Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center: Our History
The Wheeling Society for Crippled Children was founded as a non-profit corporation in 1937. The primary mission of the Society was to "help children with cerebral palsy help themselves." Initially, the space for this service was provided by the outpatient department of the Ohio Valley General Hospital with the Ohio County Board of Education furnishing tables and chairs. Thanks to the generous financial support of the Wheeling-Ohio County Junior Red Cross, youngsters with cerebral palsy were able to receive training, counseling and physical therapy treatment.
In 1948, the local Society joined forces with the National Society for Crippled Children, known today as the National Easter Seals organization. After becoming affiliated with the National Society, services were expanded and moved to the American Red Cross building on Main Street in downtown Wheeling. Using two rooms and holding cerebral palsy clinics twice a month, 20 children received both physical and speech therapy. It also was during this period of time the Society broadened its caseload to treat other disabilities, in addition to cerebral palsy.
In April of 1955, the Society moved to a new home at 1316 National Road. Operating with financial help from the annual Easter Seals Appeal, bequests and endowments, the Society continued to increase in scope and number of clients treated. Special Education, a branch of Ohio County Schools, became housed in this facility and an Occupational Therapy wing was added to the existing three - level structure. A few years later, a Speech and Hearing department was constructed allowing for an increased number of children with speech and hearing difficulties to be seen. In 1966, a pilot nursery school began three days a week and was so successful that three years later it expanded to five days a week. It also was during 1966 that the Society hired the first Executive Director.
In the mid 1970's, the Wheeling Society for Crippled Children relocated to a newly-constructed one-floor, barrier-free facility at its present location, 1305 National Road. This project was financed through local contributions, a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, a Hill-Burton grant and the Society's own building fund. In 1974, the very first Easter Seals Telethon aired locally.
November 1977 marked another milestone as the Society became accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities for program excellence in Speech Pathology and Physical Restoration.
The year 1986 brought with it additional change when the Board of Directors split the Wheeling Society for Crippled Children into two nonprofit organizations: the parent corporation, the Wheeling Society for Crippled Children, and the subsidiary, the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center. In the early 90's, the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center became an Early Intervention site for the state of West Virginia. Continuing to meet the needs of all children and families, the Center expanded its service area to include Belmont, Jefferson and Monroe counties in Ohio during 1994.
In the fall of 2001, Easter Seals was awarded a grant from Johnson & Johnson's Pathways to Independence Program to fund the R.E.A.C.H. (Real Experience with Augmentative Communication Hardware) program. R.E.A.C.H., an expansion of the Outpatient Medical Rehabilitation program, is a complete laboratory of evaluation and treatment devices aimed at helping individuals with communication difficulties gain access to a wide variety of communication devices prior to selecting and training on one specific piece of equipment.
In 2002, the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center again received a continued three-year CARF accreditation for both Pediatric Family Centered Outpatient Medical Rehabilitation Programs and Child and Youth Services. In August of the same year, the Center's West Virginia Birth to Three program expanded services to Tyler, Pleasants, Ritchie, Wood, Wirt, Calhoun, Roane and Jackson counties.
By 2006, the Center had grown significantly through providing services to the entire state of West Virginia and eastern Ohio. Recognizing the need to update facilities to meet ongoing and increasing demand, the Center undertook a major renovation and expansion project at the 1305 National Road location. The facility grew by nearly 5,000 square feet with increased direct care and community collaboration space.
Again, in 2012, the needs of the community surfaced in the area of child development and educational services. The Center expanded its involvement in state-sponsored universal pre-kindergarten, now running five public school classrooms. Four classrooms are in Ohio County (WV) and the fifth is in Monongalia County (WV). The Monongalia site is located within the Future Steps Child Development Center, a licensed childcare facility serving more than 100 children ages six weeks through school-age. At the Wheeling location, childcare is now provided in two inclusive classrooms and serves children ages sixteen months to four years.
Easter Seals remains a mission driven organization and works each day to provide high quality, comprehensive rehabilitation and early education to clients and their families. Our tradition of creating solutions that change lives will continue as we evolve with the needs of those we are proud to serve.