April Is Easter Seals Hawaii Awareness Month

2016 marks Easter Seals Hawaii 70th Anniversary of providing programs and services to generations of individuals and families in Hawaii who live with disabilities or special needs.

In honor of this momentous anniversary, April has been designated Easter Seals Hawaii Awareness Month via Proclamations sponsored by Mayor’s from Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island, and Kauai on behalf of their respective counties.

Commemorating its 70th anniversary this year, we mark this special anniversary with a one hour prime time television special airing April 24 at 6:30p- 7:30p on KFVE channel 5.  In this documentary film directed by award-winning filmmaker, Edgy Lee, the diversity of families and the vast array of needs served by Easter Seals Hawaii over the past 70 years, is revealed.  Historical highlights and personal reflections span decades. They include stories from community supporters like Don Robbs, Danny Kaleikini, Ed Sultan and others.   Whether one is familiar with Easter Seals Hawaii services or new to learning about Autism Spectrum Disorder, Customized Employment (where businesses hire Easter Seals Hawaii clients) or Youth Enrichment services that empower young people through skill development to maximize their independence as they embark upon adulthood and build their self esteem – this is a biopic about a great legacy of a community service organization in Hawaii.  Most compelling are the real-world glimpses into the daily lives of children and their families, Hawaii families who found themselves at childbirth, unexpectedly stepping into the world of special needs.

Narrated by Danny Kaleikini, the 70th Anniversary TV Special “Easter Seals Hawaii: Serving Hawaii’s Families for 70 Years,” the documentary film takes you into a unique and different world, a reality that redefines “ohana” to include not only family members and close friends, but dedicated staff and the many volunteers whose every day jobs are to provide life-enhancing services to people with disabilities and special needs so they may achieve independent fulfilling lives.

 Our programs and services at Easter Seals Hawaii are as important and necessary today as ever, and our dedicated staff, like their predecessors, work hard every day to empower people with disabilities and special needs to achieve their goals and live independent fulfilling lives,” said Ron Brandvold, CEO of Easter Seals Hawaii. “Through a 70th anniversary TV Special and a Gala dinner event, we look forward to honoring many individuals who have helped shape our organization and to sharing our vision for providing disability services well into the future.”  Ron Brandvold, President and CEO.

WHAT:          “Easter Seals Hawaii: Serving Hawaii’s Families for 70 Years”
WHEN:          Sunday, April 24, 2016; 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
WHERE:        Aired on KFVE, Channel 5, (UHF Digital Channel 22)
INFO:             www.eastersealshawaii.org

 About Easter Seals Hawaii

Offering programs that offer a range of services on Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Lāna‘i and Hawai‘i Island, for 70 years, the organization has changed the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, by providing resources and support to entire families.

Easter Seals Hawaii is the state’s largest provider of Early Intervention services for infants and toddlers and is one of the state’s largest providers of Medicaid Waiver services for adults with disabilities.

As the mission grew to include services for adults with disabilities, the organization became known as Easter Seals Hawaii, which now has 14 facilities and serves more than 2,000 individuals with disabilities every year across the Hawaiian Islands.

Easter Seals Hawaii’s programs are accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), assurance that the organization meets nationally accepted standards. For more information, visit http://www.eastersealshawaii.org.

History of Easter Seals Hawaii
In 1946, Edward and Olga Sultan founded the Sultan Foundation Nursery School, and with support from a group of business leaders and parents committed to helping children with disabilities, their vision expanded and The Easter Seal Society for Crippled Children was founded. Charter members included Dorothy Devereux, Olga Sultan, Governor John Burns, Hilo Hattie, and Judge Chuck Mau.  As the mission grew to include services for adults with disabilities, the organization became known as Easter Seals Hawaii, which now has 14 facilities and serves more than 2,000 individuals with disabilities every year across the Hawaiian Islands.

In the early days, a star-studded group of local entertainers, including Al Harrington and Danny Kaleikini, raised funds and awareness through the Easter Seals Hawaii Telethon, which also featured national stars like Arthur Godfrey, Ethel Merman, Henry Winkler and others who helped launch the early events in Hawaii.  Hosted by sports radio and TV icon, Don Robbs. Over its 70-year history, Easter Seals Hawaii has continued to raise funds by also hosting, “Taste of Honolulu” on the grounds of Honolulu Hale, a popular holiday event known as “The Gingerbread Festival,” and an annual Golf Classic, which will be held this year on September 23 at the Hawaii Prince Golf Club.

The Easter Seals Hawaii Anniversary Gala will be held on April 29, 2016 at the Hawaii State Art Museum with master chefs from


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Mahalo to all those that supported our Gingerbread Family Festival!

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From all of us at Easter Seals Hawaii (ESH), we’d like to say thank you for all of the support and your participation in our statewide Gingerbread Family Festival! Hundreds of families enjoyed decorating their gingerbread houses, pictures with Santa, live entertainment and even a craft fair!

Please enjoy a few of our favorite moments from each island.


Gingerbread Family Festival

Our Easter Seals Hawaii participants had so much fun greeting and meeting families that came to participate in our Gingerbread Family Festival at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center on Sunday, Dec. 8.

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At ESH Hilo, Chevez and Keli’ikoa had so much fun decorating their gingerbread house, they wanted to eat it after! Hilo’s festival was also held on Sunday, Dec. 8.

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Kids created some wonderful masterpieces at ESH Kauai’s Gingerbread Family Festival on Saturday, Dec. 14.

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Please join us next year!

More photos available on our Facebook page.

Taking flight on a special day

By Roxann Kehus, Maui County Manager at Easter Seals Hawaii

Ruka Dennison, the mother of our adult participant, Chris, shared a touching story with us. She is always looking for ways to expand her son’s exposure to events, food, activities, people and experiences. On his birthday, she arranged for a PAB worker from Easter Seals Hawaii to accompany him on a parasailing adventure around the island. Watch this inspirational video of Chris and his PAB worker, Veronica, take flight on an exciting and thrilling ride throughout the beautiful Maui coast.

Chris is in his 20’s and has been a participant of Easter Seals Hawaii – Maui since May 2011. To support programs that provide services and opportunities to young adults like Chris, click here.

We’re getting ready for the biggest holiday festival of the year!

DSC_0043Wait until you see all the candy we’ve packed for you all in your gingerbread kits!

Nearly 160 volunteers arrived at the University of Hawaii at Manoa last Sunday to help Easter Seals Hawaii prepare for the Gingerbread Family Festival. The volunteers helped put together 2,000 gingerbread kits. Safeway donated 2,000 gingerbread houses and CVS Caremark/Longs Drugs donated 16,000 bags of candy!

DSC_0040Here we have some UH students helping us out with packing fruit slices.

ESH and the Gingerbread Family Festival event directors had a gummy bear station, fruit slices station, peppermint station and more. Our volunteers had a blast unwrapping all the of the fruity candy and placing them in bags for our gingerbread kits.


Mahalo to our volunteers!


Some of our adult participants and their family members helped to pack candy and assemble gingerbread kits.

The Gingerbread Family Festival, presented by The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and now in its 14th year on O‘ahu, its 12th year in Kauai and Hawai’i Island and its first year in Maui. It is Easter Seals Hawaii’s largest fundraiser, raising nearly $200,000 annually to support programs and services for infants, children and adults with developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and muscular dystrophy.

To reserve your kit, volunteer or learn more about how you can help Easter Seals Hawaii, visit GINGERBREADHAWAII.COM!

Let’s get ready to CRUMBLE!!!

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Let’s get ready to crumble! Our 14th Annual Gingerbread Family Festival is coming up in THREE WEEKS!

In December 1999, friends, family and supporters of Easter Seals Hawaii (ESH) gathered in a small conference room at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center to enjoy the fun of building and decorating 50 gingerbread houses to raise funds for ESH. Fourteen years later, with a creative vision inspired by Chef Alan Wong, what began with a few sheet of freshly baked gingerbread, handfuls of candy and icing, and a desire to help ESH has grown to become Hawaii’s most exciting and beloved island holiday tradition!

Today, ESH’s annual Gingerbread Family Festival has grown statewide with more than 6,000 guests and volunteers of all ages building and decorating more than 1,400 gingerbread houses. Join in the fun and bring your holiday spirit!

This year our Gingerbread Family Festival will be held on:

Sunday, December 8th on Oahu

  • at the Neil S. Blaisdell Center
  • from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (first session)
  • from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (second session)

Sunday December 8th on Hilo

  • at the Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin Sanha Hall
  • from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Saturday, December 14th on Kauai

  • at the Kukui Grove Shopping Center
  • from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (first session)
  • from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. (second session)

Saturday, December 14th on Maui (our first year on Maui!)

  • at the Easter Seals Hawaii Kahului location
  • from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (first session)
  • from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (second session)

Reserve your gingerbread kits today at www.GINGERBREADHAWAII.com.

ESH Maui participants enjoy adaptive kayaking


ESH Maui participants paddle through Olowalu.

What better way to enjoy the summer with some sun and paddling? Several of our Easter Seals Hawaii participants in Maui attended an adaptive kayak event last Friday, which was sponsored by Maui’s Department of Parks and Recreation.


ESH Maui participant Chris is an avid swimmer, but kayaking is a completely new experience for him.

One excited participant, Chris, who is in his mid-20’s, had a blast paddling through beautiful Olowalu. ESH staff member, Veronica encouraged and initiated this fun opportunity for Chris and his fellow participants. His mother, Ruka, said, “I am so proud and happy for what he did and want to share with everybody! Veronica and I hugged and later on, I was almost in tears in happiness. Little things make me happy and the big guy, Chris, tried something new.”

ESH Maui County Manager Roxann Kehus was delighted to hear that participants can take part in water sports during the summer. She said, “I saw a video of Chris using the kayak paddle to power himself across the water. He really seemed to be enjoying himself.” Roxann also added that similar activities like kayaking experience adds some recreation to the adult programs they offer. “While safety is extremely important, it is also very important to look at activities like this with a mindset of ‘how to make it work’ so people can participate. We always want to look at what people can do.”


Kayak program staff and ESH staff assist participants with securing themselves on the kayaks.

This particular adaptive kayaking program was launched in 2009 and is geared towards children and young adults with disabilities. The Department of Parks and Recreation offers this program to give youth a chance to take part in therapeutic ocean sports. The program provides kayaks, life vests, glove-adapted paddles, specialized straps, side stabilizers and more.

The next adventure for Chris and other participants will be adaptive canoeing. Stay tuned!

Take me out to the ball game!


ESH Maui beat the competition with some creative poses and the BEST dressed players. Watch out next time, Maui!  

The staff at Easter Seals Hawaii all have BASEBALL FEVER! Kaydee Johannsen from the Human Resources department came up with an idea for an employee fundraiser. Once a month, each ESH employee that donates $5 gets to dress up according to a monthly theme. June’s theme was A Day at the Park, which was perfect since our Youth Services on Green Street practice their swings while locking down the proper baseball lingo.

BASEBALL3We’ve got Cassie and Cheryl from our East Sultan Early Intervention Program all decked out in baseball hats and representing their fave teams! 


Green Street was represented by our President & CEO Christopher E. Blanchard, Admin, Human Resources and Development! 

Lastly, we’d like to thank all of our fellow employees who participated in this employee FUNdraiser. We hope our small fundraiser inspires you to make a difference and change a life with Aloha. Every bit counts toward better programs, services and opportunities for our participants.