Two-thirds of a century ago, in the midst of a polio epidemic, many children in Greater Miami needed therapy and education and could not get those services in public schools. Filling that need was a new organization then called the Crippled Children’s Society. From those days in a church basement has come Easter Seals. We provided therapy, education, special equipment, transportation and have filled other needs as they arose. Responding to unmet needs in partnership with engaged families and community leaders has characterized our mission and approach.
In 2006 Easter Seals Miami-Dade merged with Easter Seals of Broward County gaining more strength in early intervention and autism. Now as Easter Seals South Florida we serve more than 2,500 individuals and families in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, employ 250 South Florida residents, and engage more than a thousand volunteers.
Founded in 1942 the Crippled Children's Society started in a church basement with a teacher and a handful of students. In 1957, Easter Seals opened a new comprehensive rehabilitation center. 10 years later, the Demonstration School for Children with Learning Disabilities opened; followed in the 70s with a heated, indoor therapeutic pool, and scoliosis screening services for middle school students. The 1980s included early intervention for children age’s birth through two years of age, vocational services, and supported living.
In April 1986, a new Therapeutic Day Care Center served people with Alzheimer's disease; and 2 years later we started in-home respite services. In 1993 we opened our Culinary Arts High School. In 2000, tutoring program served students at risk of dropping out of school and later expanded to serve Miami at-risk elementary and middle school students. Over the next decade we opened a Therapeutic Day Care Center in Hialeah to serve the ever-growing Alzheimer population; expanded In Home Respite services using AmeriCorps members; started a Summer Youth Employment Program; and offered after school services to schools in at-risk neighborhoods.
The Broward County Society for Crippled Children was chartered June 9, 1941. For the next three years the group functioned as a volunteer organization, spending funds and time to help other agencies serve children with disabilities. By 1950 we began our first direct services in Broward for children with disabilities. Housed in a building at the Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station, we offered physical therapy, equipment loan, purchase of physician services, and an educational program for children with disabilities. By 1960, we opened our own Center in Fort Lauderdale and expanded it in 1968. In 1988 a generous gift from Mr. & Mrs. William D. Horvitz helped fund a new Center in Plantation.
In 2006 Easter Seals Broward County merged with Easter Seals Miami-Dade and became Easter Seals South Florida. Over the next 4 years, we opened a memory gym for individuals in early stage dementia and Alzheimer’s; a summer camp for children with Autism; an autism Culinary Arts high school classroom; an autism elementary school; and our third adult day center for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia in Pembroke Pines.
In 2012 we opened a middle school autism classroom; transitioned after school services to focus on autism; and started a summer camp for elementary age children with autism and a culinary arts summer camp for high school age students with autism. We also opened 6 Head Start/Early Head Start Centers serving 488 children living in poverty in some of Miami’s most challenging neighborhoods.
Our strategic growth initiatives include Head Start, autism education and senior services. Our funding requests and marketing messages reinforce WHY we are committed to making South Florida a better place for people with disabilities to live, learn, work and play. We seek to attract the best talent, build our organization core competencies, secure adequate funding, expand our geographic reach, and deliver the highest quality services in our market.