18th Annual Black and Blue Ball – Music Entertainment Announcement: Club Black & Blue

It’s time to party! The Black and Blue Ball is heading into its 18th year with a fun remix on Friday, February 3, 2023, at the Peoria Civic Center. The party begins at 5:30pm. We are excited to present Club Black and Blue to our guests this year. Featuring your favorite DJs Red Hot Brian Scott from Z92.3 and Matt Bahan from 105.7 X. Get ready to dance as they fire off non-stop hits rock, pop, country, and everything in-between!

The Black and Blue Ball has raised well over one million dollars for Easterseals Central Illinois. The Black and Blue Ball continues to be unique from other traditional fundraising events – creating an atmosphere geared towards the young and young-at-heart professionals. We are ready to throw on our black tie – blue jean attire and have a ball for the kids and families of Easterseals!

Tickets are $125 per person or $1,250 for a table of 10. Ticket prices increase on January 1, 2023, so get your tables today! Sponsorships start at $2,500.

This year we are excited to offer an upgraded VIP experience that can be added for sponsors! Learn more at Eastersealsci.com/BlackandBlue

Sponsorships are now available by contacting Danielle Easton at Deaston@eastersealsci.com or (309)687-2022. Tickets are on sale now! Stay up to date on all things Black & Blue by following is on Facebook @ESBlackBlue or visit Easterseals Central Illinois | Black & Blue Ball.

Holiday Wish List 2022

Pediatric therapy is designed to be fun. Our rooms are filled with toys, games, and sensory activities. While we do have a small budget to update our items, a majority of our resources are donated by generous families and supporters. Some of our items have been in our therapy rooms for decades. Generations of children have utilized the same toys and games to reach their milestones.

During the season of giving, we know many of you are looking for ways to make an impact. We asked our Occupational Therapy team to share some of their most needed items. If you are looking for a way to give back, and make a big impact- please consider donating items from our wish list!

Click here to view our full Amazon wishlist or check out our switch toys below.

Meet Dylan

Dylan is extraordinary. 

He has one of only 2,500 known cases of Phelan-McDermid Syndrome (PMS). This rare genetic disorder often causes speech and developmental delays, as well as autism spectrum disorder. Dylan began showing symptoms early on, walking much later than the average toddler and experiencing significant speech delays.

A few days before his first birthday, a specialist confirmed that he has autism. Three weeks later, he was diagnosed with PMS.

Dylan has low muscle tone, which slows his physical development and impacts his language and communication skills. While there is no cure, physical therapy and occupational therapy help. Dylan has a high tolerance for pain and, like others with PMS, the tendency to overheat. Coupled with his communication challenges, it can be hard to know if he is in pain and needs help. He also struggles with sleep. A sleepless Dylan means sleepless nights for mom and dad.

Raising a child with a rare disease isn’t easy. There’s stress, worry, exhaustion, but also an enduring love that helps families keep going. And thanks to donors like you, there’s Easterseals Central Illinois.

Thanks to support from generous donors like you, Dylan visits our Peoria Service Center 3 times a week where he receives speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. He is making great progress and his family is grateful for the support.

Community Foundation of Central Illinois provides LiteGait system to Easterseals Central Illinois

Learning to walk is a fundamental milestone for all children.  Some children, however, need some additional help reaching this milestone.  Easterseals’ LiteGait program is designed to help children learn (or re-learn) to walk more easily, faster, and with more confidence.   The LiteGait system addresses the needs of children learning or re-learning to walk through a specialized body-weight support system that provides a safe, supported environment where children can learn (or relearn, in the case of injury or surgery) basic walking skills.  Thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Central Illinois in the amount of $12,500, we can purchase this system to assist the children in Central Illinois in reaching this important milestone.

Briar uses the LiteGait with his Physical Therapist, Shannon.

It uses a mechanical system and a harness to support the individual and control balance and posture over a treadmill or over the ground. Using the LiteGait over a treadmill allows clients to practice walking over an “endless walkway”. The therapist doesn’t have to worry about having to stop a child’s walking because they came to the end of a hallway and now have to turn around or worry about balance.

Using the harness, the child is totally supported, so there is no risk of falling. The LiteGait provides therapists with an extra set of hands during therapy sessions. In this way, the therapist can assist with the child’s leg movement over a longer distance and for a longer period of time.

Zoey and Shannon use the LiteGait

The child gets to practice walking in a way that cannot be done without this support. Essentially, they can walk farther and faster when supported over the treadmill than they can otherwise. This helps children progress to walking with a walker, or alone if possible, recover from surgery or injury, or build endurance. It can also improve their gait patterns, so they can walk with better balance and control. Medical research supports the use of body weight-supported gait training for children with cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, and children and adults with various conditions and disabilities.

Gretchen Meyer, Physical Therapist at Easterseals Central Illinois, Steve Thompson, CEO of Easterseals Central Illinois and Sarah Fletcher
   Director of Grants and Community Initiative, Community Foundation of Central Illinois

Meet Melissa!

On Wednesday, June 1st it was announced that Melissa Riddle would be assuming the role of President of Easterseals Central Illinois. Steve Thompson will be retiring from his 42-year career with Easterseals at the end of August 2022.

Melissa joined the Easterseals Central Illinois team in 2021 as the Chief Operating Officer and quickly put her 17 years of nonprofit/healthcare experience to work! She sat down with us yesterday to answer a few questions to help our extended Easterseals family (all of you) get to know her a little better.

Hometown:   Metamora Community, where I currently reside today.

Family:   Tony (husband), Lauren (daughter), and Tyler (son).

Pets:  2 Labrador Retrievers

Favorite sports teams:  Chicago Cubs

Favorite weekend activity:   Kids Baseball and Softball games

Alma Mater: Goshen College

Tell us about your career leading up to Easterseals:

I began my career with McGladrey & Pullen, LLP with a focus on auditing. One of my clients was The Children’s Home Association of Illinois. I had the chance to join their team as the Chief Financial Officer. Over the next 17 years, I was able to expand my experience as the President and Chief Financial Officer into the day-to-day operations including Human Resources, Information Technology, Quality Improvement, Facilities, and the overall mission of the organization.   I enjoyed being a part of the statewide Child Welfare Advisory Committee, advocating for kids and families in the state of Illinois.

What is your favorite thing about working at Easterseals?

Obviously, the mission of Easterseals is incredible. Getting to be a part of this great work is so humbling.  One of my favorite things is the team of dedicated, talented professionals that make up the Easterseals Central Illinois staff. Every single individual that works for this organization shows up each day wanting to make a positive impact on the communities we serve. 

Easterseals believes every child deserves the best; what does ‘the best’ mean to you?

My background is in business operations. So to me, means our families deserve the best from start to finish. Our families have said that they receive the best in therapy, at school, and at camp. But ‘The best’ also means clear communication about insurance, billing, scheduling, and access to services. ‘The best’ means we work alongside families throughout the entire process at Easterseals to be their partner and advocate. Being the best means constantly listening and learning from our families.

What does the future hold for Easterseals?

For the last 100 years, Easterseals has been a solid foundation for families in our community. Thanks to the work of Steve Thompson and the leadership teams over the previous few decades, we are entering an exciting time for Easterseals.

When I think about the future, I think about sustainability and staying the course. Easterseals Central Illinois started providing services at a once-a-week clinic in a storefront over 100 years ago. This year we are opening a new facility in Bloomington with the Bloomington-Normal YMCA, renovating our Peoria Service Center, and expanding access into rural communities with telehealth. Timber Pointe Outdoor Center is leading the state in inclusive recreation opportunities, and the Easterseals Learning Academy is making an impact across 15 school districts. Our partnership with Child and Family Services in 11 counties in Central Illinois is improving access to vital early intervention services. Our impact is broad, and we are committed to sustaining that impact. We are committed to ensuring every child is 100% included and 100% empowered because that is what they deserve, it is what their families deserve, and it is what our communities deserve.

Steve Thompson Announces Retirement as he Celebrates 42 years with Easterseals Central Illinois

June 1 2022 (Peoria, IL)- After 42 years of dedicated service, President and CEO of Easterseals Central Illinois, Steve Thompson, has announced his plans to retire effective August 31, 2022.   Effective immediately, Melissa S. Riddle will step into the role of President assuming responsibility for all aspects of Easterseals operations.  To support the transition, Steve Thompson will continue in his role as CEO through the end of August. 

“It has been a remarkable privilege to be a part of an organization focused on ensuring that every child is given the opportunity to reach their full potential. I have been honored to work alongside our dedicated staff, tireless volunteers and an extraordinary Board of Directors.”

Steve Thompson

Steve Thompson began his career at Easterseals in 1981 and has served as President and CEO since 1986. During his first year, the organization served 875 individuals. In 2021, Easterseals Central Illinois served more than 5,000 families across its six locations. Thompson has been  widely recognized as an exemplary leader and known for consistently making the needs of children with disabilities and their families his first priority.  His life’s work, and that of his wife Morene, has been driven by a steadfast belief that every child deserves the best. 

“I am proud of the positive impact Easterseals has had in the lives of children and families in Central Illinois for the past 103 years.  Going forward, Easterseals is committed to sustaining and growing that impact,” shared Steve Thompson. “During the past year, Melissa Riddle has demonstrated a passionate sense of purpose and the skills to advance our mission.  I’m confident that Easterseals will thrive under her operational expertise and leadership.”

Melissa Riddle joined the executive leadership team at Easterseals in 2021 as Chief Operating Officer. Prior to that, Melissa served as President and Chief Financial Officer of the Children’s Home Association of Illinois. During her 17 years with Children’s Home, she gained extensive knowledge in nonprofit management and the delivery of services for children and youth.   

 “I am grateful to so many children and families who have shown me that the “best” is not a destination but a never-ending pursuit. In this spirit, I know that the best is yet to come for Easterseals Central Illinois. With an excellent staff, high-quality programs, exemplary boards, generous donors, committed volunteers, and a strong endowment, Easterseals will continue to be recognized as a trusted and caring organization far into the future.”     

Steve Thompson

Better Speech & Hearing Month

May is better speech and hearing month. Speech-Language therapy has been a staple of Easterseals Central Illinois since we opened in 1919. Over the last century, we have seen so many milestone moments and watched thousands of children learn to communicate their wants and needs in a variety of ways.

Meet some of our current kiddos!

Reagan brings her bright smile and infectious laugh to Easterseals for Speech therapy with Molly! Reagan is currently focusing on receptive language during speech. She also is learning to communicate by using an AAC device, sign language, and speaking verbally.  Her mom shares “Molly has been amazing helping us journey through the world of speech and what all that entails. Whether it be the AAC device or learning a new sign, she always has a tremendous amount of patience and a smiling face. We love Molly!!! “

Reece loves to use his communication skills to make friends! He has been using his voice to share his love of Easterseals and Timber Pointe Outdoor Center.

Kenzi is working hard in Speech Therapy with Taylor! She is making progress every day.

Closing out this post we have our friend Brooks! Brooks is working hard on his goals in Speech Therapy, including singing along with songs! See the adorable video his mom posted below.

Bloomington-Normal YMCA & Easterseals Central Illinois Facility Update

We are so excited to be nearing completion on the Bloomington-Normal YMCA facility in just a few months! This building includes our new Easterseals Central Illinois home in Bloomington-Normal. Check out this amazing flythrough video created by the YMCA to get to know the space a little better.

Our partners PJ Hoer Inc. Also shared this video on their youtube page

Our friends at WMBD news also shared a news story featuring our very own Ambassador Reece and his mom Dezi!

A few months later WMBD returned with President Kinzy of Illinois State University for another tour

Why We Rally: CEFCU

We asked our partners at CEFCU why they #Rally4Easterseals here is what they shared:

At CEFCU, helping people is more than a nice idea – it’s the reason we’re in business. We were founded on the principle of “People Helping People”, which means we not only are committed to members’ financial well-being, but also to supporting the areas where CEFCU members live and work. That’s why we’re proud to RALLY with Easterseals – an amazing non-profit that works tirelessly to help the children living in central IL with development delays, disabilities, and other special needs. By partnering with organizations like Easterseals who are doing good in our communities, we ensure that we are living our values by helping to make a lasting difference in the areas we serve.

We #Rally4Easterseals at CEFCU year-round by sponsoring many of their events, volunteering our time, sharing our resources, and giving back to their mission. We are thankful for our partnership and look forward to supporting them for years to come!

Thank you, CEFCU!