Help More Adults like Daniel Fulfill their Hidden Potential.
Daniel first arrived at Easterseals in July of 2007. Today, he attends the program Monday through Friday and takes part in various activities geared towards improving his socialization skills and maximizing his abilities. He enjoys working on puzzles and art projects, and, like most young men, Daniel is passionate about basketball and other sports. In fact, he has been training for the Special Olympics.
At 22, Daniel can be seen shaking hands with his peers, smiling, and helping someone at Easterseals Adult Training Day Program. Daniel doesn't let his Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) stop him from volunteering in his community. Every Monday, Daniel serves at the Fiesta Banquet Hall where he helps pack leftover food for delivery to the homeless people in the area.
Tuesday, December 5, 2023, 10:52 AM
By Dom Evans I’m not sure of the first time I remember hearing about Easterseals, but I know I…
By Dom Evans
I’m not sure of the first time I remember hearing about Easterseals, but I know I was young. I was a child, who had recently been diagnosed with a neuromuscular disability.
It may have actually been before my diagnosis was confirmed. My father had recently been laid off from his job as a tool and die maker. He and my mother were both in school, as he had returned to a community college to get a degree in accounting, hoping for a better job.
It was a very tough time for my family, monetarily speaking. I needed things like orthopedic shoes, leg braces, and various other equipment to help with physical therapy and other things that kept me mobile.
My father, meanwhile, was deaf. Even today, most insurances won’t pay for hearing aids and, without hearing aids, my father was completely unable to hear.
I don’t exactly know my father’s story, but I think he became deaf in his teenage years or early adulthood. He didn’t really talk about it, and I feel like it was somewhat shameful for him. I do know he was not born deaf, or he could at least hear some when he was a child.
As such, he had no connection with the Deaf community. He could hear a bit (though not well) with hearing aids, but otherwise he would be unable to hear or communicate with anyone. Taking out his hearing aids meant the communication was always one-sided as we could not communicate with him very well or easily.
I know that he got his hearing aids paid for by Easterseals, allowing him to continue to go to school and eventually work. I wish my father was able to learn ASL and also develop a sense of pride in who he was, but unfortunately, he was born in the 1930s, and it was seen as a deficit when he lost his hearing.
I was told when I was young that his hearing loss had a genetic component to it and that I had inherited it, but on a smaller scale. I’ve always struggled with hearing and used to fail all my hearing tests. Even today, people constantly have to repeat themselves and I struggle to hear things, especially when people whisper or speak quietly.
While I never needed hearing aids or anything like that, all of the testing that both my father and I received were paid for by Easterseals. Because of my hearing loss, I had to go for regular hearing testing to make sure my hearing was not getting worse.
I was involved with more than one disability-related organization, and I have to say that Easterseals was a much better experience than the other organizations.
I didn’t have to do any tricks, perform any services or do anything special to get help for what I needed health care-wise from Easterseals. The other organizations wanted more of me. Easterseals just cared that I had a need that needed to be filled and they gave me the resources that my family needed so that we were accommodated and had the equipment we needed.
Just by being serviced by Easterseals, both my father and I were invited to the Easterseals holiday parties for the years when I was getting Easterseals services. They would give us presents, something that I was always grateful for because my family was not rich – so being a kid, I loved that.
I’m certain I went to a few of their parties and it didn’t feel like pandering or like the organization felt sorry for me or my family. It felt like an organization that genuinely wanted to help.
When I was getting services from Easterseals in the late 80s/early 90s, it was a very confusing time for me. I had been through a lot of medical tests as they had tried to determine what my disability was. It wasn’t until I was five years old that they really figured it out. My family was really really struggling financially, and Easterseals helped lift the medical burden from my family.
I only stopped getting services from Easterseals after my father got a job with the state as a tax commissioner agent, auditing large companies like Campbell Soup. His state insurance paid for my medical needs.
After I stopped receiving services, my father still got support from Easterseals with all of his needs surrounding his hearing loss. I know for a fact that he would not have been able to get his hearing aids without Easterseals, and that would’ve created barriers that he would not have been able to overcome to be able to work and live independently. That’s the kind of thing that Easterseals gave to him.
My father did not have an understanding about disability pride or even that he could consider himself disabled. There was always a level of uneasiness surrounding his deafness. I believe he also experienced a lot of internalized ableism/audism, but because of the way Easterseals was willing to help us – no strings attached, no promoting us in negative ways, and not owing them any favors – I believe he was better able to accept their help and was very grateful for it.
Easterseals has always been about helping disabled people. They help by providing accommodations. They help by removing the financial burden that many of us disabled people face. They offer families hope and support. There are a lot of organizations that claim to help disabled people in this way, but they are not doing nearly what Easterseals has been doing for over 100 years.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been proud to see that Easterseals continues to want to help move the needle forward when it comes to access and inclusion for disabled people. While a lot of nonprofits say they want to help us, few of them are actually doing so. I’m thankful for all that Easterseals has done for me and my family, and I’m grateful that they keep wanting to help push the needle forward and make the world a little better for all of us.
Dom Evans is the founder of FilmDis, a media monitoring organization that studies and reports on disability representation in the media. He is a Hollywood consultant, television aficionado, and future showrunner. His knowledge and interest on disability extends through media, entertainment, healthcare, gaming and nerdy topics, marriage equality, sex and sexuality, parenting, education, and more.
Tuesday, November 21, 2023, 1:24 PM
By Grant Boyer Countless people have joined the armed forces and taken part in defending the nation …
By Grant Boyer
Countless people have joined the armed forces and taken part in defending the nation and its ideals on land, in the air, and on sea. They have taken part in attacks, flown dangerous missions, and patrolled waters ̶ however, not as many have had music as their primary mission.
Doug Finke, a trombonist of 23, was drafted in 1965 and remained in service until 1967. He knew from the beginning that he wanted to play music while in the service, and chose to pursue the Marine Corps’ music program. When he finally had the chance to try out following boot camp, he was promptly given a trombone to use and music to play. At the end of the difficult audition, they said, “okay, you’re in.”
“What does that mean?” Doug asked, not yet understanding the scope and sudden nature of what they said.
“You’ve been accepted into the Marine Corps band program, and you’ll be given an assignment,” they replied.
“So, that was cool. It was stressful, but it was cool,” Doug said of his experience.
He joined the 3rd Marine Airwing Band, stationed at El Toro, California. Every base had its own band, and California alone had five or six bands. While in the field band, Doug started writing arrangements for it, mostly show tunes in a military style that used military band instrumentation. His arrangements included “Strike up the Band” and other Gershwin tunes, or simply music that everybody at the time would know.
“A warrant officer was in charge of the band, and gunnery sergeants or master sergeants would do the field directing. I had discussions with them about playing better music, and they said it was more about the precision of marching. I said, ‘I don’t think so. I think that when people hear really good music, they don’t know why but they like it better.’ So they let me write, we did these shows. And to my gratification, the directors of Army, Navy, and Air Force bands came to our director and said, ‘where did you get those arrangements?’” Doug explained.
It should be noted that he had to hand-write all of his music, which required very good handwriting. Doug took pride in his ability to write clear and accurate music, one of the elements of his arrangements’ success.
His handwriting was the reason he was eventually invited to join “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band as the director’s copyist. Within the last three years, Doug found out that he would have been working with Sammy Nestico, a very famous composer and arranger who was directing the “President’s Own” Marine Band at the time. Nestico had previously directed and arranged for the United States Air Force Band, in which he created the famous Airmen of Note jazz ensemble. Nestico is also well known for writing arrangements for the Count Basie Orchestra and is also a trombonist.
Doug ended up turning down the opportunity, “which is another story,” he says. At the time he was invited, he was married and had a child and wanted to be present for his family rather than constantly traveling with the band. On occasion, he’s pondered how his life would have been different but doesn’t regret the choice he made.
Life in general in the Marine Corps was busy and direct, with no moment of the day being wasted.
“At 7 or 7:30 in the morning, we would march in uniform from the barracks to the main flagpole on the base to raise the colors. We would play while marching down the streets, and when we arrived at headquarters, we would play a bugle call to attention and “The Star-Spangled Banner”; and then we would march back, playing marches again.
The rest of the day was made up of two different things — we would either rehearse as a concert or jazz band, or we would go out into the public to play in a parade or play a concert. In ’66 and ’67, we were off base playing in something nearly every day of the year. One year, we went 178 days without any time off. All of that was part of a goodwill campaign to the public, to give them a good feeling about being in the Vietnam war, that it was OK. The idea was to make them feel good about ‘doing what we had to do’,” Doug explained.
Sometimes playing took the band to different parts of the country, such as Salt Lake City to play in a roughly five-mile-long parade, or an annual military-centric show in Seattle. Doug’s arrangements were also played at the Seattle show, which helped them garner attention. The band’s mode of air transport was always a cargo C-130 with no seats of any kind (“typical Marine Corps”, says Doug), requiring the band members to simply find a spot on the floor and get into a good conversation to pass the time.
Back to the Vietnam War, Doug got orders to go to Vietnam twice. Bands went to Vietnam too and, of course, band members would fight as well if necessary. This was obviously worrisome to him given that he had a daughter by this point, but his commanding officer said, “don’t worry about it, I’m getting your orders changed.”
“I was principal trombone player for those two years [with the band] and he didn’t want to lose me, so I’m grateful for that.”
When asked what the proudest moment he had in the band was, Doug couldn’t name just one thing, but remembered the excellence of the band’s performance, time and again. “The trombone section was amazing — we were proud, we were loud, and we were in lock step. The formation was always perfect or near perfect. That sort of performance made me proud.”
His time in the Marines and the band taught him discipline in life, helping him to live on a schedule, “and to always do the best job you can. Make commitments, keep commitments, keep your shoes shined, and a crease in your pants.”
Grant received his creative writing degree from the University of Indianapolis in 2021, where he also played the trombone in several bands while attending. Grant has since become increasingly interested in writing the personal stories of friends and family. Grant’s grandfather Doug was a mentor and positive influence through his school years as a trombonist. They have played together in a long list of band performances, sharing the love for the trombone.
Tuesday, November 14, 2023, 12:17 PM
Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Jon Horowitch, President & CEO of Easterseals DC MD VA, for …
Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Jon Horowitch, President & CEO of Easterseals DC MD VA, for providing this information.
For some veterans – though certainly not all – the transition to civilian life can present challenges. For instance, unemployment (or underemployment) can lead to anxiety – a situation experienced by veterans and civilians alike. In the words of Deborah Mullen, military family advocate and the spouse of Adm. Michael Mullen (Ret.), 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “veterans want what every other American wants: a good job, one for their spouse or partner, a good education for their children, and a place to call home.” Mullen also serves as an Honorary Board member of Easterseals DC MD VA.
For veterans who need assistance readjusting, the challenges can be simple or complex. The first step toward resolution should be understanding the root causes of the situation and a coordinated, holistic approach to support can make that discovery process more effective. For instance, a recently transitioned service member may need assistance securing his first civilian job, while he is also managing unseen injuries. Helping that veteran find employment without also helping him heal psychologically lowers his chance of beginning a successful, long-term civilian career. Easterseals DC MD VA, which offers extensive programming for veterans and military families, has a Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. This initiative works with veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness and prepares them for long-term employment while also addressing complex transitional needs. They help clients enroll in local support services to address legal, housing, health, and other concerns, and stay with their clients every step of the way to ensure a successful transition.
Members of the military are part of a community, depending upon one another to achieve their collective mission. When leaving service, the loss of community can be one of the biggest adjustments that the veteran must make, so finding support from a new community can be immensely helpful. Easterseals recognizes the value of those connections and can help introduce military families to others who share their experiences. Easterseals’ Respite Programs, for example, help ease the challenges of being or caring for a wounded warrior, veteran, or active-duty military while also looking after children and promote connections with other caregivers. As a result, military families enjoy the emotional and social support that comes from those relationships.
Additionally, a veteran’s mental health closely intertwines with their ability to manage civilian employment. Successfully coping with the unseen effects of service brings stability to a person’s outlook and relationships, making it possible to begin a rewarding, long-term career. The economic benefits of that stability not only bring pride and the ability to provide for one’s family, but also make it possible to own a home.
Kendra Davenport, President and CEO of Easterseals, adds: “So much of a veteran’s identity is tied throughout their active-duty service to the military branch in which they serve. While on active duty, they are part of something important and part of a very tightly-knit work community that not only supports them but supports their families as well. When they separate from the military, they leave that community and they leave behind the support and solidarity and shared values, work ethic and purpose. Finding new employment can be a challenge and it is compounded by the fact that a job checks just one of the many boxes they must refill. It often fails to provide the support and strong sense of belonging veterans recognize and often feel while they are on active duty. The void can create mental stress and anxiety that can lead to depression. For all these reasons and more, Easterseals places tremendous importance on not only helping veterans secure meaningful jobs but also on their mental health.”
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