Tag Archives: military

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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Feeling Free Through Prolonged Exposure

Easter Seals Greater Houston has a branch of programs serving Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Families. Our mission is to assist military-connected families in building the lives they want during and after the military to meet their needs around reintegration, stability, wellness, and growth. Our goal is to provide an easy point of entry for Service Members, Veterans, and Military-Connected families to a range of behavioral health services.

Our team of clinicians serving Service Members, Veterans and Military-Connected Families uses many evidenced-based treatment modalities.  Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy teaches individuals to approach their trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations.  The outcome is learning the trauma-related memories are not dangerous and do not need to be avoided.  In other words, learning to confront the trauma instead of avoiding the trauma. 

Prolonged Exposure is difficult because the immediate response to those difficult memories and feelings is to avoid.  It is our natural default to protect ourselves from the danger.  However, the trauma is never processed, and those symptoms continue to keep the avoidance of places, people, situations, feelings, etc.  It keeps a hold on our lives.  In PE, we confront and explore the trauma in detail.

One success story of PE is of a client being able to take his son to Galveston.  He had always wanted to, but a previous trauma caused a fear of driving, and that prevented the trip from ever happening.  After doing PE with our clinician, the client made the trip and enjoyed every minute of it. 

Another success story of PE is a client being able to relate to a friend who was experiencing hardship due to abuse.  He was able to tell his story and the changes in his life he made.  His friend was grateful and decided to seek his own counseling.  Speaking about his trauma was a fear he had, and he had never spoken about the trauma prior to PE.

Lastly, after doing PE, a client described herself as feeling “free” for the first time in ten years.  Through PE, she started to recognize that she had to address the trauma and her discomfort with it in order to move forward with her life.  She said, “For the first time, I can see my life without my trauma being the highlight of it.”

Special thanks to STRONG STAR (South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience) for providing Easter Seals Greater Houston’s clinicians with Prolonged Exposure training.

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Family Programs.

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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 prove 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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Santa and Veterans Team Deliver for Christmas

Thanks to Dr. Jennifer Wright and Tim Stroud from Easter Seals Greater Houston Veteran, Service Member, Military-Connected Family Program as well as a host of donors, one Houston Veteran slept in a REAL bed for the holidays. After connecting to the homeless Veteran, Dr. Wright reached out to others for help. As a frontline worker, Dr. Wright’s first action was to ensure the Veteran was in a safe place and had the right mental attitude. In the military, safe is an objective term. He was living in his car with his two dogs and since they are his emotional support animals, he would not go live in a shelter without them. 

This was all the information that Dr. Wright needed to know. She sprang into action and contacted her internal team and then the resources in their network. Since Easter Seals Greater Houston is funded under the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance Grant program from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, they work with over 250 local and regional Veteran Service Organizations. 

Within a few days, the Veteran was living in a home, had food, furniture, clothes, dishes and all the comforts of home. The Veteran now works at a “no kill” animal shelter and is very thankful for the case management and care from our TVFA Network. When the supplies were delivered, the Veteran remarked through teary eyes that this was the nicest bed he has ever slept in. Rest well warrior. 

The Veteran, Tim, smiling with his own room with his two dogs

It is our honor to support a Veteran and to foster just a little bit more of hope. The Veteran, Tim Bergdoll, gave us permission to share his story and indicated that this was the best Christmas ever!

“Being out of my car, sleeping in a warm bed, and watching Pico and Buddy enjoy their warm shower truly was a blessing.” Thank you, for your swift action! Thank you, TVFA for making this a happy-ending!

“On Christmas Eve, I was at peace knowing that this little crew was taken care of” says Tim.

Did you know that Easter Seals Greater Houston offers a wide range of programs and resources for Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Families? Learn more.

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Hope

Maybe the quiet, the extra time with partners or children or the radical change in our lives made it happen, but 2020 gave us (if we decided to take it) a chance to look again at our jobs, our schools, our homes, our friends, family and all of the people we love.  There has been an almost unfathomable magnitude of loss of life, learning, liberty and livelihoods-I am not minimizing these at all.  However, this week, we received a huge reminder of the thousands of gifts of this year.

MacKenzie Scott, who is an author, mother and philanthropist, chose 384 charities – out of the more than 1.5 million US charities – for major gifts.  Ms. Scott consulted with hundreds of field experts, funders, and non-profit leaders and volunteers with decades of experience to pick the 384 beneficiaries. She said they leveraged the,  “…collective knowledge base in a collaboration that included hundreds of emails and phone interviews, and thousands of pages of data analysis on community needs, program outcomes, and each non-profit’s capacity to absorb and make effective use of funding.”   After their extensive due diligence, Ms. Scott gave Easter Seals Greater Houston its largest gift ever – $7 million dollars.  Our expectation is that we will be able to multiply the impact of her gift by using it, in part, as a challenge fund – asking other donors to help us truly leverage her gift to achieve our ambitious goals. 

We plan to use her gift in three ways:

  • Stabilize – as a reserve and operating funds to allow us to access more government funding (you incur the costs and get reimbursed a few months later-creating cash flow issues);
  • Strengthen – as a bridge to sustainability for our existing programs by funding ways to grow and take clients off of waiting lists for services; and
  • Grow – as a way to invest in promising new ways to deliver services and address emerging needs locally and invest in the Easter Seals affiliate network initiatives nationally.

I have huge respect for the non-profits working in the Houston area-there is amazing work being done, but I know that Easter Seals Greater Houston is special.  Just a few of the memorable gifts this year include:

  • a crumpled dollar mailed with a note of encouragement from an older donor;
  • our BridgingApps program which helped us and lots of others in the community transition to tele-services and made 75 videos to support families during the pandemic;
  • the employee who bought groceries for a client’s family to tide them over until we could get them more help;
  • our record-breaking virtual Walk With Me fundraiser which was supported with walkers from around the world;
  • our staff embracing tele-services by sharing what they learned and becoming a real lifeline for clients who felt completely isolated;
  • our Emergency Assistance Program which helped thousands of local families get through the toughest times;
  • the Veterans Team who stayed on call 24 hours a day because so many families were facing increasing financial and mental health challenges;
  • The hundreds of families who received financial coaching and the 38 low-income families who bought their first home with our help- one who said, “We have hope now.  We have hope for our children…”

Our mission statement is “Help. Hope. Answers.”  The gifts of this year have been extraordinary.  Ms. Scott’s transformational gift helps make us stronger, braver, and surer that we can keep doing the work that is so badly needed in our community.  You have truly allowed us to realize our mission-in the midst of the struggle and pain of 2020, there has been real beauty.

I love the way Ms. Scott ended her post about her gifts, “If you’re craving a way to use your time, voice, or money to help others at the end of this difficult year, I highly recommend a gift to one of the thousands of organizations doing remarkable work all across the country. Every one of them could benefit from more resources to share with the communities they’re serving. And the hope you feed with your gift is likely to feed your own.”   I do not have an adequate way to thank Ms. Scott, our staff or all of you who have supported us other than to tell you, we will try to honor your support and trust in us by serving veterans, service members, people with disabilities and their families with the care, integrity, passion and skill that they deserve.   

Elise Hough
CEO, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Celebrating Our Military Families and Their Successes

As Military Family Month, November, is coming to a close we continue to celebrate our families and their successes daily.   Having started our Veterans Services soon after we affiliated with Easter Seals in 2011 we began to understand the need and realized that our current programming would be off a huge asset and would translate easily. We initially started with service dogs and to date we have paired 25+ service dogs with veterans. Since then we have become the lead in VSO collaborative called Texas Veterans + Family Alliance serving thousands, we are especially proud of our counseling and mental health services open to not only Veterans and service members but also to family members. These are just a few of our most recent successes and we are truly honored to be in this space serving our military after they have served us. 

“F” is a female Veteran who has been in recovery for five years.  She has been attending AA meetings and has a sponsor she trusts and can turn to.  She has embraced the arts, especially dancing, as an escape.  Her fear is having a craving, because the people around her often talk about doing drugs and drinking.  She talked to her Easter Seals Greater Houston therapist about feeling exposed and vulnerable, so together they worked out plans for setting boundaries, and being mindful of her own feelings and of warning signs.  They also created a Crisis Response Plan, so that she has a plan of action for when a substance use crisis arises.

“H” is a Veteran who has worked all his life as a laborer, and that physical labor has caused degenerative spine disease.  Over the years as the pain worsened, he became addicted to meth.  H and his Easter Seals therapist are working together to navigate what he needs to do apply for disability and to stay clean.  Just recently, H discovered how much being in nature and working with nature helps him.  He has taken up rock collecting and rock polishing, and his meth use has decreased.

This story is about small steps.  Veteran “I” has misused alcohol for decades.  A week ago, he stopped for two days.  What caused the change?  He took a trip to see an old Marine friend, and saw in him a different way of living.  I told his Easter Seals therapist, “I work all day, drink all night, and then do it again the next day.  I realize now I don’t have to live this way.”

“D” is a female Veteran who has always drank and smoked.  Recently she got “the job”- the one she never felt like she’d ever get- and that one life change has increased her self-esteem tenfold.  D and her Easter Seals therapist have talked about how the job has made her feel so fulfilled, that she has realized she doesn’t need to drink and smoke anymore.

“L” is a Veteran and a single dad.  He has drank and smoked as long as he can remember, but after attending a retreat focused on mental health, he became motivated to find more purpose.  He and his Easter Seals therapist have been working to find ways for him to reconnect with his daughter.

“R” is a Veteran who has been in recovery for 23 years, and he faithfully meets with his Easter Seals therapist every two weeks.  R is knowledgeable about mental health, and he understands sobriety- most especially how fragile sobriety can be.  R has family with substance use issues, and they are living with his mother and not providing her with appropriate care.  R and his Easter Seals therapist have talked about how the stress weighs on him, and how he does not have to turn to substance.  R has taken up painting the interior of his house.  A task with a beginning and an end that he can control, and that he can see the result.

“M” is Veteran who drinks a lot.  As he said to his Easter Seals therapist, “If I’m not working, I’m drinking.”  M is participating in PE or Prolonged Exposure, a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches individuals to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings and situations.  PE has helped M deal with his PTSD, and he recently reported to his therapist that he is drinking only on weekends, and no longer throughout the evening after work each weekday.     

Congratulations to you all! Learn more and get involved!   

Services to Veterans, Military and their family members FY 2020 to date:

357 Adult Veterans or family members are receiving mental health supports.

38 Adult Veterans or family members received I&R supports.

93 Children of Veterans are receiving mental health supports.

7 Children of Veterans received I&R supports.

201 Adult Veterans or family members are receiving individual counseling.

166 Adult Veterans or family members reported substance use concerns.

40 Children of Veterans are receiving individual counseling.

5 Children of Veterans reported substance use concerns.

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proudly serving current Service members, Veterans and their families in Harris and all surrounding counties.Our reach can extend to those throughout the state who are interested in tele-mental health services. Our mission is to assist military-connected families in building the lives they want during and after the military to meet their needs around reintegration, stability, wellness, and growth. Our goal is not to duplicate services offered in the community, but rather be an easy point of entry for finding and connecting with needed resources. Learn more here and contact us at 346.330.3859 or Veterans@eastersealshouston.org to get plugged into Service Members, Veterans and Military-Connected Family Services.

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Thanking and Being the Reinforcements for Heroes

In spite of a year that has already included a pandemic, racial unrest, economic devastation and the most named storms ever, we live in a place where neighbors help each other, scientists and medical professionals bring hope, and parents, houses of faith, businesses and charities prove their resilience.  Underneath it all – we still live in the safest and most prosperous country – all because of the sacrifices our military has made to protect us.  As Tropical Storm Eta hits our neighbors, I am reminded of all the individuals, companies, foundations, governmental entities and volunteers who have been there – and continue to be here – for us through some extraordinary times. 

Three years after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, many of the roughly 400,000 veterans across Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast are still impacted by the storm’s devastating effects. In response to the disaster, the Qatar Harvey Fund partnered with the Bob Woodruff Foundation to deploy millions of dollars in grants to organizations serving veterans so they can rebuild, recover, and thrive after the hurricane. Those veterans now face new and urgent challenges of illness, unemployment, uncertainty, and isolation due to COVID-19. Over the past two years, this fund has supported Easter Seals Greater Houston’s mental health counseling, financial coaching and emergency financial assistance for veterans.  Many of those helped have truly begun to thrive.  This week we learned we will receive additional funding to support veterans who are still struggling with the impact of Hurricane Harvey and who have now been set back by 2020’s unprecedented events.  We are grateful to the Qatar Harvey Fund and the Bob Woodruff Foundation for the generous support, but mostly we are grateful that we will be able to support even more of the veterans who make our way of life possible.  This Veterans Day, let’s strive to be an American worth fighting for and please join me in celebrating all of you who generously make our services for military families possible. 

Sincerely,






Elise Hough
Easter Seals Greater Houston CEO

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Family Programs.

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Supporting Our Troops Here at Home

My name is Bryan Cream and I am a 100% Disabled Veteran of the U.S Army. I wanted to write and thank Easter Seals Greater Houston and all of their donors that help people like me. I know it’s cliché, but just saying thank you is not even close to being adequate. 

During the last 6 months my family has experienced several high stress situations: My father had a heart attack that they described as a “widow maker”; my mother hasn’t been able to walk for 6 months and through several doctors and tests it was discovered she had a mass on her spine and brain; my brother was diagnosed with Coronavirus and was in the hospital for over a week; my wife (who was told she was not going to be able to have children) found out she was pregnant (currently 17 weeks) and that is a huge blessing but also comes with many stresses; and my wife has lost many hours of work as well as being out of work for two weeks waiting for COVID-19 results.

I say all of this because I want to point out what Easter Seals Greater Houston and donors like you have helped me through. The financial assistance has allowed us to pay our mortgage and feel secure, even with everything happening around us. For a long time I have only seen the present and my circumstances for what they are. I still am reminded of the stress every day, but Easter Seals and donors like you have given me and my family a glimpse to a bright future. 

On top of everything else, I have been lucky enough to be able to receive training to train my dog Lucie to be a Service Dog. The training and support from Jennifer Wright has been nothing less than a blessing to my family and me. I have never seen anyone or any organization go to the lengths of helping someone the way Easter Seals and Dr. Wright have. I hope everyone that donates to Easter Seals realizes the impact they are having on individuals’ lives. It’s still an ongoing battle, but with all the support I know I will be able to get through it and one day be able to give back the way you do.

Thank you!

Bryan Cream

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to provide Service Members, Veterans and Military-Veterans with a wide variety of services including mental health, service dogs, financial coaching and more. Click here to support these crucial services.

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My Independence Day

Dear Easter Seals Greater Houston,

I want to express my feelings about training my service dog puppy, Just Bob, during these extreme conditions, and with my limited physical abilities. Without the Easter Seals Veterans Service Program and partner, My Service Dog, being available to provide safe environments, leadership, and guidance, I would have given up by now.

My life has changed in more ways than I could have imagined having this highly intelligent puppy in it. He is also a member of my family and they feel the same about him. We all work together to teach him, love him, and correct him. In just over a couple of months, Just Bob has enhanced my life, and the lives of my entire family. I honestly cannot believe how much he means to me and how I could not do without him.

In the beginning I was wondering how I could train Just Bob from a puppy, build a strong foundation and teach a full-blown service dog. It was only possible thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston and My Service Dog’s constant communication, assistance, and guidance.My Independence Day

A perfect example of your team’s dedication and commitment is the photo attached to this email. There was ‘no way’ I was going to get into my wheelchair and let someone push me around a nature path where other people could see.  I am glad that she finally convinced me because it was a great training session, the weather was beautiful, and Just Bob learned how to maneuver with my wheelchair like never before. The outing did me good, taught both of us so much, and wore Just Bob out!

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart,

Blaine C.

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veteran Service Dog Program.

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Military Financial Wellness With Freddie Mac

Set any New Year’s Resolutions to help build and maintain better credit? We can help!  Take advantage of our webinar series with Easterseals and Freddie Mac – build and maintain better credit, and prepare for successful long-term home ownership! paull roberts 2

Did you know that Veterans are more likely to have credit card challenges? We meet countless Veterans and military families facing difficult situations, which is why we’ve created more resources and options for military members looking to achieve financial wellness. Check out our video series below!

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