Cover Stories

Ongoing Help: Easter Seals Midwest

Four-year-old Bobby, diagnosed with autism, used to hide in fear whenever visitors came to his house. “He was virtually nonverbal, barely spoke to his father and me, and didn’t seem to know his brother existed,” recalls his mother. Today, Bobby is successfully learning how to interact with others, thanks to help from Easter Seals Midwest. The nonprofit also makes it possible for Jenna, a 12-year-old who lives with multiple disabilities, to attend the same mainstream neighborhood school as her friends. And for 31-year-old Luke, who has a developmental disability, to live independently and support himself as a data entry clerk at a local business, much to the relief of his elderly parents.

Easter Seals Midwest helps thousands of Missourians with developmental disabilities—including autism—learn, live, work and participate in their community. “We teach individuals the skills they need to get a job, make friends, and function as fully and independently as possible,” says CEO Wendy Sullivan.

Formerly known as Life Skills | TouchPoint, the agency serves nearly 4,000 Missourians through its four divisions. Autism Services offers training, therapies and support for children, teens, adults and their families. Community Living teaches independent living and social skills. Employment Services helps more than 60 clients per year develop job skills and find meaningful employment at more than 120 area businesses. And Early Childhood Services, available only in the northwest Kansas City region, assists at-risk children with a broad range of programs.

Highly trained specialists provide ongoing follow-up and support for their clients, both at home and on the job. “We do everything we can to make sure they succeed,” Sullivan says. Affiliation with Easter Seals, the leading nonprofit provider of services for individuals with disabilities, has expanded the local organization’s reach considerably. “It connects us to a national network of resources, allows us to learn and share with other agencies, and enables us to serve more people more effectively than ever before,” she says. “But we’re governed by an independent, local board, and every dollar we raise goes to local services.”

A major fundraiser, the two-day Par-Tee Dinner Auction and Tee-It-Up Golf Tournament, takes place July 26 and 27 at Meadowbrook Country Club. “The event raises more than $350,000 a year toward helping people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to our services,” Sullivan says. Event co-chairs are Bill Bartelsmeyer, Matthew Goldenberg, Les Wagner and Erin Woerther. Chris Hrabe of KMOX Radio serves as emcee; co-emcee and honorary chair is St. Louis Blues announcer Darren Pang. Mungenast Lexus of St. Louis is Hole-in-One Sponsor.

“People with disabilities want the same things in life as everyone else: friends, freedom of choice, fulfilling work, and a chance to participate in a community that values their contributions,” Sullivan says. “No matter how severe their limitations, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Everyone can learn, and everyone has something to offer. All they need is an opportunity. Easter Seals Midwest helps make that possible.”

Photo: Easter Seals Midwest

[The 30th annual Par-Tee Dinner Auction and Tee-It-Up Golf Tournament, benefiting Easter Seals Midwest, take place July 26 and 27 at Meadowbrook Country Club. Dinner auction tickets only are $125; individual tournament tickets (which include dinner for two) are $450. Sponsorships are still available, starting at $500. For more information, call 314.394.7135 or visit esmwgolf.org.]

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