A history of changing lives
Making a difference in our community since 1946
1946 The Vanderburgh County Society for Crippled Children and Adults is formed and funds braces, crutches, wheelchairs and surgeries. Camp Optimist, a day camp for children with disabilities, is founded.
1950 The organization opens a preschool center for children with disabilities; the program is located in a Quonset hut at Evansville College. Charles Caniff becomes the Society’s first Executive Director.
1951 The preschool center moves to the former Christ the King church building. Speech and Physical Therapy services are added.
1957 With generous support from the community, the organization builds The Rehabilitation Center (later called the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center) at 3701 Bellemeade Avenue. It is the first facility in the U.S. designed solely for outpatient rehabilitation. The cornerstone is inscribed "For Building Better Lives." The preschool center relocates to the new building.
1960 Psychological services begin and a vocational program for adults is introduced.
1966 Audiological services are established.
1968 A preschool program is started for children with hearing impairments.
1969 An early intervention program for infants is established with a grant from United Cerebral Palsy. To meet the growing need for services, a capital campaign is launched to add a new wing to The Rehabilitation Center.
1972 A new wing opens and the Center hosts more than 25,000 client visits for the first time.
1978 WEHT-TV (Channel 25) broadcasts the first local Easter Seals Telethon live from Evansville's Washington Square Mall.
1979 The organization name is changed to Southwestern Indiana Easter Seal Society. The early intervention program is highlighted by United Nation’s International Year of the Child. A Driver's Training program begins for individuals with disabilities and is the first program of its kind in Indiana.
1980 The Center adds OccupationalTherapy, as well as equipment to test for hearing impairments in infants. The Easter Seal Auxiliary forms.
1986 The Center establishes a Semi-Independent Living Program for adults with disabilities and begins construction of two Group Homes for children with multiple disabilities. Easter Seals celebrates its 40th anniversary locally.
1989 The first adult Group Home is established by the Rehabilitation Center Developmental Services division. Supported Employment services are offered. A capital campaign begins to fund a major expansion of the Center.
1990 A new adaptive seating clinic serves 46 individuals. The Center is certified to provide Driver's Training for adults with visual impairments. The Semi-Independent Living Program (SILP) enables 45 people to live independently in the community.
1991 Ground is broken for a major building expansion. The Center serves 158 infants in the state’s new First Steps program and contracts with the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation to provide developmental preschool services. Therapeutic horseback riding and recreation therapy are offered for the first time.
1992 A state-of-the-art, fully-accessible, full-size, warm-water therapeutic pool opens at the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center. One preschool room is remodeled and two new ones are added.
1993 People learn daily living skills in Easy Street, a mock city block with an apartment inside the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center. The Center begins to offer Assistive Technology services.
1994 The local Easter Seals Telethon, produced by WEHT-TV, is judged best in the country.
1996 Evansville’s Sally Coslett is National Easter Seal Adult Representative. A new Assistive Technology workshop opens, providing clients with prescribed rehabilitation equipment on-site. Easter Seals celebrates 50 years locally.
1999 Early childhood services for children with and without disabilities are introduced with the opening of Milestones, the inclusive Easterseals Child Development Center. Community Living Services (formerly SILP) are expanded for severely disabled individuals in their homes. STARS, a program for individuals with autism, is launched.
2001 The Assistive Technology Solutions division celebrates the grand opening of its showroom inside the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center. Renovations and additions are completed at Milestones, the Easter Seals Child Development Center, including a new infant playground area.
2002 Psychiatric consultation services are introduced for children and youth with disabilities. Milestones earns accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. A pilot project begins to provide fitness activities for individuals with disabilities, including swimming and tae kwon do. The local Easter Seals Telethon celebrates its silver anniversary broadcast with WEHT-ABC25. For the first time, the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center introduces a web site to provide online information about services, programs and events.
2003 Milestones is voted "Evansville’s Best Day Care" by readers of Evansville Living magazine. The first Fitness Awareness Day for People with Disabilities is presented.
2004 A partnership with The Home Depot, "Rehabilitating Spaces," results in a friendly competition between store employees who remodel two group homes.
2005 Posey County Rehabilitation Services (including Horizon Industries and New Frontiers Employment Services) is merged into the operations of the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center. ASPIRE Day Services are introduced for adults with developmental disabilities.
2006 The Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center raises over $250,000 through the "Angel of Change" campaign to fund repairs to the warm-water therapeutic pool and to eliminate the waiting list for Speech Therapy. The community’s exceptional support earns a $50,000 "Angel of Change" challenge grant from national Easter Seals.
2008 The Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center introduces The P.L.A.Y. Project, a home-based, family-centered early intervention program for children with autism.
2012 Evansville resident Ben Trockman serves as Easter Seals National Adult Representative. The "final tote" for the local Easter Seals Telethon on WEHT surpasses $1 million for the first time.
2014 A $3.5 million capital campaign is launched to fund building maintenance and therapy equipment. The Therapeutic Preschool is named in honor of Dan & Nancy Mitchell, exceptional supporters and volunteers for decades. A pre-K program for unserved and underserved 4-year-olds begins at Milestones. Multiple programs for adults are awarded the maximum 3-year accreditation from CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities).
2015 The $3.5 million capital campaign goal is reached in April and projects are under way. Ray Raisor announces he will retire after nearly 34 years as President of the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center. He receives the prestigious Extra Mile Award from National Easter Seals. The local Board of Directors names Kelly Schneider, a 27-year employee and Senior Vice President of Operations, to take the helm as President on June 1, 2015.
2016 The national organization implements a "brand renaissance" which includes new logos, new colors, and the transition of the name Easter Seals to one word; the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center adopts the new brand standards and becomes known as the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center.
2017 Holiday World hosts its 25th annual "Play Day", a special day for children with disabilities from throughout the Tri-State, and for the 25th year, donates all proceeds from the day to Easterseals.
2018 The Dan & Nancy Mitchell Therapeutic Preschool moves from 3701 Bellemeade, joining Milestones Early Care & Education, as well as LEAD Academy Pre-K, at 621 S. Cullen Avenue, creating a truly inclusive environment for all early childhood programs. A $50,000 grant from "Golf Gives Back" - the charitable arm of the United Leasing Championship - funds the "Golf Gives Back" Arts Enrichment Studio at the Cullen Ave. location. Easterseals holds the 25th annual Ritzy's Fantasy of Lights in Garvin Park.
2019 Assistive Technology Solutions relocates to the former preschool wing inside the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center, providing a more accessible, spacious, and welcoming area to provide services. A new Driver's Training van is donated by Audubon Chrysler Center and equipped with updated controls by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Psychologist Dr. Dorothy Stephens retires after 40 stellar years of service and Dr. Jim Schroeder joins the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center. Plans are made to expand pediatric mental health services. The space previously occupied by Assistive Technology Solutions is renovated to house the Department of Psychology & Wellness and its new Clinical Psychology Internship program. Dr. Emma Nicholls is added as a faculty member, and on July 1, 2019, the program's first three interns join the growing program.
2020 A February Open House thanks donors, updates the community on the expansion of pediatric psychology services, and celebrates completed renovations. Improvements include a separate family waiting area for the Department of Psychology & Wellness and two newly equipped sensory rooms. The global coronavirus pandemic presents significant challenges throughout the year and leads to innovative ways of delivering essential services, including providing therapies through telehealth.
2021 Easterseals celebrates its 75th anniversary, focusing on three themes: Empower, Transform, and Celebrate. The Easterseals Early Learning Center, Evansville's only fully-inclusive early learning program, earns accreditation from NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), and is one of only 10% of programs in the U.S. to achieve that high quality designation. A new collaboration brings the programs of Mental Health America of Vanderburgh County under the Easterseals umbrella, with the shared goal of strengthening and expanding community mental health information, awareness, education, and resources.