Tag Archives: Easter Seals Greater Houston

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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Running Past the Limits

My name is Jennifer Wright, PsyD and I am so happy to be part of the Easter Seals Greater Houston team. I started as a Harvey Case Manager over three years ago and will surely retire at ESGH! I now have the honor of working with clients through the Service Members, Veterans and Military-Connected Families Programs.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with West Nile Virus Encephalitis at age 40 that I wanted to run. The neurologist told me he wasn’t sure if I would ever roller blade or run again. I didn’t have my impulse control back yet…I told him, “Forget it! You don’t know who you are talking to. I am going to roller blade and run some day! Ridiculous!” I stormed out of the doctor’s office, wanting to proving him wrong. In that second, I made the decision to dedicate my daily life to helping people find hope.

Being sick kept me from being able to sit up and caused me to fall over in the shower. Though I had never been a runner before, these new obstacles made me want to run more than ever. I also began working at Easter Seals Greater Houston, loving that the organization brought individuals hope from every interaction. The agency exemplifies this in every interaction with clients, from our initial conversation at intake to follow through several months later.

I was inspired to run the Woodlands Marathon because there are families who no longer have loved ones that can run (death, injury, suicide etc…) or there are families whose kids need 24 hour care. At mile 18 and 22, I was so nauseous from the pain. I felt the tears down on my face- I kept telling myself…”your veterans and families with disabilities push through difficult moments every single day. They embrace this because their struggle never goes away. You breathe through it, in the same way they do. They can do it…you can do it- just like them!” I made it to the finish line thanks to the families who share their stories with me at Easter Seals Greater Houston.

Watch the incredible Jennifer Wright finish her race here! Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s programs that serve veterans, service members, children and adults with disabilities and their families.

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Advance Auto Parts is Advancing Inclusion

Easter Seals Greater Houston, in partnership with Advance Auto Parts, the Easter Seals National office, and the James Emmett Company, has begun a project to recruit persons with disabilities for positions within Advance Auto Parts stores and the distribution center for the Houston region. Advance Auto Parts has a company-wide initiative to increase the number of employees who have disabilities throughout the company. Both full-time and part-time jobs, across all shifts, are available at three Advance Auto Parts stores in Houston and at their parts warehouse in north Houston. Houston is the fourth city in America where Advance has initiated this project. A similar project began in Dallas the same day as the Houston project. Advance has a goal of increasing the number of employees with disabilities in every state in which they have facilities.

Easter Seals staff have reached out to Texas Workforce Solutions (TWS) offices to include them in the partnership through their services for persons with disabilities. TWS can provide equipment an employee may need, job readiness, and job training and job coaching if an employee needs assistance on their job. We have also made information about this initiative available to the Easter Seals Veterans and THRIVE programs.

When a person with a disability wishes to apply for a job with Advance, they should go online to https://www.advanceautoparts.jobs/en-US/page/retail-careers to determine the job(s) for which they wish to apply and contact Robert Williams at RWilliams@eastersealshouston.org to make sure their information is given to the James Emmett Company, which will shepherd their application through the interview process. Persons who apply through this initiative will receive a job interview and extra points toward meeting the requirements for their chosen jobs.

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Letter from the Heart

To our friends at Easter Seals Greater Houston, I would like to thank you for the support you have given to our family as well as to many other families like ours. Your great contribution to many families like ours is extremely helpful, we are very grateful for the support that the Easter Seals Respite Program has given and this makes our life and work easier with our children and other families in special need. Respite Blog Careigiver for November spanish translation

Your work is not simply an office job but a way to be good human beings and in the same way, it will be rewarded with the best payment that they could accrue which is the blessing of God. You are the ones who who give hope to every person who labors with disability and makes things possible and others to relax, breathe and sit down with the support they need.

Hoping that these few but grateful words will come to your hearts, I am very grateful to them, that God will continue to bless them.

-Valentin, Easter Seals Respite Client

Respite Services provides relief options to parents who provide ongoing care of their family member who has a disability. Many parents of children and adults with disabilities have low incomes and cannot afford to hire providers to take time away from their children. Many people with disabilities require 24-hour, around-the-clock supervision, attention and care. This continuous demand becomes a tremendous drain on caregivers emotionally, physically and mentally-this care will remain constant as they grow older. Consequently, families of children with disabilities are at high risk for divorce, substance abuse and child abuse because of the continuing stress of caring for the child with disabilities. Respite care is an assistance program to parents, but just as importantly, is a prevention program aimed at stopping some of the social problems that can result from the tremendous demands made on families due to the disabilities of their child or the institutionalization of the family member with a disability. For more information click here. This important program is largely possible because of the generosity of our community, please consider donating today.

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The Power of Communication

CTP 2nd blog Anna pic

For some children and adults having a voice to communicate comes from an augmentative and alternative communication option. A way to communicate.

Anna was referred to Easter SealsChildren’s Therapy Program to get specialized services to learn to use a high-tech communication device so that she can communicate her own thoughts to her family and friends. She uses a wheelchair for mobility and has a lot of difficulty controlling her motor movements including her breath support and muscles for speech. The therapists have been trying different communication devices that let her “touch” the screen with her eyes. In addition to her speech therapist, Anna works with physical and occupational therapists to strengthen her core, stretch her arms and legs, and relaxation techniques. All of this helps control her posture and head control so that she can successfully activate her communication device.

Anna has a great sense of humor and is really motivated to get her mom or therapists to laugh. She has been practicing telling jokes and silly stories. It has been great getting to know the “real” Anna now that she is able to show us how much she has to say. Her mom has been very excited to get to know Anna’s favorite things and hearing her opinions.

Due to the success she has had in her weekly sessions, Anna’s school is working with her family to provide additional supports for Anna to use her device at school and in the community. She is also starting a standing program to help her regain strength and function, help with transfers, and improve breathing and other quality of life measures.

Daryn Ofczarzak, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Children’s Therapy, BridgingApps

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The Wonders of Early Childhood Intervention

To the Easter Seals ECI Infant Program – the Woodlands team. Way to go Jeannie, Lisa, and Nicola!

Our experience with Easter Seals Early Childhood Intervention Program was a very positive one. From the very beginning (our daycare suggested we reach out when my son was about 11 months old). little boyAustin’s initial evaluation was a lot to take in, but they explained everything they were doing (and more importantly, WHY), and what the process would look like to begin services and what we should expect (this all before we ever had a diagnosis too)… over the past two years, I have relied heavily on Jeannie and Lisa’s guidance on best practices for us to be using with Austin at home, helpful toys/exercises/etc., and celebrated almost every milestone with us along the way. Easter Seals ECI Staff have been more than flexible with my often hectic work schedule (even when I sometimes forget to call and let them know Austin wouldn’t be at daycare for whatever doc appointment/illness/trip 🤦🏻‍♀️), and I loved getting feedback/photos/progress updates from Lisa after Occupational Therapy sessions. I, of course, wish they could have worked with Austin even more than what was available, but ECI has provided an incredible foundation for Austin’s development and future success. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough in this case and I’m quite sad that it’s come to an end.

Austins Mom – Easter Seals ECI Client

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Celebrating Warrior Princess Ava

Ava spent the first 63 days of her life in the NICU, as a little heart warrior, fighting for her life. Today, Ava is an adorable little princess, delighting everyone with her sweet smile. This story is a celebration of her victory over those first battles, and the battles she continues to face.

At five months pregnant, Ava’s mom, Mikki, learned Ava had a congenital heart defect (CHD).  Two weeks later, Mikki found that the heart condition was much more severe than initially thought.  When taking a class about her daughter’s upcoming stay in the NICU, Mikki’s water broke.  She spent the next 32 days in the hospital, on bedrest, until Ava was born at 33 weeks.  The cause of her heart defect was determined at about one week old. Ava was diagnosed with 22.q.11 chromosome deletion (DiGeorge Syndrome), “the most common, uncommon syndrome”.  Ava struggled with feeding and sleeping issues, as she fought to gain enough weight to have her first heart surgery at one month old.  Ava continued to deal with feeding and sleeping concerns, trying to gain weight, for another month after her surgery.  At 2 months old, Ava was discharged to go home.  Staff from the hospital gave her mom a pamphlet about ECI (Early Childhood Intervention), which Mikki dismissed at first.

Ava’s first few months at home were a difficult physical and mental adjustment for her whole family.  An autoimmune condition was revealed, which meant Ava was not strong enough to receive immunizations, and needed to be separated from her 3-year-old sister. Her pediatrician also followed up on the hospital’s suggestion, and recommended ECI. At six months old, Easter Seals Greater Houston started providing ECI services.  Ava received PT (Physical Therapy), OT (Occupational Therapy), SST (Specialized Skills Training), and Case Management. Nutrition was added for two months due to Ava needing to gain weight for a second surgery, which Ava was able to have at 8 months old.  Even though the surgery was considered “a full repair”, she will need more surgeries when she’s older, as her heart grows, for maintenance and additional repairs.  According to her mom, after the second surgery, “we came home with a new baby”. Ava had more energy, and overcame her eating and sleeping struggles. With her new-found energy and ECI’s therapy sessions, “everything fell into place”.

Ava started to crawl at one year old and mom states, “she was the fastest crawling baby I ever saw in my life”. She walked at 25 months old and developed her hand (fine motor) skills. Aided by SMOs (Supra-malleolar orthosis), which give her stability needed as a late walker, Ava now runs!  Ava communicates by pointing, showing what she wants, and using about 30 signs. “Ava has no problem getting her needs known. She’s following her own road, doing milestones in the right progression.” In the fall, Ava will attend the PPCD class with Montgomery ISD, and continue to receive PT and OT services, as well as adding Speech Therapy services from Easter Seals ECI Program.

When asked about how Easter Seals Early Childhood Intervention helped, Mikki reported: “I didn’t know what to do before ECI.  They guided me through her condition and what needed to be done first.  Every therapy was building on what needed to happen next.  ECI also encouraged her big sister to participate.  The therapists gave ideas on how to incorporate the two girls to do daily activities together, and how to make one-on-one time with her big sister.  I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Her mom added: “Thinking that Ava would need therapy was hard for me to accept, but God gave me this child, and it was my job to give her what she needed to be successful.  Ava’s an amazing, sweet little girl, who has taught me so much.  They call heart babies ‘heart warriors’ because they fight battles they don’t even know they have to fight.”  Ava truly is, the perfect combination of warrior and princess.

It has now been four months of #StayAtHome.  That is around the same amount of time your baby/toddler reaches new milestones. Are you keeping a checklist? Are you watching for the next great milestone reached?  Your baby, who might have been five months at the start of #StayAtHome, now at nine months should be standing while holding on, can get into sitting position, sits without support, pulls to stand and crawls.  

Learn more about our Make The First Five Count Campaign and how to ensure your child is meeting their milestones.

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Program is still providing all services via tele-therapy including evaluations. Call Alicia at 713.838.9050 ext. 385 to schedule a free evaluation and to check on your child’s milestones.

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Success and Virtual Services – Stories from our Staff and Clients

Adult Services/LEAD
With the current Coronavirus pandemic, causing shutdowns of businesses, limited access to resources, and just overall stress for every single person in the United States, the Easter Seals Greater Houston L.E.A.D. program is fighting back the stress with creativity in technology! By utilizing webcam access, we have still been able to meet with our adult program daily and covered many new ways to communicate. First step was showing all the tips and tricks with Facebook and how to create video conversations with their friends; allowing our clients to still stay as close as ever even during this time of social distancing. As we move forward, our next step has been creating a new activity calendar FULL of fun creative ways to stay busy, from virtual tours online to chair yoga YouTube videos. We have definitely been challenged by this pandemic, but it is not stopping us whatsoever. Having to think outside of the box has been the L.E.A.D.’s group specialty, and with everyone in this social crew working together, we are still making it the best part of our week. By using these amazing resources of technology, we are still able to function together as a team and continue to socialize just like before, just this time with a little distance.  Check out what we’ve produce here on our BridgingApps YouTube Channel!  From Rebecca, Adult Services LEAD Program

Camp, School, Therapy and More!
I was on the phone with a Buckaroo mom about the COVID-19 emergency funding; she was super appreciative. We started talking about her son, Bryson, who has come to Buckaroo– but it has always been a struggle for him to do a whole day of camp. Bryson has non-verbal autism and he does what HE wants to do (i.e. not a fan of buckaroo group activities, or listening), so he mostly came to Buckaroo for a couple hours each day to watch camp from the side. Mom said that for the first week of quarantine, Bryson stood at the door with his backpack every morning for 45 minutes because he wanted to go to school so badly. Nevertheless, she said that homeschooling has actually been amazing for them! He has been getting speech therapy over the phone, with mom consistently implementing the therapy because they are together all day. She said he has learned a few ASL signs and he is SO excited that he is able to communicate! It was a huge breakthrough for both of them; he realized that instead of just DOING what he wants, he gets what he wants easily if he does a sign for it! It warmed my heart that she would share that with me, and I am so glad that there is some positives coming out of quarantine, and we can’t wait to see him at Camp Buckaroo!  From Kenzie Richard, Camps, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Creativity and Patience – Children’s Therapy Program
“We wanted to have a family meal where everyone was sharing a nice homemade meal. Sounds pretty easy, but it wasn’t. We sought out a food therapy program to help with Edgar’s limited diet, his overeating tendencies, and his textural sensibilities. When Easter Seals started offering food therapy, we quickly signed Edgar up for it because there would be no force feeding involved, a big plus for my sweet sensitive child!

I have noticed that after starting the food therapy program with Alysia, Edgar has gone from eating a handful of foods to at least trying out different foods I never thought would be possible. I never expected results in such a short amount of time. Lettuce, strawberries, and even hamburger meat? Those foods seemed like a long shot…a goal for the long run. Yet here we are, months into the food therapy program and my child is opening up! Suddenly, sharing the same nice homemade meal with the family doesn’t seem as far-fetched as I had imagined last year!

I can honestly say that the food therapy in combination with other therapies including his occupational therapy with Alysia, Speech with Miaya, Ingrid with Music, his kindergarten teacher, his school assigned case worker, and even his school principal have all helped propel my son forward. Alysia, I can’t thank you enough! Your creativity and your patience with Edgar has shown in many areas and now with Food therapy, you have given us a gift our family will always cherish. Food is family and love! ” – -Doris, Parent, Client, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Children’s Therapy Program

 

 

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Pilot Program for Service Dogs… gone virtual..not to the dogs

My name is Bryan Cream and I am an Army Veteran who served eight years as a Chaplain Assistant. During my time, I served in many great units but I was lucky enough to serve my two tours in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division. During Deployment, I do not recall any one specific event that caused damage to me physically. Overtime, my body deteriorated due to nothing more than I can explain as wear and tear. After eight years of climbing the ranks to E-6 or Staff Sergeant, I was Medically Discharged because my body had failed me. The next five years were very tough for me to accept my new life in the Civilian world.

As a Chaplain Assistant, I was responsible for ensuring the Soldiers and their families spiritual needs were met and that they maintained a level of mental strength and preparedness. Now, I am perceived as a Disabled Veteran and not able help myself. Through time and a lot of effort, I was able to accept and handle the mental impact of it all but now I am left with physical limitations that will certainly get worse with time.

Over the years, I dreamed of having a service dog to help me navigate life with the challenges that I am facing, but I never wanted to take a place from a Veteran that had Combat related injuries. Shortly after buying our first home, we found a beautiful Black Lab who we fell in love with and named her Lucie. We had her for about two months before I saw an ad from Easter Seals advertising their great program that offered a path to a Service Dog for Disabled Veterans. Not only did it offer training for Lucie but for myself as well.

The Easter Seals Pilot Service Dog Training Program has obviously gone virtual given the pandemic we are experiencing.  I am only halfway through this 10-week course; I am already seeing drastic changes and impressive results. Lucie has gone from a hyperactive puppy with a few basic commands to a 5-month-old puppy who I am able to trust in public.

The commands she is able to recognize and execute are sit, laydown, stay, wait, left, right, up, down and off. She is able to walk alongside a shopping cart in a public store without any issues. She is able to stay in the down position while I am twenty feet away for an extended period with multiple distractions.

Beyond the commands, I have learned to notice the small details and to listen to my dog. Building a bond with Lucie to make sure she knows where my next step or turn is. Allie (Easter Seals’ Trainer via My Service Dog) has been by Lucie, and my side throughout this course. Helping me see the small successes with Lucie and myself. She has taught me how to be patient with Lucie and most importantly, patient with myself through this training opportunity. Although, she is not quite a full-time service dog, I have faith that she will be there before too long. I look forward to working with Lucie some more and have her fully trained to be my companion in my any challenges I have to face.

Retired Staff Sergeant, Bryan Cream, Easter Seals Greater Houston Client

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Connecting Within the Veteran Community, Part 1: Client Focus

Easter Seals Greater Houston has done a wide variety of things for me. I am grateful for everything you all have done.  Before meeting with ESGH, I had done very little to connect to the Veterans community and the Veterans services that I am able to access because of my time in the Army.Veterans May

It has been a combination of effort from my mental health therapist, Amy Harkins, Jennifer Wright from the Service Dog Program and a few others who have helped me get tickets to concerts and other events.  I had an amazing time at the VetsAid concert.  I loved going to the Zoo for Walk With Me and I look forward to going again this year.  I even got connected to Give Vets a Smile at UT Dental and got some much-needed work done.  I plan to follow up with THRIVE (Easter Seals Financial Education Program) to keep working on my financial situation with Jenny Martinez.  I am thankful to be connected to the Veteran Food Pantry.  I tend to isolate so these activities mean the world to me.

I have the sense that there are puppet masters in the background at ESGH that are helping me out in ways that I don’t even really know about.  I have appreciated everything Jennifer Wright has done to keep the process going to get a service dog.  I do worry about some of the details of getting a service dog, but overall, I am very hopeful that having a service dog will help me explore and enjoy life to the fullest.  Having a dog will allow me to do things that I don’t do now.  A dog will open a door that I keep closed.  And a Service Dog will be a much-needed friend.  Jennifer has not given up on helping me get a service dog and I am so grateful that she has been persistent, on track, and motivated.  If she had given up, I would have given up a long time ago.

I know that talking (via Telehealth) to my therapist Amy has really helped me do things that I would not have done otherwise.  Talking has helped me to think about what I want to do.  I want to explore and see things in Houston.  Actually, one of the most helpful things we have done is meet in person.Veterans May 2  It was a very big step for me to start using Metro Lift so that I can meet in person.  Getting familiar with Metro Lift has opened up many opportunities for me.  Still, it is helpful that I can meet with my therapist by video when something gets off track.  Having you all in my corner has been my saving grace. 

 

Sincerely,

James Kittrell

Army Veteran

 

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