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!

The Autism Collective Poised for Record Growth  

Organization announces new Executive Director and Collaborator

The Autism Collective Board of Directors, along with founding members Easterseals Central Illinois and OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois, are pleased to announce the appointment of Kelly Nimtz-Rusch as Executive Director of the organization. Additionally, the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP) is joining The Autism Collective as an official collaborator.

The Autism Collective launched in 2019 with a mission to end the isolation of autism by uniting experts and connecting families. Since then, the organization has helped 910 individuals across the state of Illinois navigate the complex web of services available for children and adults with autism.

The Autism Collective unites a broad spectrum of expertise to support families. As Executive Director, Kelly Nimtz-Rusch will bring more than 20 years of clinical expertise to the organization.

Nimtz-Rusch joins The Autism Collective from OSF HealthCare where she began her career as a pediatric nurse at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois. She served in a number of leadership roles at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center before becoming the Vice President of Nursing and Clinical Education for the OSF HealthCare Ministry. In addition to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Saint Francis College of Nursing, Nimtz-Rusch has a doctor of nursing practice from American Sentinel University, in Aurora, CO.  She brings a wealth of experience in new program development, innovative solution design work, and quality improvement in clinical practice to The Autism Collective.

The Autism Collective is meeting a vital need for our community and across the state. I am so excited to be a part of this organization, bringing support to individuals and amplifying their voices.

Kelly Nimtz- Rusch, Executive Director of The Autism Collective


The addition of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria as a collaborator will give The Autism Collective expanded access and growth opportunities into the medical field as it continues its mission of uniting experts to end the isolation of autism. 

UICOMP is one of four campuses that makes up the nation’s largest public medical school. The school educates 265 medical students and trains more than 300 residents and fellows annually while engaging more than 1,700 faculty physicians, professionals, and staff. Wendy Burdo-Hartman, MD, will join The Autism Collective Board of Directors in April 2022 as the UICOMP representative.

It is an honor to be appointed to the Autism Collective Board. As a neurodevelopmental pediatrician, the needs of children on the autism spectrum and their families are significant and cannot be provided by one organization. By bringing together Easterseals Central Illinois, OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois and the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, central Illinois is getting closer to meeting the needs of all children with autism spectrum disorder.

Dr.  Wendy Burdo-Hartman, Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria.

Learn more about the Autism Collective at www.TheAutismCollective.org

CP Awareness Month Q & A with Molly Hogeboom

March is Cerebral Palsy (CP) awareness month. According to the CDC, CP is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. Symptoms of CP vary from person to person. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Read more from the CDC here.

Lucky for us, we have an expert at our disposal! Our Community Engagement Manager, Molly Hogeboom, has a diagnosis of CP and shares her perspective below.

  • What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is a congenital disorder of movement and muscle tone. The diagnosis often stems from a brain injury at or before birth. CP affects everyone differently. You meet one person with CP; you meet one person with CP. It can affect just your legs, muscles, your whole body, or as in my case, be only one side affected. For some, this may include impairments with communication also.

My CP affects a lot of my dexterity; in a sense, my right hand and arm are mildly paralyzed. My right leg is also weak, and my gait is different from an able-bodied person’s.

  • How has this diagnosis impacted you/your family

Ya know. My cp impacts me daily, but I have learned to navigate its challenges, one literal step at a time. I do not let my disability hold me back. Resources and therapy set a strong foundation for me to utilize all of my abilities. I don’t look at things with an “I can’t do that” attitude, but rather, “how can I do that?”. The answer to that question may be, getting creative… like using my mouth to paint my fingernails. Making multiple trips when getting my lunch ( Because I can’t carry my drink and plate simultaneously) or, most importantly….asking for help when I need it. That is part of doing things with a disability. I may not physically be doing it, but acknowledging and advocating that I need help is, in fact, doing it. I have had a rock star support system from day 1 of diagnosis. My mom and dad, my therapy team, family, and friends. At times, my “right hand” is my amazing husband, Wes. We have two boys under three… so our hands are full quite a bit.

  • How can our community ensure kids with Cerebral Palsy are 100% empowered and 100% included?

I hope that the community would be willing to learn more about CP as a whole. That goes for all ages… As an adult, know how your workplace or places of hobbies or interests can be more accessible. Offer help if you see a mom that needs assistance opening a door for their son or daughter that uses a wheelchair. Or someone, like me, looks like they might be struggling to carry something. And when I say offer, that is what I mean. I love when people offer assistance vs. just assuming the help is wanted. If you are a parent, teach your kiddo about friends of all abilities and how we are unique in our own particular ways. Hey, I can even bring the Easterseals CEFCU ability awareness program to your school. Learn about inclusion, the fantastic organizations in our area that may serve people, young and old, with CP, and donate your time, talent, or treasure.

  • What do you want parents/kiddos with a CP diagnosis to know?

To Parents- Maybe your journey is just getting started…or you are in the middle of the ride… please know. You are everything to your kiddo.. no matter how old they are. You are the fiercest advocate biggest cheerleader…. Someone to wipe the tears and to celebrate progress with.

You are seen, loved, and know that those around you know you are doing the very best for your child. “You’re the engine that makes all things go, And you’re always in disguise — a hero.”

To kids with CP…. I would first say that reminder that they are not alone. I know firsthand that sometimes it is not always easy, but your CP makes you the star you are… Having CP only adds to your shine. Depending on where you are in life.. that might not always be easy to see. Still, I promise you in life, the possibilities are endless with the right team and support behind you. The obstacles you face might not be the easiest, but they are what make you, you! Embrace CP as a part of who you are, don’t be afraid to tell your friends and people around you how it affects you if you need to. As Abbey Curran once said. “I have Cerebral Palsy; Cerebral Palsy doesn’t have me .”I hope that statement sticks with you as much as it does for me.

Check out this video to learn more about Molly, her family, and their Easterseals journey.

Ambassador Update: Alex & Bennett

A little over two years ago, Wendell and Kathleen welcomed tiny twin boys named Alex and Bennett. Their family celebrates these boys as their ‘one in a million kids.’

Bennett loves to clap along to music, play peek-a-boo, and pop bubbles. He loves making faces at himself in the mirror and following along with his brother, playing beside him. Bennett has a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

Alex loves to read books with anyone who will join him, splash in the water, and explore new surroundings. He loves to climb on a large box in the family living room. He has a diagnosis of Mosaic Down Syndrome.

Both boys have low muscle tone, meaning they do not have the strength that many children do early on. They receive physical therapy through Easterseals and build strength and endurance every day. They are reaching milestones like sitting, crawling, and walking.

Recently, Kathleen shared this message with the students of Limestone High School “Easterseals is a huge blessing to our family. And you are a blessing by raising funds to help our kids and many precious kiddos. So thank you. Thank you for fundraising for Easterseals. Thank you for taking the time to be a friend to us today.  Thank you for any time you take for any child or adult with special needs throughout your days. It will make your life richer too.”

“Teaching our children kindness and providing opportunities to be a friend to people with disabilities help them realize how much alike we all are! Also, the way we adults talk about others who are different from us impacts the next generation in greater ways than we may realize.”

Kathleen, Alex & Bennett’s Mom

Hear Kathleen’s full speech from the LCHS Easterseals Kickoff Assembly:

Ambassador Update: Cruz and Livia

In October of 2017, The Romero family received a prenatal diagnosis that their son would likely have Down syndrome. Those words changed their lives forever.

“He was born in May 2018 and he changed our whole family forever. He is the light of our lives and is always doing funny things.” Said his mom, Trisha.  Cruz started receiving physical therapy and occupational therapy with Easterseals at 9 months old.  He learned to crawl and walk; now he is running. Some of his current goals include jumping and walking up & downstairs. He is also working on eating foods with a fork, putting on a coat and zipping it and taking off his shoes.

In 2020 the Romero’s were looking into special needs adoption when they saw a photo of a beautiful, dark-haired girl in an orphanage on the other side of the world. They spent 6 weeks in Ukraine during the adoption process of their sweet daughter Livia. Like their older son Cruz, Livia has a diagnosis of Down syndrome. At that time she had low muscle tone, limited physical movement abilities and could only drink pureed foods and milk out of a bottle. When they returned to Central Illinois they were able to get Livia in to the same therapy team at Easterseals that was helping their son, Cruz. She has come so far in the last 18 months. She is now walking around and playing with her three older brothers. She is also learning to use utensils and loves all kinds of foods.

Trisha Romero recently shared this message with the students at Limestone Community High School:

“Thank you for all your support of Easterseals. Please continue to treat people with differences the same. I never thought I would get so much from having children with special needs. Learning to slow down, enjoy life and all the little things.”

Hear Trisha’s full message here to the Limestone students below

Easterseals Central Illinois to Host Free Virtual Trainings During Autism Acceptance Month

Every year, communities rally together during the month of April to support individuals and families living with autism in Central Illinois, and across the globe. According to the CDC, 1 in 44 children have Autism Spectrum Disorder. As a leading provider of autism services for children in our community, Easterseals Central Illinois has assembled our team of experts to provide four free trainings during the month of April.

Easterseals Central Illinois is proud to offer multidisciplinary, family centered care for children with developmental delays, disabilities and other special needs. Our experts are excited to offer a series of sessions that are designed to support families and professionals in several different areas. These trainings are for professionals, caregivers, community members or anyone interested in child development in general.

“We support over 5,000 families a year at Easterseals Central Illinois. We are excited to have an even larger impact by providing these free, virtual training to our community,” said Katlyn Linsley, BCBA and Manager of ABA services at Easterseals Central Illinois. “These sessions are useful for any caregiver, not just those caring for a child with autism. These strategies can improve the day-to-day lives of children and families regardless of ability level”.

TO REGISTER: Visit https://esci.link/AAM or call (309)686-1177

Autism 101 (Spanish)

Wednesday, April 6 5:30-7 pm

Hosted by: Mariela Munguía, BCBA

La orientación sobre nuevo diagnósticos de autismo (Autismo 101) está diseñada para ayudar a los padres, familiares y amigos a comprender los trastornos del espectro autista (TEA). Este programa beneficiará a cualquier familia con un niño que haya sido diagnosticado recientemente con un trastorno del espectro autista o para personas que sospechan que su conocido tenga autismo. Los participantes aprenderán; señales tempranas de autismo, qué es trastornos del espectro autista y cómo afectan a las personas, qué tipos de intervenciones están disponibles y qué recursos comunitarios que están disponibles para padres, familias y profesionales que viven/trabajan con TEA. https://esci.link/AAM


New Diagnosis Orientation

Wednesday, April 13 – 5:30-7:00 pm

Hosted by Jennifer Simpson, Manager of Care Coordination and Family Support

The Autism New Diagnosis Orientation (Autism 101) is designed to assist parents, extended family, and friends in understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders -ASD. This program will benefit any family with a child who has been recently diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Participants will learn; what Autism Spectrum Disorders are and how they affect individuals, what types of interventions are available, and what community resources are available for parents, families, and professionals living/working with ASD. https://esci.link/AAM


Promoting Positive Food Experiences for Your Selective Eater

Wednesday, April 20, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Hosted by: Alyssa Huschen, MOT, OTR/L and Michelle Bognanno, MA, CCCSLP/L

Join us to learn how to make mealtimes more positive, productive, and fun for the whole family. You are not alone in dealing with a selective eater at home! Many parents encounter children with difficult feeding patterns, making mealtime a stressful experience for the whole family. This training helps parents and caregivers understand why their child may struggle to eat a variety of foods, and that they are not responsible for creating the problem. Attendees will leave with an understanding of how to make mealtimes more positive, productive, and fun for the whole family. https://esci.link/AAM


Behavior Basics

Wednesday, April 27, 5:30 – 7:00 pm

Hosted by: Katlyn Linsley, BCBA and Manager of ABA services

Behavior Basics will cover the ground level of why kids do the things they do! Tips will be given on how to reduce problem behavior and increase the good behaviors everyone is looking for! This workshop is perfect for parents, grandparents, babysitters, or teachers who need an entry-level knowledge of behavior management. https://esci.link/AAM

Timber Pointe Outdoor Center 2022 Summer Camp Registration now open

Registration is now open for Timber Point Outdoor Center day camp and overnight camp programs. Camps begin June 6 and run through August 12, 2022. The beautiful 160-acre facility located in Hudson, IL is designed to offer specialized, inclusive, and adapted programming to meet the needs of campers (children and adults) with disabilities, developmental delays, and other special needs. To register for camp programs, visit www.timberpointeoutdoorcenter.com.

Everyone can participate in every activity at Timber Pointe Outdoor Center, regardless of their ability level!  Some of the most popular activities include the high ropes challenge course, zip line, heated outdoor pool, archery, equestrian arena, hiking, canoeing, boating, arts and crafts, sports and team competitions and so much more.


“A camp experience at Timber Pointe is transformative, not just for the camper, but for the entire family- giving parents/caregivers a well-deserved break, while giving campers unique and adaptive adventures through which they learn about and love themselves, as well as others different from them,” said Lydia Gartner, Director of Timber Pointe Outdoor Center. “They return home with confidence, independence, and hope, because when you’re here at camp, you discover that anything is possible– that everything is possible.”

Inclusive Day Camp Program:

Timber Pointe Outdoor Center day camps accept kids ages 5-17 of all ability levels and focus on each individual’s needs. Day camp runs Monday-Friday of the listed weeks from 8:00am-5:00pm. Breakfast and lunch are included. Cost is $335 per camper. Day camp is inclusive for kids with and without any type of disability. To learn more about our day camp programs visit www.timberpointeoutdoorcenter.com   

Overnight Camps:

Our overnight camps focus on our mission. Impact campers with challenging differences through life-changing experiences. At Timber Pointe, campers do what they’ve been told they can’t. For some campers, this could mean staying away from home for the first time, for others it is the feeling of flying across the zip line. For every camper, this week provides an opportunity for relaxation, independence and friendships.  The cost for week long overnight camps is $1100, and there are a variety of grants and scholarships available for families to reduce that cost. To learn more visit www.timberpointeoutdoorcenter.com.

Timber Pointe Outdoor Center is committed to working with families to ensure that our camps are as financially accessible as they are physically. Financial assistance is available through our Campership program. Campership grants help cover the cost of camp experiences for children and adults with a disability, developmental delay or other special needs. For more information on financial assistance, visit www.timberpointeoutdoorcenter.com.


Overnight Session 1: June 5th-10th (Youth ages 7-17 with a disability)

Theme: “Til’ the Cows Come Home”- Yeehaw! Start summer off on the right hoof as we take you down on the farm for an epic hoedown throwdown! This week will be jam-packed with barnyard-themed activities that will leave us snorting and hawing with laughter! Hang on to your hats though, partner, we’ll also ride into the Wild West for more adventure, playing and haying til’ the cows come home!

 Overnight Session 2: June 26th-July 1st (Youth ages 7-17 with a disability)

Theme: “Storytellers”-  This week, we’re diving in to timeless tales and powerful plots full of wonder, adventure, and friendship! We’ll head through the wardrobe into Narnia, follow the yellow brick road to Oz, experience magic at Hogwarts, fall down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, create some chaos with Thing 1 & 2, and so much more! No need for a golden ticket, just come with your curiosity and courage as we live out beloved stories and tell our very own tale at camp.

Overnight Session 3: July 3rd-8th (Adults ages 18+ with a disability)

Theme: “Holiday Hooplah”- Experience not just the 4th of July, but more of your favorite holidays all in one week! We’ll get spooky for Halloween, count down for New Year’s, go green for St. Patrick’s day and of course pull out all the stops for a July 4th celebration! Bring your holiday cheer and get ready to recreate special moments and magical traditions with your camp family, all with a unique camp take!

Overnight Session 4: July 10th-15th (Youth ages 7-17 with a disability)

Theme: “Wonder Emporium”- Creators and dreamers, wish-makers and wonderers, this week is for

construct in Build-Your-Owns, design and decorate in the 2nd Annual TPOC Cake-Off, and finally answer the question– CAN we make art from the top of the zip line? Get ready to explore infinite possibilities as you step into the Wonder Emporium!

Overnight Session 5: July 24th-29th (Adults ages 18+ with a disability)

Theme: “Groovin’ Through the Decades”- Calling all cool cats! Put on your boogie shoes and join us for a far out week exploring the roaring ’20s, nifty ’50s, the disco decade (’70s), and more totally tubular times! Full of tie-dye, hot rods, disco, and throwbacks like shrinky dinks and Pac Man (with their own camp twists), this week’s activities will be the bees knees!

Overnight Session 6: August 7th-12th (Youth ages 7-17 with OR without a disability)

Theme: “TPOC-TV”- Things will get REAL this week as we play and contend in camp spin-offs of reality TV show competitions! You’ll complete Survivor-style challenges, become fashion designers in “Project Funway,” show off your skills in “TPOC’s Got Talent”, whip up tasty treats in “(Pie)-Iron Chef” and judge your favorite camp staff as they battle it out in “Dancing with the (Camp) Stars!” Epic entertainment awaits, so step away from the screens and into the very real world of TPOC-TV!

Ambassador Update: Eloise

Two-year-old Eloise has the incredible ability to smile even when things are really challenging. She is a spunky, opinionated, and amazing girl who has the resources and support to make her own story. Her parents, Rachel and Zach, share, “There is something supernatural about Eloise’s joy.”

When Eloise was born, her parents were told that she would not be able to make intentional movements or communicate. But when we met with an occupational therapist at Easterseals, they saw Eloise exceed those expectations. She reaches for things and tries to swipe at different stimuli. Ever since that first meeting, Eloise has made huge leaps in play.

Her parents want the world to know that Eloise is an incredible, beautiful, hardworking, and joyful little girl. She has a disability, which means that her life looks different. However, she still deserves every opportunity other children have, and Easterseals is paving the way to make that happen.

“Easterseals is a resource to help parents learn how to empower and equip their children to live their lives to the fullest, whatever that looks like for them. Easterseals comes alongside children to help them reach their individualized, full potential.” 

Rachel, Eloise’s Mom

Eloise has Holoprosencephaly (HPE). She began receiving occupational therapy and physical therapy services from Easterseals when she was 4 months old. Now, almost two years later, her parents are excited as they see her excel in her own way.

“Eloise’s life is not about hitting milestones; it is about learning about Eloise’s capacity and then empowering her to live her life. – and that is what Easterseals does!”

Ambassador Update: Jordan

For the Rodiguez family, Jordan’s behavior challenges can be a daily struggle, but with the help of Occupational Therapy at Easterseals, Jordan continues to make great progress! Most notably, he has used his skills to improve his relationships with his teachers & friends.

He is currently working on following directions in general & self-regulation in the morning to get ready for school. Ms. Erin, Jordan’s Occupational therapist, starts the session by talking to Jordan and agreeing on the activities. She gives him choices during the session so he feels motivated & excited to participate. By meeting Jordan where he is at emotionally for the day, Erin makes the session fun, enjoyable, and something he works forward to!

Telehealth has been a great option for their busy family, while still providing quality therapy. He is able to thrive and work on independence, with support and supervision from his mom. 

“Easterseals, in my experience, is a top-notch professional service for all sorts of needs. They are diagnostic at the start. Individualized action plans are well thought out & shared buy-in is obtained from the family. Therapists work toward specific goals & are specialists in what they do. Therapists are committed to a child’s success & are willing to be on a larger team with school & medical professionals to problem solve. In general, I can’t imagine any better service provided to Jordan in meeting his unique needs.”

Kathy, Jordan’s Mom

Kathy shared what she wants the world to know about her amazing son;“ I want the world to know the REAL Jordan.  The one that can make a room of people laugh through his storytelling. The one that would do anything to help or care for someone he cares about. The one who has overcome the trauma of his toddlerhood, the loss & grief of life as he knew it to enter a new world & family without any say in the matter & functions better than most, given his circumstances. The one who loves to be loved & is capable of reciprocating.”