The Rapidian Home

A visit with Easter Seals

Underwriting support from:
Andrew and his family at the Easter Seals fundraising walk

Andrew and his family at the Easter Seals fundraising walk

On my way to Easter Seals to conduct the interview for this article, I had some time to kill so I swung by Barnes and Noble. There, I ran into my little buddy Andrew. Andrew, who is 5 and has Downs Syndrome, is also a client of Easter Seals and one of their local ambassadors.  

Andrew’s parents, Becky and Cam Muir, learned about Easter Seals through their doctor. “We were provided a packet of information with resources for kids with Down Syndrome,” explains Becky. “But we didn’t really notice it until a friend of Cam’s mom told us we should look into Easter Seals for Andrew.” 

Easter Seals provides therapy and support services for children and adults with disabilities as well as for their families. In Grand Rapids, those services include occupational, feeding, sensory integration, PLAY therapy programs, speech and language. In addition, Easter Seals offers horseback riding therapy in partnership with Stonehill Stables. 

“Children who come here have a variety of disabilities from Down Syndrome to autism,” says Easter Seals occupational therapist, Rosie Ells. “They share many of the same challenges in processing information or reacting to stimuli.”  

Easter Seals works with the parents, physicians, schools and the client’s other therapy providers to develop individualized programs that will prepare them for school or help them with life skills such as buttoning their shirt or socializing with others. 

Clients come from all over west Michigan and from all walks of life. “We work on a sliding scale Andrewability to pay,” explains Denise Durkee, Easter Seals West Michigan Director. “Many insurance plans have limited visits for occupational, physical or other therapies, so many of our clients are those who no longer have coverage through insurance or who aren’t eligible for insurance.” Many insurance companies also have exclusions for chronic conditions or developmental delays such as autism. “Easter Seals will work with anyone and turn no one away,” adds Durkee. 

The therapy rooms at Easter Seals are filled with colorful toys and equipment. All therapy programs are play based. The kids look forward to coming to therapy and dancing, coloring, swinging, all activities that allow the therapists to work on tasks such as eye-hand coordination, fine motor and large motor skills, and socialization. Therapy also involves the whole family, parents, siblings and even grandparents. 

Andrew’s sister Bianca was three-years-old when Andrew began therapy. “She was always welcome in the room,” shares his mom. “So, she learned as much as Andrew did.” Andrew began therapy when he was 4-months-old. Muir credits Easter Seals with keeping Andrew on track with other kids his age. “He crawled on time. He was only slightly delayed in walking. They taught him the right way to crawl. They made sure his gait walking was correct. They worked on muscles you wouldn’t normally think to work with, such as his tongue and eye muscles.” Today Andrew is on target and in pre-school.  

Easter Seals also has programs for seniors. Out and About is an occupational therapy program that works with the elderly in their homes on tasks associated with daily living, such as bathing and dressing. Easter Seals will also assess the safety of the home ensuring that falls don’t happen over common items such as throw rugs or slippery bathroom floors. “The goal is to support seniors ability to live independently as long as possible,” explains Durkee. 

The Caring for Caregivers program assists those who are taking care of an elderly relative or friend in how best to provide care and to ensure that they maintain their quality of life in the process. 

Funding for Easter Seals comes from many sources but relies heavily on public donations. Each year Easter Seals holds a fundraising walk at the John Ball Park and Zoo. “Fifty percent of our budget comes from individuals,” says Durkee. Easter Seals has a stellar reputation of putting their funds to work for clients with 94 cents of each dollar going to direct client services. “We rely a lot on donations for building maintenance and equipment and other non-therapy expenses,” she adds. 

Easter Seals’ wish list includes a climbing wall, a TV and two portable Wii systems. “The Wii is a great way to get both kids and adults moving.” Easter Seals would also like to expand their services to older kids and young adults with autism, focusing on life skills and independent living. 

As I’m wrapping up my interview Andrew comes bursting in the room for a round of hugs. His mom follows him in. When asked if there is one message about Easter Seals she’d like to share, she responded, “Andrew’s on target. I don’t think he would’ve been without Easter Seals. Anybody with a disability should try Easter Seals first. As you can see, the people here really care about Andrew and our whole family.”

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.

Comments should post this in the nonprofit section as well! Good article...nice you can still be an advocate for such an important organization!