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Easter Seals has been helping individuals with disabilities and special needs, and their families, live better lives for nearly 90 years. From child development centers to physical rehabilitation and job training for people with disabilities, Easter Seals offers a variety of services to help people with disabilities address life's challenges and achieve personal goals. Services and support are provided through a network of more than 550 sites in the U.S. and through Ability First Australia. Each center provides exceptional services that are individualized, innovative, family-focused and tailored to meet specific needs of the particular community served.
"As volunteers, we're all a part of important and wonderful work," says Gerard (Jerry) Mattimore, Board Chair, Easter Seals, Inc. "When I think about all that volunteers do today – and the millions and millions of lives we touch – it makes me very proud to be part of such an incredible group of people."
Mattimore has been an Easter Seals volunteer leader for nearly 30 years – first as a board member and chair at the local affiliate in his home state of New York and for the past 12 years as a board member for Easter Seals, Inc.
"Every volunteer has a unique story about how they personally became involved, and I'm always intrigued to learn from others about their passion for giving," adds Mattimore. "Our stories make up such a critical part of the breadth and strength of the organizations we support."
Mattimore is someone who knows Easter Seals clients and their families and is deeply committed to improving their lives through his personal support – and through engaging his corporate contacts. He first became involved with Easter Seals as a young corporate marketer.
"I was asked if my company would participate in fundraising through a coupon promotion," he recalls. "I have to say I was skeptical, initially. But a year later I was a convert and a champion. And the company I worked for then – now a part of Bayer HealthCare – continues to be the anchor sponsor of Easter Seals spring free-standing newspaper insert, with coupons that deliver for the companies involved, and for Easter Seals."
Over the years, Bayer has raised more than $7.5 million dollars for Easter Seals and engaged the support of many of its key accounts – including CVS Caremark and NewsAmerica. This year, Bayer's gift was nearly $300,000, and they continue a tradition of leveraging Easter Seals' FSI Program to support and build awareness.
"My involvement was very personal from the start," he says. "I played in a golf tournament where I met some of the families we serve for the first time. I was very taken by that introduction – and my wife Audrey and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a small part of so many lives."
Mattimore often recalls a family in upstate New York who came to Easter Seals with their teen-aged daughter for a respite program. It was the first time in 15 years that her parents had the chance to be together, alone, and not worry about their daughter.
"I was so moved by how important something like a respite weekend could be, staffed by so many giving volunteers, it made me all the more committed – as a volunteer and as a corporate partner," he says. "I know that each volunteer has had a moment – or many – that have inspired us and driven us to do more."
Mattimore feels that Easter Seals mission has never been more important – providing exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities or special needs (and their families) have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities. He recently led a team of more than 350 volunteers from across the country to meet with their local members of Congress on Capital Hill during the organization's annual convention in Washington, D.C. Here, he worked alongside fellow volunteers to pass along a timely and important message: that people with disabilities and other special needs have equal access to quality, affordable health care – to get what they need, when they need it.
"It's a powerful message, and as volunteers we are also powerful advocates," he said. "I am proud to be a volunteer, to be a part of Easter Seals. As volunteers today, I believe we are charged with shaping the many organizations that will move and thrive into the next century – to serve millions more. We're on our way."
(Photo: Caroline Schiff Photography)