The unknowns were mounting as the Easter Seals Greater Houston team realized there was no way to safely conduct their most important fundraiser of the year in the face of COVID-19. Year after year, Walk With Me Houston has grown into a beloved community event where thousands of clients, families, supporters and staff join together to walk (or roll) through the Houston Zoo. This inclusive day makes life-changing programs and services for over 12,500 Veterans, children, and adults with disabilities and their families possible. In a year where the economy had dropped and disability supports had waned from other sources, the non-profit organization could not afford to fail. Too many premature infants, toddlers with Down syndrome, teens with cerebral palsy, military-connected families needing mental health resources, and seniors depended on them to pull out a win. With faith in their community partners and clients, the event went online and Walk With Me Virtually was born.
The idea was to encourage the community to get out in the sunshine and safely walk, roll or stroll the block and share a picture online with the hashtag #WWMVirtually. Love for the agency came pouring in from clients, families, staff, volunteers, and donors. Clients and family members, both past and present, shared how Easter Seals had played a crucial role in helping them reach their full potential. The non-profit’s staff told tales of how they had seen clients thrive and defy doctors’ prognosis, proving the efficacy of combining the agency’s broad services and supports. These unbelievable achievements were documented by photos and videos of once nonverbal clients talking about their experiences while others participated using their walkers and orthotics. Volunteers shared how involvement with the agency had inspired their careers. All the while donors encouraged everyone from their top leadership to newest intern to get involved with Walk With Me Virtually.
It was with the incredible dedication and generosity of the community that Walk With Me Virtually was a record-breaking event for the 74-year-old agency, raising over $780,000 for disability programs and services! What once seemed impossible was achieved with and for their courageous clients who refuse to back down from a challenge. The event’s presenting sponsor, Prosperity Bank, and event co-chair and branch President Steve Thompson, Jr. refused to let the disability community down. By encouraging all Prosperity team members and customers, the bank was able to raise nearly $95,000! Whitney Mercilus of the Houston Texans and the WithMerci Foundation began online discussions highlighting the work of Easter Seals Greater Houston. Crucial partners include TEAM, Inc. CEO Amerino Gatti and event co-chair and Alvarez & Marsal Managing Director Richard Holt. These allies truly stuck with Easter Seals during a difficult time, donating not only financially, but also generously giving their time and passion. Thanks to these leaders of business and selfless service, Easter Seals Greater Houston can continue to create life-changing solutions so people living with disabilities can live, learn, work and play in our community. There may be more obstacles ahead, but the non-profit and their dedicated partners have over 12,500 reasons to work hard to continue to offer help, hope and answers.
Special thanks to all of the Walk With Me Virtually Sponsors who met unprecedented times with unprecedented support! Prosperity Bank, WithMerci, Alvarez & Marsal, Houston Automobile Dealers Association, Hess Corporation, Elise Hough, The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, TEAM Inc., Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston Methodist, Protiviti, Accenture Strategy, BB&T, Cintas, State Farm, Youth Action Council, CTG, EPAM Systems, Inc., GATE Energy, Lockton, OP, Tom Ryan, Greenberg Traurig, Lightning Logistics, Flash Funding LLC, SpindleTap Brewery, Like Minds Communications, Texas Automotive Dealers Association, Wedge, Gina Curry, Mary A. & Thomas F. Grasselli Endowment Foundation, Allen Boone Humphries Robinson LLP, Avera, Campbell Concrete & Materials, Children’s Memorial Hermann, Loop Central, Griffin Partners, Harper Pearson, Barbara & Arland Coleman, Community Health Choice, Higginbotham, IDS Engineering Group, MPM Products, Inc., Darri Coleman Ofczarzak, Complete Care Medical, Tammi & Joseph Creed, Parkside Capital, Donna & Joe Perillo, Transwestern, UTHealth Neurosciences, Vaughn Construction, Beverly Phillips, Retirement Center Management, Betty Anderson, Country Legends 97.1, The Eagle 106.9 & 107.5, Smart Financial Foundation, Superior Plant Rentals, Gordon Partners, H-E-B, iHeartRadio, Talos Energy, Mary Holmes Thompson, Carolyn and Chris Janse, John Eagle Honda, Jesse Jones, The Kid’s Directory, The Kinkaid School, Helen and Danny Maxson, Amway, Century 21, Comcast NBCUniversal, The New 93Q Country, Rockfarm, Thompson & Knight LLP, Thompson & Knight Foundation, CVS Health, & MassMutual SpecialCare.