring volunteers. We wrapped up the summer with a talent show and award ceremony, a tradition from our usual day camp, Camp Buckaroo!

We also hosted a virtual summer camp program, so campers could still have fun summer programming if they weren’t ready to come back in-person yet! For this program, we partnered with Project Sunshine, another awesome non-profit organization in the Houston area! Project Sunshine brought their friendly and welcoming volunteers to lead our campers through online trivia games, at-home scavenger hunts, and so much more. We met every other Friday throughout the summer!

I’m so thankful for our joyous campers and hard-working volunteers that attended our programs this summer. Thanks to our incredible supporters The Carter Family, In Memory of Sam Davison, The Dull Family, Enrico and Sandra di Portanova Charitable Foundation, The George Foundation, The Moody Endowment, Prosperity Bank, Heather & Mike Simpson, Texas Children’s Hospital, United Way of Greater Houston, and The WithMerci Foundation for making Camp possible! We look forward to seeing you all this fall for more fun & games with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Camp and Recreation Programs!

Kenzie Richard, Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Camp Director

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Gogo Gadget Service Dog

The following was written by Easter Seals Greater Houston’s client Celeste who has received and is training her service dog through our Veterans Service Dog Program with the expertise of our Texas Veterans + Family Alliance partner My Service Dog, Inc.

“I want to start by saying thank you so much for all the work that Easter Seals Greater Houston’s and My Service Dog does for Veterans.

I knew of My Service Dog’s program but never really thought it was something that would be for me. I was still adjusting to everything that had changed for me in the last year due to my injury. A friend and co-worker, Kim Gunter, that works with My Service Dog, just happened to be at work on a day when I was having a really tough day. She sat down with me and talked to me about the possibilities of a service dog for me and gave me the contact info. I honestly did not think much more about it until she gave me two names and phone numbers and asked me to just call. So, I did.

I first called Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Family Program. Talking to Dr. Jennifer Wright was wonderful, she was so kind and compassionate as she explained the various programs available through Easter Seals Greater Houston. She even assured me at the end of our conversation that while I was feeling like I would never be the same again, to remember to be kind to myself. It was a great conversation. I then reached out to Allie Keaton with My Service Dog and talked about what I was hoping to gain from the program. She talked me through what to expect, the work that was involved, and assured me that while it sounded overwhelming that she would be there every step of the way. And she has been.

After I was approved for the program, it still did not really seem real. I was receiving great information weekly and starting to see all the cute puppies in training in the Veteran’s Train Your Own Service Dog class. I thought I was getting a puppy out of an earlier litter but none of them tested out to be a service dog. I was stressed and disappointed at the time but once they showed me the testing video where my Gogo was selected, it all made perfect sense. And now that I have Gogo, I know that she was meant to be mine.

Gogo is the youngest puppy of the class. She has been a blessing and a handful. I’m not saying that she is not a lot of work because she is! But she is a joy and has helped me already on days when I am not feeling my best. Allie has been amazing through this whole process. She checks in on us regularly, we train in person, and have a weekly online group class. I know just 3 weeks into having my Gogo that I would not be able to do this without Allie’s support. Gogo has been to restaurants, stores, two of my offices including a spa and everywhere that she goes she turns heads, and everyone falls in love. She was welcomed at my main office with a baby shower! My co-workers struggle to let her train and not baby her, but we are all learning together so we can make sure she is the best at her job. 

We still have a lot of training ahead of us, but every week Gogo makes great progress, and we are working hard at everything we have learned together. I never knew how much I needed the support and love from my Gogo in training and from My Service Dog and Easter Seals Greater Houston. Thank you does not seem like enough!”

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s broad range of Veterans, Service Members, and Military-Connected Family Programs!

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The Amazing Adult Program

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s program for Young Adults with Disabilities have been winding down with summer and looking forward to fall activities. We are keeping our virtual hangouts fun by bringing back our activity bags which will support the theme of the day. The Young Adults with Disabilities Program will be keeping some of our favorite classes like dance, drama and music but we will also be adding life skills classes like cooking courses with a trained chef. How cool?! We are really looking forward to the day that we can be together again but in the meantime, we will be making “Beautiful Friendship Bracelets” to remind us that we are not alone, we are in this together and we will be together as soon as it is safe. Our volunteers have been OUTSTANDING as well planning bag pick ups and distributions. They have also been key players in brainstorming a safe reintegration when the time comes. Finally, Hurricane Ida has affected some family members of our group so we will be completing our first Adults With Disabilities Program service project, partnering with Easter Seals Louisiana to get essential items to our neighbors. Talk about a big, warm hug from a distance! We are so proud of our crew as they continue to stay strong, stay healthy and support each other.

Easter Seals Greater Houston offers two Adult Day Programs that take place twice a week. We provide a safe environment for adults to socialize with one another and participate in activities enjoyed by all adults. If you would like to join our programs for Adults with Disabilities, click here to learn more or please contact Kim at khartgraves@eastersealhouston.org for more details.

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Back to School, Back to Fun!

It’s been a great start to the 2021-2022 school year at The Caroline School! Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Caroline School provides unique educational services to meet the physical, social and cognitive needs of individuals ages 0-21 with multiple disabilities, including those who have additional medical needs. Our students learn and grow so much while also having fun with their peers. Check out some of our back to school highlights!

Our students have enjoyed our new activities, seeing old friends and meeting two new friends! Welcome to The Caroline School Aidan and AJ! We are loving getting to know our new students and working towards their goals.

Classroom 1 is learning about Technology – new and old! They love taking pictures and exploring cell phones.

AJ is curious about the Technology lesson.

Classroom 2 created a Summer Adventures PowerPoint! Students used their communication devices, voices, and assistive technology to talk about their summer stories with their friends.

Melanie shares her pictures from summer

We believe that with love, patience, and the right amount of accommodations, EVERY child can learn incredible things. The Caroline School’s low teacher to student ratio allows for students with multiple disabilities and medical needs to receive the care and personalized instruction they need to help them reach their goals. We would love to add new friends to our classes! To learn more visit CarolineSchool.org.

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Back-to-School with TexasYouth2Adult

BridgingApps' Amy Fuchs giving a presentation over TexasYouth2Adult

The following blog was written by the Easter Seals Greater Houston’s BridgingApps Team.

As school gets geared back up, you may be like many parents who are looking at the last few years of their teenager’s school years and asking themselves questions such as, “What happens next?” or “Are they prepared for adulthood?”.  If you need guidance getting your teen ready to transition to adulthood, our website, www.TexasYouth2Adult.com, is a great place to start! 

Preview of TexasYouth2Adult Categories

TexasYouth2Adult empowers parents by giving them the questions they did not know they needed to ask in lists organized by age and easy-to-search categories including Medical, Education, Social & Recreational, Legal & Advocacy, Financial Management, Independent Living, and Employment. So for example, for a task categorized as Medical, they know to start with their child’s physician when asking questions.  Because TexasYouth2Adult is organized not only by categories, but also by lists created based on age ranges, parents are able to look ahead so that they can be prepared for discussing transition before the school waits to begin the discussion, which is often right before the student’s 14th birthday.

TexasYouth2Adult also contains a wealth of articles and apps related to transition needs.  For example, maybe you or your adult child needs to notarize a document.  Did you know there is an app that allows you to have certain documents notarized using the camera on your mobile device?  Check out the BridgingApps review of Notarize to learn more.  Maybe your young adult needs assistance reading certain materials for class or for their jobs?  In this case, a text-to-speech app like Speechify could be a great tool for them to have on their smartphone or tablet.

To learn more about helping your loved one move from childhood to adulthood, visit www.TexasYouth2Adult.com and create a free account so that you can access the recommended tasks lists and all of the helpful articles.  For more suggestions on recommended apps or to search for your own apps, visit www.BridgingApps.org.

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Walk With Me For Life

“When Luke was asked to be one of the ambassadors for Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Walk With Me 2021, I originally felt like being asked was such an honor for both him and our family.  However, those feelings quickly shifted as we realized the real honor was the opportunity to give back to this wonderful organization.

Without a doubt, Easter Seals Greater Houston has completely changed the trajectory of my sons life.  Like for so many other childhood disorders, early childhood intervention is absolutely critical for kids like Luke who have Cerebral Palsy.  Luke’s therapists have worked incredibly hard to create new neural pathways in his brain, and have succeeded tremendously!   It felt like we would never meet certain milestones, and now he is beginning to reach so many with ease!  Each day we get a little more excited and optimistic about his future – and that is thanks to all of the early childhood intervention he has received from Easter Seals

The Bailey family will be at Walk With Me 2022, Walk With Me 2071, and every walk in between.  This wonderful organization has completely changed our lives for the better, and we promise to continue to fundraise and share our gratitude for as long as we possibly can!” -Samantha Bailey, Luke’s Mom

Walk With Me raises funds for life-changing programs and resources for veterans, service members, children and adults with disabilities and their families. Save the date for Walk With Me 2022 – Saturday, April 23, 2022 at the Houston Zoo! Learn more.

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So Much Progress, So Little Time!

The following testimonial was shared by the parent of one of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program clients.

“I’m going to admit, I wasn’t fully locked in to the idea of getting speech therapy for my son Pierre. I am so glad that my husband and I made the decision to go ahead and try it out. Our son had normal development but at 15 months when his little sister was born, he slowed up progression in speech. I figured it would just pass but he started to regress more and more. Thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program, he is now speaking in 3-4 word sentences, expressing his wants, and even saying thank you after getting what he wants! It has only been 2.5 months and I can’t believe his quick turnaround. My husband and I are forever grateful for Mrs. Tiller from the ECI Program for being so patient and diligent in her efforts. 

Best

Paris”

Are you concerned about your baby’s development? Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention services are available for children birth to 36 months who show a developmental delay, who are at risk for a delay, have a disability or atypical behaviors. Learn more.

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Striving Sisters

“Both of my daughters were referred to Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program for physical therapy from their Orthopedic surgeon following surgeries, casting, and bracing for both girls to correct bilateral club foot. “A” and “E” have made tremendous progress reaching their developmental milestones with the help of their ECI therapists and service coordinator over the last year. The physical therapist has helped to show me activities to strengthen their ankles and feet and both “A” and “E” are so motivated during sessions. At 14 months age adjusted, “A” started taking her first independent steps this month and now she’s walking everywhere! “E” is very close to walking on her own, she is walking with little help and her push toy, and she is so motivated to stand and look at her favorite books. I am so proud of how strong both girls are and am excited to see how they continue to grow and learn with the help of Easter Seals Greater Houston ECI.”

-“A” and “E” mom 

The time from birth to age three is critical in your child’s physical and cognitive development.  To help make sure your baby is reaching their developmental milestones, you can complete this free Ages & Stages Questionnaire or check with your pediatrician if you have concerns. Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program!

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Paving the Way with Belief and Hard Work

Greta Cherry and Jamie Hodges at Hats Off To Mothers Luncheon

The following was shared by Jamie Hodges, DPT in response to Greta Cherry, an incredible friend and fellow physical therapist, retiring. Cheers to the amazing and unstoppable Greta Cherry who retired from our Infant Program after nearly 50 years of service to the babies in our community. Greta has left her mark on countless children and their families, black women following in her profession, and most definitely on all of us who worked with her at Easter Seals Greater Houston.

“When I graduated from PT school, our class had more African American students than any other class. All of the classes prior to us had 1 maybe 2 black students …..for many years until our class which had 5. We were excited and proud that we had made it into the program especially when we all graduated. 

In all my training as a physical therapy technician, student and even when I stepped into my career to encounter another black physical therapist, was rare and then to meet one that was older than me was even more rare. To be honest, I had never met another black physical therapist who was older than me until I met Mrs. Greta and Mrs. Priscilla. When I met her and shadowed her to determine if I wanted to work for Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program, I was in awe. I listened to everything she said and I took every word in! 

I don’t know why I wanted to share this with you…I guess because her impact goes beyond Easter Seals Greater Houston… I am grateful for her journey into this profession.  She paved the way for women like me.” -Jamie Hodges, DPT

Read Mrs. Greta’s heartfelt thank you note reflecting on her time as a physical therapist with Easter Seals Greater Houston and how her legacy will live on.

“I know I should have sent this thank you sooner, but having to write and send it seems so final. I found myself delaying ‘thank you’ to everyone at Easter Seals this time because it makes me so sad, it seems like the end of such an important part of my life. I had to come to the realization, I will no longer be a physical therapist and no longer work for Easter Seals. Change is hard and a final change is harder.

I want to say first, I am very thankful to have been able to work and be a part of Easter Seals for 48 years. I can look back for the rest of my life and have no regrets about my career choice. I was blessed to get my first job to be able to work with children and fulfill my dream to come true.

During all these years, I was given so much support that helped me grow to increase my knowledge and develop my skills. I was given the opportunity to serve as Supervisor of Physical Therapy for many years.

I have made so many wonderful friends, had the chance to work with some of their children. I consider all to be my family.

It has not all been work, I have had so much fun attending lots of fabulous parties, fundraisers, traveling and even getting to meet lots of famous people like [Congresswoman] Barbara Jordan. I celebrated my “30th”, “40th”, “50th”, “60th” and “70th” birthdays at Easter Seals.

I want to thank everyone for contributing to my retirement tribute. It was beautiful. I get teary-eyed every time I watch it.

Thank you so much for all the gifts and financial support. The crown is sooo beautiful. I placed it so it can be the center of attention in my home. As a matter of fact my living room is covered with beautiful gifts I have received over the years. The icing on my cake (my career) was the “Greta Cherry Award.” It was so unexpected and I feel so honored. I truly thank all those who initiated the thought of honoring me in such a special way.

It is an achievement given to me that I can celebrate knowing that I will be remembered for a long time even after I am gone. I could not ask for more. This honor came while I am living to see it. Thank you! Thank you!

May God continue to bless Easter Seals with success and growth as it serves so many people and provides for their needs.

I was around to see so many changes. Believing in what you are doing and working hard is what Easter Seals is all about.

Love you all!!!

Greta H. Cherry”

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Playing for Progress

Mason is pointing to the airplanes outside the airport 

Mason has been enrolled in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program for 5 months and he has been receiving Specialized Skills training. When he started the program, he was only saying 2 words and he was not pretending or wanting to interact much with others. Playing pretend is such a big part of language development and a fun way for our Early Childhood Intervention Specialists to work on so many skills with our clients.

Now Mason is very engaged with his parents and his sister. He will come to them and pull them over to join him in play. He enjoys pretending with his toy animals and he will copy many different actions and sounds with them . He also enjoys stacking blocks and counting them and having races with his sister where he will say “ready set go” for them to start. He has a vocabulary of over 30 words and is starting to put words together and he is beginning to use words more consistently to get his needs met. His parents are very happy and excited about his progress and feel that he is now prepared to start school when he turns 3.

“I want to thank the ECI Program and Heather Zamora (his Early Intervention Specialist). Thanks to their services, today I can say that Mason is reaching the goal. Every day I can see his improvement. I feel satisfied with the program’s services.” -Mason’s Mom

The time from birth to age three is critical in your child’s physical and cognitive development.  To help make sure your baby is reaching their developmental milestones, you can complete this free Ages & Stages Questionnaire or check with your pediatrician if you have concerns. Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program!

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