Easterseals celebrates 100th birthday

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

PELHAM—Four-year-old Garrison Lindsey received the first slice of birthday cake at Easterseals Pediatric Therapy South on Thursday, Sept. 12. It wasn’t his birthday, but it was just as significant to Garrison and his family—it was a celebration commemorating Easterseals’ 100 years of existence.

Garrison is the newest ambassador at Pediatric Therapy South. He has received speech and occupational therapy there for the past three years.

“We’re massively appreciative of Easterseals,” said Garrison’s father, Hunter Lindsey of Alabaster. “He’s been coming here for the majority of his life. He’s made connections with people. Through those connections we’ve made, the people we’ve met and the resources that they help us with, it’s invaluable, how much it’s meant to us, really.”

The nonprofit organization, formerly known as Easter Seals, was founded in 1919 and is dedicated to ensuring children and adults with disabilities and their families have access to solutions that change their lives. The organization has had a presence in the Birmingham area for close to 60 years.

Director of Development Michael Woolley said Easterseals’ focus is on the person, not the disability—an approach that Woolley follows with his son, Zach, who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Like Garrison, Zach was also an ambassador of Easterseals.

“When you do something like letting your child be an ambassador, you’re accepting and promoting your child on your terms,” Woolley said. “He’s not just the little boy in your wheelchair. When you are willing to talk about your child as a child who happens to have a disability, you’re focusing on the child and not the disability.”

Many parents of children with disabilities also refuse to name a particular condition or diagnosis. Woolley describes Garrison’s diagnosis as “fluid” because he’s still growing and developing as a person.

“That’s really important for people to realize,” Woolley said. “That’s why I’m working at Easterseals. It’s such an honor to work with the kind of organization that has had an impact on Zach’s world.”

Woolley added that Zach is currently in his last quarter of law school. He was in attendance Thursday to celebrate with Garrison and the other families.

In the Birmingham area, Easterseals provides pediatric occupational, physical, speech and feeding therapies for infants through late teens. They work with not only the consumer but also families.

The organization has adult and teen programs in the Birmingham office, where they help with job search, preparation and coaching for many disenfranchised and at-risk individuals. There is a healthcare clinic in Pell City for those 19 years or older without insurance.

“We have some of the kindest, sweetest therapists you will find,” Woolley said. “It’s just a great place. It’s easy to get to. You’re not going downtown; that’s a huge deal. It’s just amazing.”