Rotary and Easter Seals renew connections
F. Timothy Muri, president and CEO of Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago, and District Governor Michael Slevnik, at the Therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research. Photo courtesy Rotary District 6450.
Easter Seals and Rotary share more than a devotion to improving the lives of the disabled and disadvantaged.
The heritages of the two organizations are intertwined: Easter Seals' founder, Edgar F. "Daddy" Allen, was a Rotarian. Rotary founder Paul P. Harris was the charity's first chairman, and one of The Rotary Foundation’s first grants, in 1930, went to the International Society for Crippled Children, Easter Seals' precursor.
Now, District 6450 (Illinois, USA), which covers part of the Chicago area, is reuniting with an old friend by pledging US$2.5 million over three to five years toward programs and materials for Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago's Therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research .
Part of the center's first phase, a research wing scheduled to be completed later this year, will be named in Rotary's honor. The $32-million facility will be built in four phases over the next four to six years.
"I approached Rotary because we had lost connection," says F. Timothy Muri, president and CEO of Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago. "I said, 'Rotary's into big things. You are trying to eradicate polio, and we are trying to eradicate autism. Why don't we unite again to change the world?'"
White Sox night
On 7 August, the district sponsored a night at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, where a portion of tickets bought by Rotarians went to Easter Seals. Irv Kaplan, past district governor, said 836 tickets were sold, netting $10,000 for Easter Seals. Rotarians and their guests were paraded around the warning track prior to the game, and a Rotary public service announcement appeared on the big screen.
Rotary's ongoing support for Easter Seals has often come from individual clubs, but with the growing number of reported cases of autism-spectrum disorder – 1 in 150 eight-year-olds has it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the need for care is greater than ever.
"It just came to me that we could do something with this," says Past District Governor Art Davis. "With the history Rotary has, it would be fabulous to have a Rotary wheel on the wing of a hospital."
The center, which will tap expertise from the nearby University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center and Rush University Medical Center , will offer a research facility, classrooms, gymnasium, swimming pool, and independent living space for 30 people, with room to grow.
"For the first time, we will have the facility where we'll be able to observe patients yearround," says Muri. "There's none other like it in the country."