Organizational Update (11/1/2020)

An Update from our CEO, Wendy Sullivan

Dear friends,

I hope this message finds you and your family safe, healthy, and well.

For the past 37 years, the Festival Gala has kicked off the holiday season for us here at Easterseals and, during that time, has raised more than $10 million in support of our Autism Services program. While we were planning to celebrate with you in person this year, we acknowledge that it is just not possible. Please plan to join us virtually to kick off the holiday season in the most festive style. Corporate and "table" sponsorships are available. Each includes early access to our lavish auction, as well as in-home delivery of a luxury gift basket of seasonal treats, self-guided wine-tasting, selection of hors d'oeuvres, and much more for ten guests. 

On event night, we encourage you to cozy up in the comfort of your own home and celebrate with your friends or family during our virtual program. I hope you are as excited as I am for this year's Festival Gala.

None of this would be possible without the fantastic committee of more than 70 volunteers who have worked so hard to curate what I am sure will be a spectacular evening. To learn more or to secure early access to all this event will have to offer, please visit

Unfunded and Underfunded Programs

I thought I would share a bit more about how your financial support helps offset unfunded or dramatically underfunded services and resources for people with disabilities.  Our donors have helped fill the gap in many areas of the organization for generations.

One such example is in our Community Living program. Costs related to urgent essential care typically exceed $300,000 per year and can include things like dental care, emergency housing, food, and so much more.

When a crisis occurs, having the right support available to a person with a disability makes all the difference. More and more people with disabilities require secure housing and medical care, and too often, they enter our services due to critical situations.

Such a case happened not long ago when an elderly father passed away at home with his adult son, who has a developmental disability. More than seven days passed before his father's remains were discovered; his son needed emergency housing, medical care, and food. Thankfully, Easterseals was able to provide these items quickly. Today, he lives in our Community Living Program and is thriving. 

Sadly, many people do not have access to help in an emergency and often find themselves with nowhere to turn.  Thankfully, we have the support of donors like you to help fund these important efforts. Thank you!

Virtual Autism Conference

This year also brings changes to our annual Autism Conference series. Instead of regional conferences, we are hosting a statewide conference on Thursday, November 5, and Friday, November 6, 2020. The conference is for anyone, including individuals, families, caregivers, educators, or professionals who seek additional education or a deeper understanding of autism.

The conference will offer practical strategies and tips from leading professionals that can quickly go into practice in everyday situations. Attendees will be able to choose from six different breakout sessions and engage with their presenters in question and answer sessions.

The conference closes with two-time #1 Bestselling Author and Speaker John O'Leary. In 1987, O'Leary suffered an accident that left him with burns covering 100 percent of his body. Doctors gave him less than a 1 percent chance to live; O'Leary's story is one of overcoming overwhelming odds. It is powerful, and something no one would want to miss. 

Registration for the conference is required and available by visiting

All-Stars for Autism

Each August, the Wallis Companies, through their Mobile On the Run locations, raise vital funds supporting Easterseals work. All-Stars for Autism is a major cause marketing project we take on each year in partnership.  Even in a pandemic, the Wallis teams worked hard and asked their customers to round-up for Easterseals.

Locations hosted special events, including a dunking booth sponsored by local police officers in Rolla, a month-long auction in Wildwood, a carnival in Steelville, and fantastic raffle items, like a Big Green Egg BBQ in West Alton. These are just a few examples of what the 66 locations put together.

Late last month, Easterseals Board member and Wallis Companies president Lynn Wallis, members of her corporate leadership team, and On the Run staff presented a check to Easterseals for $100,000.

We cannot thank the Wallis team enough for all they do each year to support our critical work. It is incredible what we have accomplished together over the past 12 years. 

COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 infection rates continue to grow across the nation, most notably in the Midwest. As essential providers, our responsibility remains the same - stay the course and remain vigilant for those we support, ourselves, our families, and our peers.

I want to assure you that our COVID-19 Task Force continues to be hard at work evaluating and re-evaluating our response to keeping our programs safe for those we support and our staff. We currently have 10 staff members and 4 individuals with disabilities grappling with COVID-19 infections.

For additional information on all we are doing, please visit our COVID-19 webpage by visiting:

Our work is only possible because of you – our partners who show up and support Easterseals with the resources we need to deliver life-changing services. I am grateful for your trust and dedication. It means the world to me and our work.

Until next time, thank you for all that you do.

Wendy Sullivan
Chief Executive Officer

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