JOLIET – In eight hours, Easterseals Joliet Region raised $188,460 for its annual Celebration of Giving Regional Telethon on Saturday afternoon at the Jacob Henry Mansion in Joliet.
Debra Condotti, president and CEO of Easterseals Joliet Region, said this year she set a goal of $200,000.
Although the nonprofit was short Saturday, Condotti said that in past years, when people from the community have noticed the small amount needed to make the goal, they have donated after the event.
Easterseals Joliet Region offers services to residents of all ages with disabilities, including more than 3,590 clients in 82 communities on an annual basis.
“This telethon makes it easy for people to donate, and we have volunteers out here to help us; we like to involve the community,” Condotti said. “Also, when people give, no matter what level of the contribution, those funds are combined with other donations ... to make a difference.”
The telethon has been a strong fundraiser for the Joliet region for 23 years. It attracts hundreds of volunteers to call, perform on stage and interview clients.
Condotti said 90 cents of each dollar donated goes toward the many services offered in the region, which includes Kendall, Grundy, Will, Kankakee, Ford and Iroquois counties.
Services are provided in a convenient way for each Easterseals family, whether they take place in one of the nonprofit’s offices, a home, community building or school, Condotti said.
The center of the ballroom was filled with camera crews to showcase different acts on stage, personal interviews with those who use the programs, bands and the actual volunteers who called personal contacts and fielded calls, which came in from those who watched the event live.
Lynn Lichtenauer of 1340 WJOL radio sat with Easterseals Joliet Region occupational therapist Donna Ballak in the interview room and spoke with 3-year-old Alexander Ledwa, who has been with the organization more than one year – and has shown vast improvements.
Ledwa’s mother, Jessica Blair, said her son was born six weeks’ premature with neurological complications and listeriosis, a serious infection associated with eating food contaminated with listeria.
Blair said Ledwa did not hit typical milestones. When he came to Easterseals Joliet Region, he could not talk, walk or socialize.
Michael Ledwa, Alexander’s father, said now that his son has been in the child care program, where he receives all of his therapy treatments, the 3-year-old has developed fine motor skills and play skills and can walk and talk with a large vocabulary.
“Without Easterseals, we would not be able to both work, carry our jobs and afford what we need,” Blair said. “They do his therapy while in child care, which allows parents to work full-time jobs.”
On the interview set, Alexander took to the spotlight, and, with a microphone in hand, answered all of the questions Lichtenauer asked, flashed his smile for the camera and gave a loud goodbye.
Condotti said the Pritz family, who had once used Easterseals for services for a family member, provided Easterseals’ venue from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday at 20 S. Eastern Ave. in Joliet.
During the event, the Joliet Central Big Band and Olivet Nazarene University School of Music entertained.
Phone teams consisted of the Joliet Rotary Club, Easterseals Young Professionals, staff and board of directors, Harrah’s Casino, First Midwest Bank, Jonathan’s Fans, General Federation of Women’s Clubs Illinois, elected officials, Kiwanis Club of Joliet, Corvette Club, Joliet Fire Department and Fraternal Order of Police 58.
On stage, different musical acts, dance performances, martial arts groups and more performed for those who chose to sit in the audience and at home.
The organization offers more than 20 services in areas such as adult services, autism services and diagnostic clinics, children services, community-based programs, evaluations, family education and support and medical rehabilitation services.