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Chances are that if I ask you to picture a caregiver you’ll picture a woman. That’s not surprising –…
Chances are that if I ask you to picture a caregiver you’ll picture a woman. That’s not surprising – according to Michigan State University, 66% of caregivers are women. In previous blogs I’ve often highlighted the disproportionate impact of caregiving on women; and as we emerge from COVID, that has been exacerbated by childcare difficulties as discussed in my recent Washington Post OpEd.
As we approach Father’s Day, though, I want to take the opportunity to highlight some unsung heroes – male caregivers. Among the thousands of friends and neighbors who benefit from Easterseals programs every year are men like Michael Smith, who have become caregivers themselves. I’m also proud of the diverse team at Easterseals that includes many men in caregiving roles and honored to highlight three today. Marcus Bolston, Larry Johnson, and Dr. Shea Lott are wonderful examples of our commitment to creating a hopeful, inclusive community where all people realize their potential and live meaningful lives. They embody our Core Values of Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Innovation, and Care – listening to our participants’ needs then adapting programs to realize the participant’s goals.
Marcus Bolston: Director, Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Adult Day Services
Marcus Bolston takes pride in connecting with people from all backgrounds, “Anytime you get to work closely with families and the individuals you serve, you build a great connection that lasts for a long time.” In his role as Adult Day Services Director, Marcus enjoys creating a socially enriched environment, connecting with patients, and also ensuring high quality care for participants with a wide range of diagnoses, including Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, and Down syndrome. For Marcus, respect means taking every opportunity to learn from those around him. For example, Marcus recently drove a patient with no transportation to get his vaccine in Baltimore, and, “When he came back he shared how much he learned about the individual and the good conversation they had,” notes Marcus’ supervisor, Liz Barnes.
For Marcus, connecting with those around him is natural. His favorite memories from his years with Easterseals are the times with his staff and participants during holiday parties or events. He hosts regular holiday-themed parties for Christmas, Cinco de Mayo, New Years and the occasional cookout, “Most importantly I get to meet people from all walks of life, hear their stories, and learn from them which is both inspiring and humbling.”
Larry D. Johnson, Jr.: Director, Easterseals Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Child Development Center
Larry’s supervisor, Tara Phillips, speaks highly of his aesthetic eye and keen ability to prepare classroom environments that are inviting and comforting to children based on their needs. However, the memory of Larry that resonates strongest for her exemplifies his true character, “Soon after Larry was hired, he recognized the landscaping at the Child Development Center needed an upgrade.” He wanted the center to look warm and welcoming for children and their families, so he took that upon himself. “One Saturday morning,” Tara continued, “Larry came to the center with his personal lawn mower and lawn bags and he cut the grass and trimmed the hedges. He was sweating, but noticeably intent on cleaning up the last debris that were on the sidewalk.”
If you ask Larry, he’ll tell you there’s no better feeling than having a conversation with a child and listening to his or her innocent take on the world. His time with children brings him joy every day, but his role as a leader is not lost, “It is extremely rewarding to have team members further their education because I’ve inspired them. To know that I have had that kind of influence on someone feels good.”
Dr. Shea Lott: Lead Clinician, Clinical Psychologist The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Easterseals
When he joined the Easterseals team in October, Dr. Shea Lott set out to ensure that veterans, active duty servicemembers, and their families have access to the highest quality care so they can fully participate in our community. As Lead Clinician and Director for Clinical Training at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic, Shea wears many hats and juggles many administrative priorities – but if you ask him, none are more important than helping veterans and their families, “When treatment has concluded and the clients say the services changed their life or the life of their family member for the better – that’s a priceless and timeless experience.”
At Easterseals, Shea takes pride in using evidence-based care to ensure his clients heal. He recently treated a client with PTSD caused by observing and experiencing discrimination in the wake of the DC protests, riots, and insurrection. “Working with this individual and leveraging prolonged exposure therapy has been a game changer for the client, whose symptoms of PTSD are now in remission,” says Shea. “This is a great example of therapy leading to improved interpersonal interactions and self-concept development so that the individual can participate fully in our vibrant community.”
For Marcus, Larry, and Shea, their profession is so much more than a paycheck. It’s an opportunity to heal, serve, and learn; and we are a better organization for having men of their character on our team. To Marcus, Larry, Shea and the rest of our team, I appreciate your unwavering commitment and dedication.
Children with Autism Can Still Be Assessed During the Pandemic
Tuesday, April 13, 2021, 4:05 PM
This year we mark a unique Autism Awareness Month, with most of us having been isolated and socially…
This year we mark a unique Autism Awareness Month, with most of us having been isolated and socially distanced for over a year. While that is hard on all of us, it is a crisis for young children. Full data on early intervention services in 2020 are not yet available, but the statistics that are out show trends that must concern us all:
In the 2019-2020 school year, even before the full impact of the pandemic, the number of 3 to 5-year-olds receiving Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B services dropped by 12 percent versus the previous year.
A study in New York City found 15 percent fewer infants and toddlers receiving services in the summer of 2020 versus the summer of 2019. New referrals were down even more.
Race-based disparities are evident. On average, black children with autism receive their diagnosis almost two years older than white children and black children with autism were almost 3 times less likely to receive an autism diagnosis on their first specialist visit than white children.
This information is troubling for all of us, not just the children and families whose children are not being screened. There is ample research demonstrating the efficacy and efficiency of early intervention, and societal costs increase dramatically when interventions are delayed or withheld. That’s why I’m asking for your help!
This is a FREE Easterseals screening tool that enables anyone to enter observations about a young child and receive a custom report of areas of concern, if any, and ways to access early intervention services in your area. If you need any assistance, please also feel free to contact Easterseals’ Senior Director of Early Intervention and Therapy, Jill Chimka.
You can also learn more about living with autism by registering for our Candid Conversations Webinar on Tuesday, April 20 at 2:00pm EST. Join our panel of subject matter experts as they share resources on how to navigate from childhood to adulthood at this monthly Candid Conversations: Pathways through Life – Growing up with Autism.
For more information on how to ensure your children continue to thrive during the pandemic, check out other topics from our Candid Conversation series:
Being Great as We Celebrate the Legacy of Dr. King
Monday, January 18, 2021, 7:55 AM
In one of Dr. King’s final speeches, delivered two months before he was assassinated, he shared: “If…
In one of Dr. King’s final speeches, delivered two months before he was assassinated, he shared:
“If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant…By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”
Today especially, therefore, please join me in recognizing and celebrating the greatness of the Easterseals community – volunteers, donors, staff, and participants. It’s an honor to be part of a team where every day each individual embodies Dr. King’s ideal of servant leadership by serving each other and embracing Easterseals’ vision of a hopeful, inclusive community where all people realize their potential and live meaningful lives.
I recognize and understand the stress that is a part of our daily lives during the pandemic and with so much unrest. I appreciate those whose daily efforts are helping increase the well-being of our community by creating a sense of hope and safety. Thank you for creating a more just and equal society.
Easterseals Looking to 2021: A Letter from Our President & CEO
Monday, January 4, 2021, 11:49 AM
Dear Friend, The past year changed each of us. The challenges called us to question, to reevaluate, …
The past year changed each of us. The challenges called us to question, to reevaluate, to adapt. While 2020 wasn’t easy—and self-reflection leading to change requires effort—I see many positive developments. Many of us have refined our priorities, developed greater resilience, and exhibited compassion.
Just as the year led individuals to question and to change, organizations grappled with those same struggles. l am grateful and humbled by the way clients, supporters, and staff at Easterseals DC MD VA came together to tackle the challenges and devise creative and effective solutions. The pandemic and the social unrest during 2020 caused us to reflect anew on the evolving needs of the community and our strengths.
This soul-searching process:
Validated the critical importance of our Vision—“Easterseals creates a hopeful, inclusive community where all people realize their potential and live meaningful lives.” 2020 proved that a community cannot survive when some members are excluded or live without hope;
Focused our future growth on areas of greatest need including (1) improving the quality and accessibility of early education, (2) employment services, and (3) expansion of mental health care services;
Produced important innovations to meet immediate community needs safely; and
Reinforced the importance of having a sustainable organization that can weather difficult times.
When the pandemic shut down our normal operations, we knew that the needs of our clients did not go away, but in many ways became more critical. By April, Easterseals had developed new partnerships and was delivering food, PPE, medical supplies, diapers, and wipes to our most vulnerable families, and the team keeps those deliveries going every week! But even more importantly, as we connected with our families through these deliveries, drive-bys, zoom and telephone calls, we understood that we are really delivering HOPE.
Other times hope starts with the recognition that “I have a voice” and “what I want matters.” One of Easterseals greatest contributions is helping individuals build on their own strengths.
Marsi, whose two-and-a-half-year-old son Langston has Down syndrome shared that she became more confident and competent in helping her child. With Easterseals support, Marsi learned, “That I can actually do OK! Langston has special needs, and for the longest time I’ve always thought: I’m not a therapist, I am just a mom. But I’m slowly starting to let go of the ‘I’m just a mom’ idea. I am grateful for all the strategies you have shown that I can do with Langston right at home.” Read Langston’s story here.
Sometimes hope means knowing that others are in the same boat and hearing their ideas. We recognized that within our organization and through our partnerships, we have a real brain trust. The entire staff joined together to create our Candid Conversations webinars on vital topics like: Talking to Our Children About Racism, Ensuring Your Child Stays On-Track During COVID-19, Disability Employment, and Addressing the Mental Health Crisis in the Age of COVID. Replays of these fascinating sessions are available here.
And sometimes hope means just having fun. While we won’t have large, in-person celebrations for a while, we have come up with new ways to connect and to garner support for our programs. Early in 2021, Bright Stars Bedtime Stories Presented by M&T Bank will raise vital funds for Easterseals services and bring joy to thousands of children with disabilities and those from low-income, military, and first responder families. Participants will be able to log-in to hear celebrities and other special guests read specially selected books.
The challenges call to mind the inspirational words of a great American. In his famous I Have a Dream speech, Dr. Martin Luther King called on us to “hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” As we start 2021, I look back with gratitude to the generous supporters who have enabled us to achieve so much—thank you! And I look forward with optimism to the potential of the new year—a time of health, renewed connections, and continued innovation and commitment so that we deliver the hopeful and inclusive community of Easterseals’ Vision.
More than 2,500 children, families and supporters from the community joined Easterseals DC MD VA on this special night to enjoy enchanting ice skating performances by their favorite Disney movie characters from Toy Story to Moana and, of course, Frozen.
Even Mickey Mouse made a special appearance at our pre-event Circle of Heroes VIP reception to take photos with our honored guests and sponsors, whose generosity helped us raise more than $319,000!
I want to thank our Bright Stars Committee Co-Chairs Cecilia Hodges of M&T Bank and Craig Ruppert of The Ruppert Companies, and Founding Bright Stars Committee Co-Chair David Ross of Atlantic Realty Companies, as well as all the Committee members who did so much to make this event successful.
Their hard work and dedication to Easterseals ensures that our innovative programs and services are available to people of all ages with disabilities, special needs, military backgrounds and their families.
Now going on their eighth year as presenting sponsor of Easterseals’ Bright Stars, M&T Bank always brings a group of more than 20 volunteers to support our event and ensure that the children of all ages have a great time at the VIP reception.
Cecilia also presented M&T Bank’s latest commercial, which features Easterseals as one of the bank’s most valued community partners.
Kristen Berset-Harris, Co-Host of WUSA9’s Great Day Washington, served as Master of Ceremonies for our reception.
In early February, Kristen visited Easterseals Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center in Silver Spring and got to see two of our founding programs in action—the child development center and the adult day service center.
In addition to serving children and adults with disabilities, Easterseals is committed to serving our veterans and military families with high-quality behavioral health, employment and respite services. And we are serving even more children from Maryland’s Prince George’s County, with our Head Start programs, helping them and their families in underserved communities break out of the cycle of poverty.
Without support from our generous donors and sponsors for events like Bright Stars, we would not be able to continue to strive towards our vision of creating hopeful and inclusive communities where ALL people can achieve their potential and live meaningful lives.
We are committed to making an impact every day for the people we serve and ask that you help us continue making profound and positive differences for our communities by donating, volunteering or even spreading the message about our programs.