These are extraordinary times, and I think it’s fair to say the majority of us are happy to finally see the arrival of summer and the warm weather. After a very difficult spring, it has been heartening to see our communities take the initial steps forward in reopening in phases, and providing opportunities for us to reconnect in person with family and friends.
As currently Easter Seals is unable to conduct our usual fundraising activities and events, we are anxious to continue helping and supporting the increasing needs of the vulnerable children with new online endeavours. We just launched our new virtual Camp E-aster Seals which offers campers the opportunity to take part in online activities and connect with other campers on social media. The feedback has been incredibly positive, and we now have campers from Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta taking part with us! Our virtual camp is open to all Easter Seals clients in participating provinces, and it’s not too late to register. For more information, please visit our website.
Although some public restrictions are easing, Easter Seals is still not able to move ahead with any of our fundraising events, which means we continue to experience a tremendous strain on our financial resources. It also means we are falling well short of meeting the demand for equipment funding from families who urgently need essential items like stair lifts and bathing seats for their children. While many of us are now enjoying a little more freedom, the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains very high for most Easter Seals children; many in need of essential equipment to simply be mobile and safe in their own homes. The shortage of funds Easter Seals is facing means the COVID crisis has greatly exacerbated the physical and social isolation these children and youth are facing, in addition to depriving them of many necessary supports. It is extremely likely children with physical disabilities, many who are especially vulnerable to the virus, will remain at home much longer than other children, even as child care and schools plan to re-open.
While funds are limited, we are doing our utmost to provide equipment funding to as many families as possible. We are also keenly focused on maintaining the financial viability of the organization and have applied for all government emergency response funds we are eligible for, including the Community Emergency Support Fund. However, as a charity that relies completely on donor funds, circumstances resulting from the pandemic have resulted in difficult decisions having to be made with respect to eliminating some staffing positions. Please know that no decision is taken lightly, and we are constantly assessing the situation and making every effort to balance the need to support our families as well as to ensure the organization’s success going forward.
I want to sincerely thank those organizations who have undertaken new initiatives to raise funds on our behalf, including the Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie with their monthly online 50/50 draws, and the Rotary Club of Kingston who will be holding the Kingston Easter Seals Harbour Pageant later this month. We have had the good fortune to work with Rotary Clubs for decades, and we are incredibly proud to have earned their trust in return. We are truly fortunate to continue to have their support, particularly in such difficult times.
Some of the other online fundraising initiatives we have recently introduced include our Camp to Camp virtual activity challenge and our Camp Merrywood jigsaw puzzle via We Piece Together. In addition, if you are in central Ontario on August 22, you may want to spend the day visiting some of Muskoka’s finest bakeries from the comfort of your own car on our first Butter Tart Tour.
In looking ahead to the fall, we are cautiously optimistic the government will continue to ease social restrictions and permit modified special events that allow participants to engage while following all health and safety protocols. As always, the health and safety of our participants, volunteers and staff remains our top priority in any future endeavour we take on.
Community support is the heart and soul of Easter Seals, and I want to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who has reached out to lend their assistance this year. The children you have helped are living in greater comfort and parents have one less thing to worry about. However, we still have hundreds of children on a waitlist for funding – we have never needed the community’s support more than we do right now. The spirit of community has been the backbone of our organization through wars, disasters, epidemics, depressions, recessions and now a pandemic. So, if you are able to make a donation, I can’t stress enough the difference your contribution will make.
As you enjoy the summer months, please take the necessary precautions to stay safe and protect yourself as well as those around you who may be vulnerable. If we all do our part, together we can make our communities safe and strong again so everyone can get out and enjoy them.
You have been a big part of our organization’s fabric over the years, and we can’t thank you enough for continuing to care and believe in what we do. I have faith that collectively we can make a difference through this health crisis and support the increasing needs of the vulnerable children who desperately need us.
With deepest appreciation and gratitude,
Kevin J. Collins
President & CEO