By Loretta Meola, Teaching Assistant in Bucks Division
Lew Oser has been volunteering his time and talent with Easterseals and has become part of the family. In the past, he has shared his creative woodworking skills by making several props for our carnivals. He has made two construction paper holders, and a tray holder for the Dolphin room. This year, Lew repaired the “practice” stairs in the school gym. He donates his “spare” time to complete these projects and provides all of the materials needed. Lew loves our Easterseals children! And we love Lew!
By Jennifer Eubanks
Guess who is the best storyteller in the whole wide world? That’s right you’ve guessed it! It is Patricia Fitzmeyer, aka The Story Lady! After well over 30 years of teaching in the Yaffe Center in the Starfish classroom, Pat decided to retire. However, her love for the children and teaching could not let her disconnect from Easterseals completely. So fortunately for us, she graces the classrooms weekly with her dramatic and animated storytelling ability.
She is such an incredible addition to our learning environment. The children and staff look forward to her visits. The students gain so much from Pat. She awakens their imagination and enhances their expressions. There are always lessons in each story she tells. Some days stories are filled with color, others with wild animals from the jungle! The students are transported to unfamiliar places through Pat’s vivid illustration of each story! Our lives are enriched and enhanced by her weekly presence.
Pat we just want to say THANK YOU for everything that you do and we are so appreciative of you. Love the Owls!!
by Al Perry
My daughter Lucia was born nine years ago. Nine months later I participated in my first Walk With Me. I got involved because Century 21 was a corporate sponsor and my firm Century 21 Advantage Gold had a history of supporting local Easter Seals efforts. Truth told I didn’t know much about Easter Seals. I got involved because it was fashionable to support a worthy cause.
I met so many great people during my first Walk. Most rewarding was meeting the children and the families impacted by Easter Seals. The kids were so full of excitement it was infectious. Some had difficulty communicating and others had mobility challenges. What they all had in common was a proud sense of accomplishment and a passion for life.
I was forever changed. It was like someone opened my eyes to show me a world of hope in a sea of obstacles. I looked at my healthy nine month old daughter sitting in our jogging stroller and appreciated our many blessings. Lucia smiled at me in much the same way the Easter Seals kids grinned at their parents. My wife and I walked that day and toward the end I picked Lucia up out of the stroller and held her hands so she could walk the final twenty feet. When we crossed the finish line a bunch of walkers and volunteers gave us high five’s.
Since that day Lucia and I have participated in Walk With Me each year. She is nine years old now and the Walk is one of her favorite days of the year. Every year we meet wonderful new people, many who are battling significant challenges. In the early years Lucia and I couldn’t help but see the differences. In recent years I’ve noticed a significant change. We have become more aware and now seem to focus more on our many similarities. The kids and their families are not so different from ours. Sure they may need help walking or communicating but they laugh and cry just like we do. They push themselves to try new things and get really frustrated when they don’t excel just like us. Their families support each other much like ours. Their smiles also light up a room.
I am so proud of Lucia and our family. We love participating because we meet new friends and take pride in helping others overcome their challenges. Today we see beyond someone’s limitations. We now see their inner strength. We are part of something special and it’s more rewarding than words can describe.
Al visits some of the children in at the Early Intervention Center
by Jennifer Greener
Children at the Yaffe Center were delighted to meet, pet and brush Beesly, a service dog in training from Paws & Affection. Beesly, a handsome white Labradoodle with a calm and friendly disposition, demonstrated some of his many skills to the children and staff. He can turn on lights, pick up dropped objects, open a door, and give a person a steady body for support when the person gets up from a chair. Each child had the opportunity to touch Beesly’s soft fur and stroke him with a grooming brush. Beesly loved the attention and the opportunity to make the children happy.
Beesly was accompanied by the directors and trainers at Paws & Affection, Laura O’Kane & Susie Daily as well as board member and dog trainer, Michaela Greif. Beesly will be ready for a full time service assignment this summer in either a facility environment or with an individual with physical disabilities. In the meantime, coming to school helps Beesly learn how to interact in a new situation with a wide variety of people. We are excited that Beesly will be returning to the Yaffe Center on a regular basis.
Beesly’s second visit yielded even more excitement than the first. All of the children were more alert, excited, engaged and relaxed with their new friend. During the recent visit, Beesly started working on some functional activities with our children. He helped a few children transition in and out of chairs, stand up from seated positions and stabilize themselves in order to stand and do an activity unaided by staff. This support enabled the children to be more independent despite their physical limitations! Beesly would also “get” requested objects and take them to the designated child or staff assisting children as part of their circle time and group activities. Some of the children also worked on fine motor skills such as opening their hands and using pincher grasp to feed Beesly his well-deserved treats! Our children, of course, had plenty opportunity to interact with Beesly; and there was much affection going on by our children, staff and Beesly alike!
Beesly has 3 more bi-weekly scheduled visits at Yaffe Center, after which time the Paws & Affection and Easter Seals teams will discuss additional opportunities for Beesly to work with our program.
Paws & Affection aims to place service dogs with children and teens aged 9-17 who have physical disabilities. For more information about Paws & Affection please visit their website: http://pawsandaffection.org/ or call 610-949-0490.
by Sandra Masayko
Easter Seals Bucks County Division was visited recently by three Repair Angels! Daniel Frank, a mechanical engineering graduate student at the University of Florida, recruited two of his friends, Adam Smith of Bethlehem and Corazón Irizarry of Philadelphia to help Easter Seals Assistive Technology Department get broken electronic toys repaired and back into the classrooms. Adam is an electronics technician and Corazón is a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania. Together these volunteers soldered, wired, glued and reconstructed dozens of toys. This saved Easter Seals thousands of dollars in replacement costs and more importantly, brought the toys back into the classrooms where children learn through play and manipulation of the toys. Thank you Repair Angels!
by Rebecca Erb
Delaware Valley Children’s Charity has been our community partner for decades. I’ve been here for 15 years and it started well before my time. They are the link between our families in need and community members that want to help families during the holidays. We provide them with wish lists from our students and their siblings and they share that information with their participants. They support all of Easter Seals in Southeastern PA and dozens of other community organizations around the Philadelphia area. We are so fortunate to have them as a partner. It is this spirit of giving that makes the holidays magical!
by Pat Fitzmyer
Happy 93 years young to our own Grand Mom Dot! Grand Mom Dot is a feeding assistant in the Starfish classroom in the Philadelphia Yaffe Center.
Grand Mom Dot began her association with Easter Seals in Philadelphia after her retirement over 30 years ago when she joined the Foster Grandparent program. Grand Mom Dot worked for many years at the Yaffe Center mostly with Miss Julie in the Crickets classroom. She was always the life of the party and really enjoyed her interactions with the children. Sadly, the foster grandparent program ended here and Grand Mom resumed her life as a retiree. She was restless in retirement and called Philadelphia one day to ask about volunteer opportunities at Easter Seals. Volunteer, you say? How about employment? And that is how she began her life as a feeding assistant in the Starfish classroom.
We salute you and love you and look forward to a continuing relationship with the Starfish classroom.
Happy Birthday Grand Mom Dot!
by Bill Barnes
Can’t. When I was asked to share my story as we prepare for Walk With Me 2015, the one word that kept coming back to me was can’t. My name is Bill Barnes and when I was born I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. You see as I was growing up my Dad would often say to me that can’t wasn’t in the dictionary. His point to me was that he didn’t want to hear me say I ”couldn’t” do something. Since most of the times he said this I was in the midst of doing exercises and physical therapy, I was not too fond of that saying! Over many years I realized that he was hoping to set me up for a lifetime of success. I never really looked to see if can’t really was in the dictionary, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was!
So at some point I realized it’s not what you can’t do that’s important it’s what you can. Much of that was due to my parents, but the other part to that equation was Easter Seals. I began at Easter Seals as a very young child in the preschool program and also participated in the summer camp program. I also received much more physical therapy than I ever wanted. What I know now is what I can do in my life today has a lot to do with what Easter Seals did for me when I was younger. If they hadn’t pushed me who knows if I’d be a middle school teacher like I am today.
As I got older I began to understand what Easter Seals did for me and I wanted to give back to them as much as I could. Eventually, I became a camp counselor and a Camp Director for Easter Seals. I got to see firsthand how the therapists and teachers at Easter Seals are still striving to show children what they can do. I got to see how they work with each individual child to make sure they are the success that they can be. Just as importantly, I got to do the same for scores of children through the summer camp program. While the camp program no longer exists the magic of social media allows me to see the successes “my kids” have become. We all still call ourselves the Easter Seals family.
Just this past week, two things happened that reminded me how important Easter Seals has been in my life. I recently reconnected via social media with one of my first physical therapists. While wishing me a happy birthday she reminded me how much I “loved” coming to see her. None of the messages I received meant more because I know what she meant to my life. Then later in the week while at an alumni weekend event at my alma mater, Temple University, I was stopped in the middle of campus by a former camper of mine. I absolutely beamed as he told me of the great things he was doing.
I participate in Walk With Me each year because I have seen and been a part of the great work that Easter Seals does. The therapists, teachers, social workers and many others care so much about the children they work with. Their number one goal is to focus on what each child can do – and I know that someday they will look back with pride seeing the successes those children have become because of the work they do. Take it from me, there is no greater feeling!
Bill with Easter Seals parent and volunteer Jeannine Hesser
by John Podgajny
On Monday, 1/19/15, Easter Seals of SEPA-Philadelphia Division once again was the grateful recipient of assistance from Volunteers from Vanguard Financial Services. Brian Podgajny, Project Coordinator and Team Leader, recruited the Vanguard staff to assist with the Easter Seals project. He was joined by Mike Morrisey, Dennis Hagan, Michael Barr, Adam Wint, Steven Egee and Michael Podgajny. The Vanguard Team was joined by a team from Moon Landscaping (arranged by Ken Dunmire, Account Manager) who donated a chipper and two laborers to dispose of all of the debris. Together with John Podgajny (Division Director) and Rob McNeil (Maintenance), this crew worked for 5 hours to cut, trim and clear overgrown trees, shrubs and brush from the rear property at the Joseph X. Yaffe Center on Conshohocken Avenue in Philadelphia. Their efforts significantly improved the appearance of the property.
This project marks the 2nd year that Vanguard volunteers have supported Easter Seals in projects for which Easter Seals currently lacks financial resources. This is the 2nd phase of an effort to clear the entire rear property boundary and restore it to original condition. The expense of a similar project completed several years ago was approximately $3,500! The efforts of the team allowed Easter Seals to direct similar financial resources to the services it provides for the children and families served in the five-County area.
Many thanks to Brian Podgajny and to Kyra Scalea, Project Manager for Culture and Inclusion in Vanguard Human Resources, for their support in registering Easter Seals of SEPA in the Vanguard MLK Day of Service activities. We look forward to hopefully having their help again in 2016!