The Story of Easterseals
As America’s largest nonprofit health care organization, Easterseals is committed to the comprehensive health and wellness of the more than 1.5 million people it serves each year and is prepared to respond to the needs of the one in four Americans living with disability today with outcomes-based services for all disabilities throughout the lifespan.
Among our services: early intervention, inclusive childcare, medical rehabilitation and autism services for young children and their families; job training and coaching, employment placement and transportation services for adults with disabilities, including veterans; adult day services and employment opportunities for older adults – in addition to a variety of additional services for people of all ages including mental health and recovery programs, assistive technology, camp and recreation, caregiving support including respite – and much more.
Additionally, we’ve served transitioning military, veterans and their families and caregivers since WWII and continue to be the “go to” resource for them to help ensure their successful transition to civilian life.
Tragedy Leads to Inspiration
In 1907, Ohio-businessman Edgar Allen lost his son in a streetcar accident. The lack of adequate medical services available to save his son prompted Allen to sell his business and begin a fund-raising campaign to build a hospital in his hometown of Elyria, Ohio. Through this new hospital, Allen was surprised to learn that children with disabilities were often hidden from public view. Inspired to make a difference, in 1919 Allen founded the National Society for Crippled Children, the first organization of its kind.
The Birth of the Seal
In the spring of 1934, the organization launched its first Easter "seals" campaign to raise money for its services. To show their support, donors placed the seals on envelopes and letters. Cleveland Plain Dealer cartoonist J.H. Donahey designed the first seal. Donahey based the design on a concept of simplicity because those served by the charity asked "simply for the right to live a normal life." The lily - a symbol of spring - was officially incorporated as the National Society for Crippled Children’s logo in 1952 for its association with new life and new beginnings.
Expansion of the organization
In 1945, we expanded our vision across the country and in communities nationwide when we opened our services to adults and returning WWII veterans.
The overwhelming public support for the Easter "seals" campaign triggered a nationwide expansion of the organization and a swell of grassroots efforts on behalf of people with disabilities. By 1967, the Easter "seal" was so well recognized, the organization formally adopted the name "Easter Seals."
Americans with Disabilities Act
Prior to the passing of the ADA on July 26, 1990, Easterseals was a leading advocate for the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and actively lobbied in Washington and across the country for its adoption. Easterseals also created some of the most powerful advocacy pro-ADA public service campaign with messages to support the law and its implementation. After the passing of the ADA, Easterseals worked tirelessly to ensure that all people are empowered to access their rights under the ADA. Read more about Easterseals history with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Today, Easterseals provides essential services and on-the-ground supports to more than 1.5 million individuals and families each year through its national network of Affiliates in communities nationwide. Easterseals offers a variety of home and community-based services in four distinct areas of impact.
ENRICHING EDUCATION: Programs designed to help children and adults learn—and often re-learn—basic functions, master skills needed to develop and thrive, and be sharp and active as they age.
• Early childhood education
• Inclusive child care
• Educational programming and training throughout the lifespan
• Assistive technology
• Social skills coaching
• Enrichment activities
ENHANCING HEALTH: Hands-on, comprehensive, vital therapies and services which ensure health and wellness so that children and adults can reach their full potential.
• Early intervention services
• Autism services
• Physical therapy
• Occupational therapy
• Speech and hearing therapies
• Behavioral health services
EXPANDING EMPLOYMENT: A range of training, placement and related services that help people prepare for or re-enter the workforce.
• Workforce development
• Job placement
• Assistive technology
• Supported employment
• Senior employment
• Veteran integration programs
ELEVATING COMMUNITY: Programs for children, adults, and caregivers to live, relax, connect, and thrive within their communities. These programs strengthen the local community overall and encourage individual engagement and participation in their local communities.
• Respite services
• Recreation programming
• Community living, residential and group homes
• Independent living services
• Day programs
• Transportation services
The next 100 years
In 2019, Easterseals celebrated 100 years of impact in the lives of individuals with disabilities or other special needs, their families and communities throughout America as a powerful advocate and leading provider of innovative services. In marking this milestone, Easterseals reflected on its legacy of delivering equality, dignity and independence to people with disabilities while embracing a future where every one of us is 100% included and 100% empowered.
Since its founding in 1919, Easterseals has remained committed to ensuring that the needs of children and adults with disabilities, veterans and older adults are met with services and supports to help them live, learn, work and play in their communities. By combining on-the-ground presence, deep expertise and diverse programs, 69 Easterseals affiliates nationwide are advancing change to assure that people with disabilities and other special needs can thrive in their communities.