Caterpillar Inc. presents Easterseals Central Illinois with $1,000,000 match as a result of overwhelming employee support.

A moment that has been two years, and a century, in the making.

Easterseals Central Illinois was humbled to receive two checks at their Board meeting on April 27th. This moment has been two years in the making, starting with an announcement at the Easterseals Century Ball in November 2019. In celebration of Easterseals’ 100th anniversary, Caterpillar Inc. pledged to match employee and retiree gifts made to Easterseals up to $1,000,000. 

Joe Creed announcing the Caterpillar million-dollar match in 2019

“When Joe [Creed] announced the million-dollar Caterpillar match in November 2019, we had no idea what was in store for us over the next few years,” shared Jen Espinosa, member of the Easterseals Central Illinois Board of Directors and Caterpillar Inc. employee.  “But that makes us even more proud to be standing here today, celebrating the generosity of our employees and retirees.”

The first check was for a total of $1,166,381.56 donated from Caterpillar Inc. employees and retirees over the past two years. The second is the $1,000,000 match from Caterpillar Inc.

The checks were presented by Art Tillman, Jamie Engstrom, Jen Espinosa and Joe Creed, all of whom are both Easterseals Central Illinois Board members and Caterpillar. As Jen Espinosa shared:  “Caterpillar and Easterseals have a long history of working together to help children in our community. We are excited to present this check to help us serve our community for the next hundred years.”

Easterseals Central Illinois President and CEO Melissa Riddle accepted the checks on behalf of the organization.  “We are so grateful to once again be embraced by Caterpillar’s leadership and employees,” stated Riddle. “For decades, Caterpillar has been a champion for kids and families in our community.  Their continued support of Easterseals Central Illinois through financial, volunteer, and leadership contributions have created a solid foundation.  We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure generations of families can count on Easterseals.”


Support Easterseals Central Illinois!

Jersey Mike’s Celebrates 13th Annual “Month of Giving”

East Peoria, IL (March 20th, 2023) –   Easterseals Central Illinois is joining forces with  Jersey Mike’s Subs in East Peoria for the 13th Annual March “Month of Giving” campaign to support local charities. During the month of March, customers can make a donation to support the work of Easterseals Central Illinois at the restaurant located in the East Peoria Levee District. Since the beginning of this partnership, Jersey Mike’s in East Peoria has donated over $40,000 to Easterseals Central Illinois.

The Month of Giving campaign will culminate with Jersey Mike’s “Day of Giving” on Wednesday, March 29, when local Jersey Mike’s restaurants will give 100 percent of the day’s sales – not just profit – to Easterseals Central Illinois

“We are so honored and excited to be partnering with Easterseals of Central Illinois for our Day of Giving on March 29, 2023. Easterseals has been a beacon of light for the last 100 years in their mission to help children with special needs, disabilities and autism reach their full potential. Easterseals has such a positive impact for so many families in Central Illinois and we could not be more excited to raise money for such an amazing local cause.”


On Day of Giving, local Jersey Mike’s owners and operators throughout the country will donate their resources and every single dollar that comes in the door to more than 200 different charities including hospitals, youth organizations, food banks and more.


This March, Jersey Mike’s hopes to exceed last year’s record-breaking national fundraising total of $20 million and help local charities striving to fulfill their missions and make a difference.

“I would like to extend a personal invitation to you and your family to visit Jersey Mike’s Subs throughout the month of March, and especially on Day of Giving when 100 percent of sales – every penny – goes to help a great local cause,” said Peter Cancro, Jersey Mike’s founder and CEO, who started the company when he was only 17-years-old.

 Throughout March, customers can make donations through the Jersey Mike’s mobile app or onsite. On Day of Giving, Jersey Mike’s restaurants will donate their resources and every single dollar that comes in — whether in-store, on-line or through the app. Since Month of Giving began in 2011, Jersey Mike’s has raised more than $67 million for local charities.

Scott Miller, Owner/Operator of SamCo Management Inc, which operates the East Peoria Jersey Mike’s restaurant.

About Jersey Mike’s

Jersey Mike’s Subs, with nearly 2,500 locations nationwide, serves authentic fresh sliced/fresh grilled subs on in-store freshly baked bread — the same recipe it started with in 1956. Passion for giving in Jersey Mike’s local communities is reflected in its mission statement “Giving…making a difference in someone’s life.” For more information, please visit or follow us on Facebook (, Instagram (, and Twitter (



Speech-Language Therapist shines at Easterseals

Meet Liz!

Liz is a speech-language pathologist with Easterseals Central Illinois. She started with us shortly after she graduated from Illinois State University in May of 2022.

Her positive attitude and desire to make personal connections with her clients have been on display since day one. As a new graduate entering the field, she brings a fresh perspective to the team.

“Everyone has been so kind; I have learned so much from the team here,”

she shared when discussing her first few months at Easterseals.  Mentorship and professional development are a huge part of the culture at Easterseals Central Illinois. Therapists are encouraged to collaborate across service lines and grow their skill set.

What she loves most about working with children and families is helping them find their voice and advocating for themselves. She loves to celebrate alongside the child when they learn a new skill. Recently, one of Liz’s Early Intervention kids graduated from therapy. When the child started, she was not speaking at all.

“When I first met the family, they were already doing really great strategies with her; I was able to come alongside them and help get her where she needed to be. It is so rewarding to see the progress of the kids we work with.”

Liz Jones, Speech- Language Therapist at Easterseals Central Illinois

Originally from Ohio, Liz and her fiancé relocated to McLean County in 2019 when he began working for State farm, and she was looking at Graduate Schools. Liz was originally going to enter the Special Education field.

“I knew I wanted to make an impact and work with children. I observed a special education teacher and saw that the Speech-Language Pathologist who worked with her could make more of a 1:1 connection with a child, which drew me to the field”

When COVID hit, her graduate school experience shifted to an online format. While her coursework was online, she did get to participate in the on-site ISU Speech clinic. This solidified her desire to work in pediatric speech-language therapy.

 “Language is a huge part of life and interacting with people.” Liz shared, “People sometimes see the name ‘Speech Therapy’ and think it is about working on sounds, but it is so much more than that- it is about functional communication.” Functional communication is about having your wants and needs met efficiently and effectively- typically using words, signs, devices, or gestures.

When looking for her first job, Liz prioritized work-life balance. She wanted the flexibility to be able to make trips back to Ohio to see friends and family. She also wanted to work with populations she was passionate about, which included early intervention (children ages 0-3) and children from diverse backgrounds. The strong mentorship program at Easterseals was also a draw. “A few of my classmates did their internships with Easterseals. From their reports to the class, I knew it would be a good fit for me,” Liz shared.

Liz and her fiancé have enjoyed getting to know their neighbors and community in McLean County, especially since their first few years here were during the COVID-19 pandemic. While not at work, you can catch her playing volleyball and enjoying the new Bloomington-Normal YMCA.  

Easterseals Community Rally Returns to Central Illinois April 15 – 22, 2023

Kicking off with Run, Walk & Rally events in East Peoria and Bloomington on April 15th!

For the third year in a row, Easterseals is inviting all of Central Illinois to participate in the Easterseals Community Rally, April 15th – 21st. This week-long celebration is a chance for community members to rally in support of Easterseals Mission; to ensure that children with developmental delays, disabilities, and other special needs can reach their full potential. The Easterseals Community Rally is made possible by CEFCU.

“The Community Rally is a celebration like no other, and we are thrilled to be a part of it,” said Matt Mamer, CEFCU President/CEO. “Easterseals is an amazing resource for our community, even beyond the families they serve directly. CEFCU is proud to support Easterseals’ message of inclusion and empowerment.“

There are many ways to rally for Easterseals:

  • Register for Run, Walk & Rally in East Peoria & Normal on April 15th! A family-friendly

5K run /1-mile walk that celebrates participants of all abilities! Join us for a post-race party with prizes and games. Wheelchairs and strollers are welcomed and encouraged.

  • Tune in to the week-long telethon! WMBD and Easterseals are teaming up to raise money to support therapy services for the children and families of Easterseals! Tune in to WMBD/WYZZ newscasts Monday, April 17th – Friday. April 21st  from 4-6 pm during Community Rally week to make your donation through the telethon.
  • Rally Your Own Way! Your support helps ensure that every child Easterseals serves can reach their full potential. Last year, Easterseals Central Illinois served over 6,000 families and provided 36,792 hours of pediatric therapy services.
    • Host a Fundraiser:  Create a fundraising page, host a small gathering or workplace challenge. There are so many ways to raise money for Easterseals and celebrate our message of inclusion and empowerment.
    • Make a Donation: Find a list of upcoming fundraising events or make a direct donation now at
  • Learn More: Interested in learning more about Easterseals Central Illinois? Consider hosting an Easterseals 101 presentation for your workplace or community group to learn about our services and opportunities to get connected.

Learn more at

Speech Department Wish List

Our Peoria speech department has seen a record number of referrals for children impacted by speech and language delays likely due to the challenges we have faced in the last couple years as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. 

We had the opportunity to grow our Peoria Speech team and continue to look for talented and passionate SLPs to join our team to help these children and their families. 

We needed to create additional treatment spaces to accommodate the new therapists and kids they serve.  We put together this wish list to add to and update our current therapy materials.  Thank you in advance for your generosity. 

Sincerely, the Peoria Speech Team.

Amazon wish list:

SuperDuper wish list:

Autism Handbook wish list:

Easterseals’ Peoria Lobby Unveils Interactive PDC Truck Wall

In 2018 the Coulter Family and PDC were honored at the 28th annual Easterseals Tribute Dinner. The event raised more than $1.5 million dollars, with much of that money coming from outside of the community through their industry contacts. The entire Coulter family was on hand to celebrate this momentous achievement.

Also on hand that night was Hayden Fay, an Easterseals Ambassador who helped design a rendering of an interactive PDC Garbage Truck that was set to be installed in the Easterseals’ Peoria lobby.

A lot has changed in the past four years. Hayden grew (a lot). The lobby was completely redesigned. And the truck was reimagined.

On December 13 2022, the truck was finally unveiled!

In 2021, the Coulter family sold PDC to GFL. GFL, headquartered in Vaughan, Ontario, is the fourth largest diversified environmental services company in North America, providing a comprehensive line of non-hazardous solid waste management, infrastructure & soil remediation and liquid waste management services through its platform of facilities throughout Canada and in 27 states in the United States. Across its organization, GFL has a workforce of more than 17,000 employees.

Royal Coulter shared “It is clear to us that GFL shares the same core values as PDC: entrepreneurial spirit, operational excellence, a focus on safety and a commitment to giving back to the communities that it serves. I am excited to be part of GFL’s next chapter.”

A few days prior to the unveiling of the truck, GFL presented Easterseals Central Illinois with a $10,000 check as a part of their full circle project. We are so grateful to GFL, The Coulter Family and everyone who has been a part of PDC’s support of Easterseals over the years.

Community Foundation of Central Illinois helps Easterseals Connect with families through Interpreter Grant

Community Foundation of Central Illinois awarded Easterseals Central Illinois $5,250 to fund interpreters in various languages such as American Sign Language, Spanish, French, and Chinese.  Easterseals Central Illinois serves over 6,000 families per year across central Illinois. With 1 in 6 children having some type of developmental delay, it is crucial that Easterseals has the ability to connect with all families in our community.

Providing interpreter services on-site gives families a clear understanding of a diagnosis and/or therapy plan.  They can begin accessing services immediately and participate easily in the services provided to their child(ren).  They feel confident in asking questions because they feel heard and understood. 

We currently partner with Western Avenue Community Center in Bloomington, Illinois to provide services to many of our Spanish-speaking families and Inter Services Co. in Peoria, Illinois to provide services to our French, Chinese and ASL speaking families.

Inclusion is at the center of what we do. We are eager to find any opportunity to remove barriers for families. We are grateful that the Community Foundation of Central Illinois shares our passion for ensuring every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Melissa Riddle, President and CEO of Easterseals Central Illinois

According to, 23.3% of Illinois families reported that languages other than English were spoken in the home. Parents and caregivers play a vital role in the success of the early intervention and pediatric therapy programs, and being able to communicate directly with these families is an important part of the process.

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

Sponsorships are now available by contacting Danielle Easton at 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.