Maile’s Dream Continues To Raise Awareness and Funds

 “Maile’s Dream”A CELEBRATION OF DIFFERENCES ANNUAL FAIR is a benefit for Easter Seals Hawaii and was held on March 5, 2016.  Today, a check presentation was held at Moanalua High School celebrating the event. $2,180.00 was raised this year for the Easter Seals Hawaii Early Intervention Program.



Fifteen years ago Washington Middle School adopted Maile’s Dream.  Maile was born with a very rare condition called Apert Syndrome, which is characterized by malformation of the skull, mid-face, hands and feet.  Maile has undergone numerous surgeries for her skull, ears, palate, fingers, toes and mid-face.  She’s currently an 8th grader at Kaimuki Christian School.

The objective of this Fair is to raise awareness and encourage acceptance of differences through activities and special entertainment. Maile’s mother, Cindy Ogata said, “Easter Seals’ Early Intervention Program was there to support us with physical, occupational, speech therapy and a gifted teacher to help with cognitive delays…our objective of the event is to raise awareness and encourage acceptance.”


 Now, Maile is a thriving and happy Freshman at Moanalua High School.  Cindy Ogata said that Maile was at first intimidated by starting at such a large school, but her ROTC advisors have also adopted “Maile’s Dream” and have encouraged her growth in High School every step of the way.  Today’s presentation was organized by her ROTC class advisors and she was joined by her classmates.

Proceeds raised through “Maile’s Dream” provides much-needed unrestricted support towards the operations of the Early Intervention Program.

If you would like to also support “Maile’s Dream” you can contact Luke Kusumoto, Sultan Program Manager at  (808) 529-1730 x1002, or email:


Roxann Kehus: Employment Services

“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible.” –Audrey Hepburn

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So many of us float through our day-to-day lives forgetting the inherent simplicity of possibility: add a space, an apostrophe, and a rightfully earned, capitalized “I” and impossible transforms into I’m possible.

Roxann Kehus, the Statewide Employment Services Manager for Easter Seals Hawaii, speaks of this truth as it relates to the groundbreaking work she and the Easter Seals team are undertaking. Through years of work with non-profit organizations, she has become quite familiar with the impossible-to-possible transformation. These exciting possibilities center around the vision of a new program that, after many years of intent, is now being implemented: employment services. This program aims to foster true community integration and support of self. Focusing on individual strengths, interests, gifts, and talents as opposed to weaknesses and deficits, Easter Seals Employment Services strives to make every individual an equally respected and independent member of society.

Discovery Process
With the help of a practice known as Discovery, individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to experience, or discover, the workplace. They observe different jobs, speak to different people, and authentically establish an area of interest through experiment and/or experience to successfully facilitate job placement. Discovery is a valuable process, one in which Roxann believes in fully due to past experiences with it. As an employment consultant in Seattle, WA, Roxann worked with a high school graduate who had a Discovery meeting with family, friends, and neighbors. His interest in shredding papers caught the attention of one neighbor in particular, who turned out to be a local school principle. She offered him a job shredding old report cards and crafted a beneficial situation for everyone involved. The young man now had a job doing something he enjoyed, the school was getting rid of unnecessary documents, and the students were able to assist him, increasing their own awareness and interaction with people with disabilities. It eventually led to further work opportunities when the local city parks department requested his paper-shredding assistance as well. This epitomizes the beauty of the practice: one Discovery meeting can present unexpected and previously unimagined job opportunities, spawning chances for people with disabilities to actively contribute to and participate in society.

Through employment services (including the Discovery program) individuals not only expand their network of people and supporters – otherwise known as social capital – but also build character. They develop a greater sense of self, are better prepared to make decisions, and have a means by which to improve their current quality of life. A few job seekers on the Big Island are a testament to this. After working on pre-employment skill building (interview etiquette, question-response preparation, etc.), practice interviews exposed an air of confidence within each individual. They were able to communicate an answer, explain themselves, express their own thoughts, interests, and strengths, and appropriately partake in a conversational setting. This type of equality for all persons, in all environments, all of the time sets valuable precedence. And just as a bike tire need only an occasional flick to stay in motion, so too the employment services program need only a nudge to perpetuate its forward motion.

Roxann, therefore, sees herself in a supportive role – inspiring communication, teamwork, and learning throughout each of the programs on the various islands. She believes in possibilities: “We’re changing a system that’s been in place for many, many years but know that our vision is leading us in the right direction. I trust the process and know it’ll look and turn out in a way that’s greater than I even imagined in the first place.”

New Health Insurance Benefit for Children with Autism

During the 2015 session of the Hawaii Legislature, a Bill was passed affecting children with a diagnosis of Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) under the age of 14 yrs. This law, known as “Luke’s Law,” mandates that all health insurance policies issued or renewed after January 1, 2016 provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Because this is a health insurance law, the diagnosis and treatment must be “medically necessary.”

The diagnosis of autism may involve assessments, evaluations, and tests.

The treatment of autism includes applied behavior analysis (ABA) necessary to develop, maintain or restore functioning. ABA may involve design, implementation and evaluation of environmental modifications, using behavioral stimuli and consequences to produce socially significant improvements in human behavior and includes direct observation, measurement and functional analysis of the relations between behavior and environment.

Treatment of autism (ABA) must be provided by a Autism Service Provider licensed by the State with a maximum benefit of $25,000 per year.

What does this mean to you and to Easter Seals Hawaii?
Easter Seals Hawaii Autism Center has been a provider of ABA services but funding for those services has been limited to private pay, Tricare (for military families) or, in some cases, support from the Department of Education. With this law, Easter Seals Hawaii is negotiating with five health insurance companies in Hawaii to become one of their providers, allowing families access to ABA services for their children with ASD. The Autism Services at Easter Seals will be growing as we recruit, train, and add qualified staff and expand services.

Anyone with health insurance coverage with questions about this benefit for their own child should contact the insurer. The benefit is required when the policy is issued or renewed and policies may renew at different times during the year.

We will do our best to keep you informed as this new law is implemented in 2016.

Jennifer Schember-Lang, VP Programs and Services

PS – for a background on “Luke’s Law” read this Civil Beat article from 2013.

Mahalo to all our Gingerbread Festival Supporters

Easter Seals Hawaii’s Gingerbread Family Festival started out in 1999 as a small family-oriented event on Oahu with the goal of bringing ESH friends and families together to build gingerbread houses and make memories.  Over the next 14 years, our small festival became an increasingly popular fundraising event and expanded to Maui, Hawaii Island, and Kauai.  In 2014, the festival was attended by thousands of people statewide and featured live entertainment, photos with Santa, team competitions, and more.

Each year, the staff at Easter Seals Hawaii would so look forward to seeing the community come together to kick off the holiday season in support of our organization.  That is why it took much deliberation, consideration, and exploration of alternatives before we came to the conclusion to not have the Gingerbread Festival in 2015.  The festival has finally outgrown our staffing and funding resources and as a result, we are taking a step back to evaluate alternative ways for Easter Seals Hawaii to continue to be a part of families’ holiday traditions.

Thank you to the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, CVS/Long’s, Zippy’s, Territorial Savings Bank, GEICO, and all the other companies that have sponsored our festival since its inception.

Thank you to all our dedicated volunteers who worked so hard to make every festival possible.

Lastly, thank you to everyone who attended the festival over the years.  We sincerely hope we were able to provide some cherished memories.  On behalf of all the staff at Easter Seals Hawaii, we wish you all a very happy and healthy holiday season.

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For information on upcoming Easter Seals Hawaii events, please visit or e-mail Shandis Ching at

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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Chevez and Keli'iloa 2

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.

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!

Moments from our 32nd Annual Easter Seals Hawaii Golf Classic

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Mahalo to all those who supported Easter Seals Hawaii at the 32nd Annual ESH Golf Classic at Kaneohe Klipper! Our tournament was a success and we’d like to thank our sponsors, golfers, volunteers and staff for all the support and hard work to help us put the FUN in fundraiser!

Our Chinese beauty queens had a blast posing with our participants!

Our Chinese beauty queens had a blast posing with our participants!

Enjoy the photos below, click on each photo to view it in full resolution. For a list of winners, visit