Easter Seals celebrates 70 years

LIHUE — The excitement of meeting Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., could not dilute the excitement Alita Smith of Lawai had for Saturday’s Special Olympics track and field games.

“Where is his office?” she asked with a rising level of excitement. “When are we going to see him?”

Her excitement came to a crescendo when she received a mayor-sized hug along with other Easter Seals clients Jordan Edayan, Lucas Moore and Jason Felipe, Tuesday morning at the Moikeha Building.

The clients, along with Merle Takashima, head of the Easter Seals Kapaa facility, and Zabbie Zablan, accepted a proclamation which joins the state in celebrating Easter Seals Hawaii’s 70th anniversary of providing services and programs to individuals with special needs. Kauai joins the state in observing April as Easter Seals Hawaii Awareness Month to coincide with the 70th anniversary.

“I love track and field,” Smith, a Kauai Special Olympics athlete, said. “I love running — especially the 100 meter.”

Edward and Olga Sultan received an initial gift of $25,000 to establish, operate and maintain a therapeutic nursery school on Oahu primarily for children with cerebral palsy, the school being named the Sultan Foundation Nursery School and operating out of a quonset hut for about 30 children.

After garnering support of a group of business leaders and parents committed to helping children with disabilities, the vision of the Sultans was expanded and the Easter Seal Society for Crippled Children was born.

The mission of Easter Seals Hawaii is to provide exceptional, individualized family, or person-centered services to empower people with disabilities or special needs to achieve their goals and live independent fulfilling lives through programs on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island of Hawaii.

“Our clients come from all parts of the island,” said Zablan, “Smith is from Lawai, Felipe was recently featured as an alter boy at the St. Rafael’s Church in Koloa, Moore is from Kilauea, and Edayan only recently moved to Lihue from Kapaa.”

Easter Seals Hawaii has been providing services on Kauai since 1947.

“I started with Easter Seals when the state was still controlling it,” Takashima said. “That was a long time ago. Now, with the retirement of Ellen Ching, I take care of the Kapaa facility. Wai Mata leads the Waimea Easter Seals facility, and Lihue concentrates on finding employment for Easter Seals clients through the efforts of Anela Segreti. Our Early Intervention program located in Lihue is headed by Carla Baker.”

Takashima said currently Easter Seals on Kauai services about 70 people a year through its adult and youth services, and about a hundred people through the Early Intervention program which covers birth through 3 years of age.

The Easter Seals umbrella includes the Early Intervention Services, Early Childhood Services, Youth Services, Home & Community based Services, Employment Services, Behavior Services, Assistive Technology Services and Autism Services.

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