A New Year, but the Same Easterseals Mission

For 45 years, the Easterseals Telethon has brought members of our community together in pursuit of 100% Inclusion, 100% Empowerment for all children. This year, in preparation for our 46th Annual Easterseals Telethon, our campaign luncheons have focused on Easterseals service lines. Read on for a glimpse into one family’s experience with Easterseals.

Trisha and her son, Cruz, enjoying a moment together during an in-home Occupational Therapy session with Easterseals.

For many, a new year means new opportunities. New experiences. Fresh starts. At Easterseals, the arrival of the new year has always meant one thing, specifically: the arrival of Telethon season.

For 46 years, the Easterseals Telethon has been a staple event in Central Illinois. A chance for the entire community to come together and celebrate the culmination of the annual Easterseals campaign. An event where old friends and new friends come together to celebrate Easterseals, an organization that has been a major part of the lives of so many families in our community (over 7,000 in 2019 to be exact). An event where it is clear that everyone connected to Easterseals is a member of our family.

With the arrival of Telethon season comes the Telethon Campaign Luncheons. This month, we enjoyed our New Year Kickoff Telethon Luncheon which focused on our Motor Therapy Services. We heard from two of our Easterseals Therapists, Katie Pena, OTR/L and Joanna Stuck, PT, CIMI, as well as Trisha Romero, a mom of one of our current Easterseals Ambassadors.

In a speech that was equal parts informative and heartwarming, Trisha shared her family’s story.

“Cruz is an adorable 20 month old that brings so much joy to our family. He loves to play with his older two brothers, and just like many other toddlers his age, he enjoys going on walks outside, taking baths, exploring our house and hearing music… Cruz also has Down syndrome, which means that he has just a little something extra, and we now refer to ourselves as a Rockin’ Family,” she shared.

Trisha continued, sharing that it was during a non-invasive prenatal test that she and her husband, Omar, found out that Cruz would most likely be born with Down syndrome. After further testing and time spent researching, they began connecting both locally and via social media with other families that had children with Down syndrome.

After what Trisha referred to as a “fast and furious” birth, she and her husband knew that Cruz would need special services, and that early intervention would be critical for his physical and intellectual development. When Cruz was just 1-month old, he was evaluated by a Physical Therapist and a Developmental Therapist, and has been receiving services since he was 3-months old.

Currently, Cruz is receiving occupational therapy, developmental therapy, and speech therapy in addition to physical therapy and feeding therapy. He is currently working on many goals, and has achieved so many milestones in the past year and a half.

“We are very happy with our team of therapists… Joanna Stuck is our physical therapist… we value our meetings with her as Cruz works on his gross motor skills. Joanna is amazing at demonstrating how he should be doing things and explaining things very thoroughly. Katie Pena is our occupational therapist. Katie always brings a bag full of toys to play with… Katie is always so informative and checks in with me to see if there are any specific areas I would like to focus on,” shared Trisha.

Throughout his mom’s speech, Cruz made his way throughout the room, melting the hearts of everyone in attendance by walking on his own with his walker and waving hello.

Trisha closed her speech by answering questions she asked herself when she received Cruz’s initial diagnosis. She stated that having Cruz has made their lives so much better than they could have ever imagined, and that she can already see how her older sons will protect Cruz and be more inclusive of others who may be different. As employees of Caterpillar, her and her husband have received support and flexibility in making sure that they can attend Cruz’s therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments. On Cruz’s future, Trisha shared that “we are going to give him as many opportunities that we can to let him learn and explore the world and live his life.”

Cruz’s family, and over 7,000 others in the last year, received the services and care they needed through Easterseals. This would not be possible without the support of devoted and caring members of our commnity.

Are you ready to be involved with the mission of Easterseals? Be a part of our 46th Annual Telethon. Contact Haley Tenney at htenney@eastersealsci.com for more information.

5 Indoor Gross Motor Activities: No Special Equipment Required!

By Meghan Cotsones, PT, DPT

Animal Walks: Great for core strengthening, hip strengthening, range of motion, motor planning, and whole body coordination! Can add visual targets (sticky notes, pieces of colored tape, construction paper, etc.) to help with position of hands/feet for sequencing. Can have siblings or friends race or parents can try along with their kiddos.

Pillow and/or Blanket Obstacle Course: Great way to simulate uneven outdoor surfaces such as grass and woodchips from inside! Great for balance, hip and ankle strengthening, and motor planning. Can also jump between pillows for an extra challenge!

Ninja Kicks: Have child stack a tower of blocks or any other toy they like to stack and balance on one foot and kick the tower down with the other. Great for foot-eye coordination, single leg balance, and strengthening for hips and ankles! For added fun, can add ninja sound effects (hi-yah!).

Pushing/Pulling Laundry Basket: Have your child round up their favorite toys and take them for a ride the laundry basket! Have them push it forward and pull it backwards to practice backwards walking. Great for core and lower extremity strengthening! Parents can add heavier objects from around the house (soup cans, sack of potatoes, etc.) for an added challenge.

Box Hurdles: Put old Amazon or empty cereal boxes to good use! Line them up and have your child step, run, or jump over the boxes for a fun motor activity. Can also weave in and out of boxes in a figure-8 pattern a balance and agility challenge!