Year at a glance 2019/20
Since 1952, Easter Seals BC & Yukon’s story has been one of hope, courage and triumph for people with disabilities.
Over the years, through the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities, Easter Seals (the Society) has provided valued programs and services to thousands of families and children. Our work strives to build self-esteem, self-confidence and a sense of independence for the children, youth and adults we work with.
It is quite remarkable what we have all experienced over the past year, and continue to move through during the COVID-19 pandemic. The safety and well-being of the individuals and families we serve has always been a driving force in all of our decisions, directions and actions. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the vulnerability persons with diverse abilities have, so it was very important that we pivoted our programs and services to continue to serve our community when it was needed most.
Our board, staff, volunteers and donors rose to these challenges with tenacity, calm and support. We, as an organization, have been very fortunate to be able to continue reaching out to deliver our mission and maintain an important presence in the community.
Bringing Camp Home When It Was Needed Most
In response to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, overnight camps at Camp Winfield in Lake Country, Camp Shawnigan on Vancouver Island, and Camp Squamish north of Vancouver, were cancelled in early April due to the health order, and a new, virtual Camp@Home program was developed to continue to bring ‘camp’, social interaction and activities to campers from age 6 through to 49 years.
The success of this pivot was unimaginable. Over two hundred individuals with diverse abilities participated in one-week online camps that occurred over six weeks of the summer. We were also fortunate to be able to safely deliver City Adventure Day Camp in person for the four weeks of August in Vancouver and for the first time in Victoria. While the initial scope was developed only for the Summer Program, Camp@Home was such a success, that a Fall Program was developed, along with plans for Winter and Spring 2021.
Celebrating 65 Years of Being a Home-Away-From-Home
Thanks to the vision of the Lions Clubs, 2020 marked the 65th anniversary of Easter Seals House, and also the 35th anniversary at its current location on Oak Street, in Vancouver.
When the Lions Clubs formed the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities (Easter Seals) in 1947, they recognized the need for people to have access to affordable accommodation when travelling to Vancouver to seek medical attention for their children. They also saw the need to offer accommodation to indigenous peoples who needed to travel to Vancouver for medical attention.
Funds were raised, and in 1955 the first Easter Seals House was built. Over one million guests have stayed since then, and today at our current location, we have grown to 49 self-contained suites and host over 12,500 guests each year.
Opening Easter Seals House to Those in Crisis
With the onset of the pandemic and safety measures, children and families who would normally travel to Vancouver for medical appointments and stay at Easter Seal House, were having their appointments cancelled, postponed, or moved online. The occupancy of the House rapidly decreased and the House was offered to be of service to others during this crisis. Through a partnership with BC Housing and the Atira Group, an organization serving woman and children fleeing domestic violence, an issue that escalates during crises, occupied the House for four months from April to July.
We were thrilled to have the capacity to assist. The House was an attractive option to accommodate women and children due to its design of self-contained kitchen suites, offering a safe and isolating circumstance to the community.
Making Sure Everyone Has The Chance To Have Fun
Having spent a decade relying on a manual wheelchair, Shaughn has an appreciation for not allowing a disability to stop anyone getting out there and having fun – which is what Easter Seals Camps are all about.
We are fortunate that when Shaughn and Sharon Clements were looking for a worthy cause to support, they read an article about Easter Seals BC Yukon’s camps, and agreed it was a cause they wanted to support. This led to the creation of the “Shaughn and Sharon Clements Easter Seals Camp Fund” in May 2019 – an endowment fund, held at Vancouver Foundation, designed to provide an annual grant to assist with maintenance and operations of camp facilities.
The fund is a way for Shaughn and Sharon to ensure that campers have a safe and secure environment to have fun, make new friends, and learn to do new things that expand horizons and abilities to adapt to the ‘outside world’.
Rappelling For a Cause
For 15 years, our annual Drop Zone event has challenged participants to rappel down the side of an office tower, while raising funds for persons with diverse abilities. This year’s Drop Zone was truly a no-contact, fundraising event that we were still able to put on during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We had 109 superheroes join us for the 15th Anniversary of Easter Seals Drop Zone in Vancouver, and for our second year in Surrey, and together these two events raised a total of $169,316. We are so thankful for everyone who made a commitment to this adrenaline pumping fundraiser and helped raise funds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This event also couldn’t have happened without the support of our sponsors who year after year come out and support this event: Odlum Brown Limited (Presenting Sponsor of Vancouver), Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, Prospera Credit Union, Blackwood Partners, Oxford Properties, Surrey Board of Trade, Global BC, Tacten, Breakaway Experiences and Climb Base 5.
A Strong Financial Year
2019/2020 was a challenging year to say the least. Midway through the fiscal year, the global outbreak of COVID-19 introduced an unprecedented level of uncertainty in the economy. However, the Senior Leadership Management Team and the Board paid close attention to the developments, continuously monitored the impact on the Society’s operations, and responded accordingly.
Management formed new community partnerships and summer camps were reimagined to new expanded virtual formats. The positive financial results are an outcome of this hard work. Strategically, the organization adjusted its operations and found efficiencies. By stewarding the organization strategically, the Society generated a year end surplus of $325,716.
Looking ahead, it is the Society’s vision to broaden our reach and support children with diverse abilities throughout their lifetime. We will look to expand our reach, increase our engagement with new and existing supporters, and collaborate with new partners and organizations.
Together with you, our valued supporters, we will continue to support persons with diverse abilities across BC and Yukon for years to come.