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  • Paul Van Nest


Easter Seals Ontario was founded November 28, 1922 in Windsor, Ontario, named originally as the Ontario Society for Crippled Children. Representatives of ten Ontario Rotary Clubs formed the Society with the purpose of raising funds to provide treatment for children with physical disabilities and to raise awareness of public health issues that affected children. The Rotary Club of Kingston was one of these. In 1923, supporting Crippled Children was one of our earliest projects. In 1947, Rotary helped launch a formal annual fundraising program, which continues to this day. In 1981, the name was changed to the Easter Seal Society and then in 2008 to Easter Seals Ontario.

One of the most memorable annual events began in the early 1980s from a partnership between CKWS-TV, the Easter Seal Society, and Rotary to produce Kingston’s first Easter Seal Telethon. Jane McMillan was the Easter Seal Society Regional Manager for Eastern Ontario and she worked tirelessly for this first event and in the ensuing years to help grow the telethon from the $33,000 start to over $400,000 annually. (The Telethon will be detailed in the next Reflection.) Our club awarded Jane a Paul Harris Fellowship in 1998 for her major contribution to local children with disabilities. Synonymous with the compassionate and caring reputation of the Easter Seal Society was the district nurse for Eastern Ontario, Nesta Wiskins. She knew and loved all the children and their families. In 1990, she too was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow.

Leading our club’s efforts through our Easter Seal Committee were Bob Mallette and then Lorne Malinoff. Through our club’s budget, funds were directed to help some local children and their families with ramps and equipment not funded by government programs. The annual Easter Seal kickoff event has always been a designated Rotary meeting attended by Easter Seal families. This annual meeting is now held in February and features Easter Seals Ambassadors to kickoff the March campaign.

A few years ago, we realized that the local annual telethon had run its course, especially considering the tremendous efforts required to produce it. In its place, a major online fundraising approach was initiated under the leadership of the Rotarian Todd Colbourne and Easter Seals Senior Development Officer Krista LeClair (also a Rotarian) to encourage businesses and individuals to contribute. Global Kingston (formerly CKWS-TV) now dedicates the month of March in both their morning and late afternoon programs to promote the needs and achievements of our Easter Seals children. The picture shows Easter Seals youth, Chad Lees, receiving a cheque from Leahurst College Interact representatives with Bill Welychka hosting.

Needless to say, all of Kingston’s Rotary clubs have joined in supporting Easter Seals in the March fundraising campaign – a true team effort to support children with disabilities.

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