Tag Archives: Virtual

Escaping Boredom Together

Even though we are just itching to get to see each other again in person, we are making the most of our time on Zoom! Every week our LEAD Adult Program meets virtually via Zoom with a different activity planned for each meeting. Last week, Kenzie Richard volunteered her time to lead our adults through a Disney World Virtual Escape Room! Our LEADers participated in each challenge to escape Disney World. Some of the challenges were quite hard but when we worked as a team, we were able to get out in just under an hour. Thank you Kenzie for leading us through that fun adventure! Check out this video of our Adult Program participants working together to escape the room and boredom.

Do you have a special activity or program you think our LEAD Adult Program would enjoy? Are you interested in leading us through the activity for 30 minutes or an hour via Zoom? Email Ashley Nichols at ANichols@eastersealshouston.org to learn how you can get involved!

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s LEAD (Life Enrichment for Adults with Disabilities) Adult Programs.

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Connecting Campers

The following was written by Easter Seals Greater Houston Camp Program Director.

This July, we hosted two weeks of Virtual Camp! This program was open to all our returning and previously registered campers from both Camp Smiles and Camp Buckaroo. Campers were able to customize their “camp box,” meaning they got to pick out all the crafts, classes, and activities they wanted to participate in! For two weeks, we met every day over Zoom to complete the camp box activities we had delivered to their houses. We had so many smiles and laughs while completing new activities!

A lot of our campers’ favorite activity was the talent show! We had so many campers show off their unique talents and awesome skills. Our campers were incredibly supportive of each other, and cheered on their friends as they performed their act. Many of these campers had never met in person before this week; some were completely new to Easter Seals Great Houston’s camps, some had attended different weeks of Camp Buckaroo, and some had only previously attended Camp Smiles. It was heart-warming to see how friendly and supportive these campers were after just knowing each other for one week! I can’t wait for them to meet in-person next year.

Virtual Camp was very different from our usual summer camps. Moving things online limited our activity options and ways we could interact, but I truly feel that the atmosphere of camp was still there. For those two weeks, I was greeted with smiling faces and campers that were ready to start their day with energizers. Our days at camp were an opportunity for these campers to socialize with their camp friends and staff; they were able to feel included and encouraged by individuals sharing the same challenges as them. With the pandemic continuing to limit social interaction, it’s important for these kids to have a place to belong. Easter Seals will continue to provide programs like this to our campers throughout the fall!

Kenzie Richard
Camp Program Manager

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Camp Programs, hosted in-person and virtually.

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The Power of a Sticky Note

Sitting here the day before my 25th anniversary of working for Easter Seals Greater Houston and I am both amazed and bewildered at the same time.

…Amazed. Amazed because of our community of volunteers, donors, staff, foundations, corporate sponsors and partners and the amazing feat we just accomplished in the midst of a pandemic with our Walk With Me Event.

Bewildered…because of #StayAtHome, the Economy and oil and gas, hurricane season, protests, diversity, questions of inclusion, and yes even the murder hornets!

I think the two go hand in hand…at least in my world.  I think I am a sticky note! I have “stuck with” Easter Seals Greater Houston through thick and thin. I started when we had 30 employees, 3 maybe 4 programs, several small but meaningful events and a 1MM dollar budget.  We have evolved over the years into a 25MM dollar budget, more than 240 employees, 12 plus programs and 1 historic fundraiser called Walk With Me that just grossed over $776,000. You would think we are breathing a sigh of relief.  No, we will always be holding our breath.

In my 25 years, I truly thought that I had seen it all.  The fall of Enron (a lesson for all nonprofit organizations in Houston), Tropical Storm Alison, some great booms, a lot of busts, Katrina, Rita, Ike, Memorial Day Flood and every one thereafter, Harvey, Imelda, government budget cuts (over and over again to early intervention, Medicaid), all of which have had us on a steady learning curve.  We served the forgotten and the UN-able when it originally came to evacuation. We have a handle on that and we definitely have it down when it comes to emergency assistance.  Thankfully, we have developed some incredible partnerships and collaborations.  They are sticky notes too.  We have learned how to best serve the most vulnerable since we began our work in 1947…whew…then, COVID19, a completely new historic learning curve.

Thankfully, technology has evolved to the point where we can continue to do our work and our mission…virtual or not. Our staff and clients have always been aware of the ways in which technology can assist our clients. Which leads me to reflect on diversity, inclusion, and disability. I have read two extremely pertinent quotes in the last few days. The first – “Work from home was never a privilege for people with disabilities.” Think about that one for a hot minute. And, the second – “We all have a part in creating a more equal and just world.” 

When I started the percentage of donations supporting disability and mental health probably wasn’t even calculated because it really didn’t figure into the equation. Now we know, TODAY less than 5% of charitable giving is directed to disability.  Awareness of disabilities today is vast compared to 1995 in large part due to the increased understanding of the autism spectrum and because of social media.  We have always been proud of those that “stuck with us” and those numbers are thankfully much larger now. More sticky notes. Children I have watched grow up volunteering who are now going into disability law, therapeutic and social work. Even more of them, regardless of where they go, carry us in their hearts.  Carrying the message of diversity (and yes, disability fits in there) and inclusion wherever they go, which of course, brings us to today. AND, the companies – our sponsors and partners – that know that disability is a part of the diversity and inclusion conversation.  Employee Resource Groups, Corporate Social Responsibility – used to only be words – now they are actions.  TODAY I truly believe they will be even stronger actions.  Actions by all of us–individuals, parents, families, companies, volunteer groups, and schools.  

There you go. All in all a pad of sticky notes.  Some can lose their stickiness but we keep them maybe use a little tape to rearrange, some fall off to never be applied again, some stay on our desks forever and we don’t even see them, some have water stains, some are wrinkled or torn, and they are a beautiful variety of colors and sizes. Regardless of where you fall as a sticky note – thank you for being one of ours.  The list is long of thanks to our staff, volunteers, donors, corporations, walkers, caregivers, clients, collaborative partners, foundations. I hope in reading this you recognize yourself. 

The picture here is of Robert Ryan, one of our Ambassadors of Walk With Me…Virtually. He just graduated on to public school from the Caroline School! I think this picture says it all. You don’t have to stick with us, but we are so grateful that you do.  For that right now in this community in an extraordinary time, we cannot thank you enough. 

Huge thanks to our incredible Walk With Me Virtually Sponsors and PartnersProsperity Bank and their staff, WithMerci Foundation, Alvarez and Marsal, Robert & Janice McNair Foundation, TEAM Inc., Texas Children’s Hospital, and more for sticking right there with us!

Kelly Klein
Development Director
Easter Seals Greater Houston

Click here to learn how YOU can be a sticky note for Easter Seals Greater Houston.

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The Caroline School is More Than a Place

To be honest, it was a little heartbreaking for the entire Easter Seals Greater Houston staff when we realized that remainder of The Caroline School’s year was going to have to be completed at a distance. It is such a wonderful joy to see these kids when we are at work. Even though only a fraction of our staff are part of The Caroline School team, we all benefit from hearing them laughing and playing during recess. Throughout the school year we can see how their education and friendships are blooming. It’s a daily reminder of what our programs are accomplishing all over the greater Houston area.

Our School Director and Teachers work hard day in and day out to make sure that our students get an engaging and tailored education. It is impressive, but not surprising, that these incredible educators went into overdrive making sure that the remaining virtual school year was held to the same high standard. We are proud of our teaching team as well as the parents who became “quaranteachers” in this midst of this difficult time.

This year has taught us that The Caroline School is not just a place, it is a community deeply committed to giving each student the chance to thrive in both their education and relationships. We look forward to the day that our students are all in the same place, but know that in some ways we are always together. Let’s celebrate our beloved students who made the most of the virtual school year! Thank you to everyone who shared pictures so that we could all enjoy your amazing accomplishments!

Our teachers made individualized learning boxes for weekly drop-off and pick-up. These boxes included art, movement, music, CVI adapted visuals and books, early academic tasks, and literacy!

Our families and staff had video sessions with interactive documents and tele-teaching.

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There was a massive amount of mutual appreciation. Parents sent videos and messages to our staff and teachers made a “Quaranteacher Supply Mug” filled with coffee and chocolate for our parents.

We hosted virtual hangouts so that The Caroline School students and teachers could have extra time to laugh and reconnect.Virtual Hangout

And of course we celebrated graduation! Congratulations Liam, we will miss you dearly!Liam Graduation

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Caroline School

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Internships Build Resumes and Priceless Friendships

Every year Easter Seals Greater Houston hires two interns to help run our amazing summer camps. This year we hired Lindsay and Maddie who are tasked with helping make sure our first ever virtual camps run smoothly. Read how the campers inspire these two hard working young women!

Hi everyone!

Camp Intern 1My name is Lindsay.  This summer marks my fifth summer being involved with Easter Seals Greater Houston and my second summer as a Camp Intern!  I began volunteering with Easter Seals summer of 2016, simply to get service hours.  Little did I know at the time how much Easter Seals would transform my life.  Interning last summer was hands down one of the best summers of my life.  I learned so much and made the most amazing connections with those around me.  In the fall, I’m headed to Texas A&M University to study Allied Health.  Easter Seals has provided me with an amazing career trajectory as I hope to be either a speech pathologist or physical therapist in the future.  Time will tell which one of these paths I choose to take!

Camp Intern 2While being stuck in quarantine, one of the things I have missed the most is camp.  Even though this summer is going to look different than most, I know it will be a great one! The thing I’m most excited about is reuniting with all the amazing campers I met last summer!  The friendships I have formed with so many campers are the reason why I keep coming back.  The children I have met at camp have shaped me into the person I am today, and I am forever thankful. One of my favorite stories is an interaction I had with a camper named Angel.  I met Angel at Camp Smiles last summer.  Throughout the week at camp, I got to know Angel and became friends with him.  At the end of the week, Angel told me camp was one of the best weeks of his life and that he was so excited to come back next year but only if I was there! It was such a small statement, but it meant so much.  I cannot wait for another summer full of little moments like this.

-Lindsay Veech

Hello Easter Seals readers!

camp Intern 4My name is Maddie, I’m 19, and I’ve lived in Houston my whole life! I just finished my freshman year at Texas A&M University, where I’m studying Environmental Science. At Texas A&M, I’m involved in my sorority Kappa Alpha Theta and Aggie ACHIEVEMates. I first started volunteering with Easter Seals Greater Houston through my chapter of National Charity League. I’m very passionate about Easter Seals and serving those with disabilities. I’ve been to both Camp Smiles and Camp Buckaroo! One ofmy favorite camp memories is Karate Day with my buddy Christian at Camp Buckaroo, he is a pro at karate-chopping! I’m so excited to be a summer camps intern this year. I can’t wait to learn more about Easter Seals and hang out with the most awesome campers!

Camp Intern 3

-Maddie Farrell

Learn more about our Camps and Recreation Programs and volunteering opportunities today!

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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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