Easter Seals of the Birmingham Area

Melissa with two of her niecesMeet Melissa

July 22, 2015 | View on Facebook

Life forever changed for Melissa Fendley in 1983, when a horrific car crash left her permanently confined to a wheelchair. Her journey through life since then hasn’t been easy, but her tenacity has allowed her to achieve more than she ever thought possible—including winning Miss Wheelchair Alabama, getting married, and becoming a mother.

30 years later, Fendley’s life changed again when in 2013 she got connected with the Easter Seals of the Birmingham Area, a nonprofit committed to improving the lives of children and adults with special needs.

“I was introduced to Easter Seals through my vocational rehabilitation counselor,” explains Fendley. “I wanted to enter the workforce, but I had been a stay-at-home mom since 1998 and needed to brush up on my computer skills.” The Easter Seals provided Fendley with computer classes and connected her with one of their job placement specialists to help her gain employment.

Now, Fendley is doing the exact work that aided her so much; she currently works a job placement specialist with the Easter Seals to help others with disabilities find jobs in Birmingham.

“Having a disability myself is hopefully inspiring to the consumers that come in,” says Fendley. “They see that I have a full-time job, and I hope they think, ‘She can do it, so why can’t I?’ I am so passionate about helping others with disabilities become as self-sufficient as possible.”

Fenders & Fireflies 2014

Fenders & Fireflies 2014

The Easter Seals of Birmingham may not be on your radar, but they have been quietly and actively working to improve the health, welfare, education, employment, and recreational opportunities of local people living with disabilities.

“Birmingham needs to know just how important this agency is to someone who has a disability,” says Fendley. “Life can change in an instant, and if you find yourself facing a life-altering event, such as a disability, you need someone to help guide you, support you, and let you know that life can go on, and it can be very fulfilling.”

For Fendley, the Easter Seals have given her what could have been lost in that 1983 car crash: hope.

“It’s very overwhelming to know that there is an agency like Easter Seals that genuinely cares and wants to help you regain your independence and self-worth,” she says. “It’s hard to put into words how comforting that is.”

Learn more about the Easter Seals of Birmingham and help contribute to their work at the upcoming 4th annual Fenders & Fireflies fundraising gala on August 6 at Old Car Heaven.

Find out more and buy your ticket to the event at www.eastersealsofbirmingham.instagift.com

232Meet Kyler

July 29, 2015 | View on Facebook

When five-year-old Kyler McNaught-Sutton grows up, he wants to be either a zookeeper or a superhero.

Like most little boys, some of his favorite things are dinosaurs, movies, and camping with brother Grayton and moms Jamie and Niki. But, unlike most kids his age, Kyler has worked to overcome several unique challenges in his young life.

“When Kyler was six months old, he was diagnosed with Torticollis, which meant the muscles on one side of his neck were developing faster than the other,” explains mom Jamie. “We were in need of a pediatric physical therapist, so our pediatrician referred us to the Easter Seals.”

Easter Seals of the Birmingham Area is a local nonprofit branch dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities. After working with Kyler for a few months with specialized exercises, Kyler’s condition improved, and he was soon meeting the developmental milestones for his age group.

“Easter Seals has been an amazing resource—we consider them a part of our family,” says Jamie. “Not only have they helped Kyler, but they have helped us as parents by giving us the emotional support needed for us to be able to help him at home.”

A few months later, when Kyler started exhibiting new developmental and speech delays, Jamie and Niki knew exactly where to turn: the Easter Seals. Its speech and occupational therapy team worked with Kyler’s individual needs to develop his best learning environment; for example, Kyler craves movement, so when he is allowed certain types of play before work, he is able to focus for a longer period of time.

Jamie and Niki

Jamie and Niki

“Easter Seals has been a great place to start,” says Jamie. “There are a lot of families out there who don’t know where to turn when they have concerns about their child’s development.”

Over the past few years of working with Easter Seals, Jamie and Niki have seen their son Kyler make great strides—in fact, he was recently released from the occupational therapy program.

For Jamie and Niki, witnessing their son blossom into a confident, capable kid makes them incredibly grateful for all that The Easter Seals has done for her family.

“The therapists are compassionate and patient,” Jamie says, smiling. “They focus on giving each individual child and his family the tools that are needed to succeed.”

Next week, the Easter Seals will be celebrating their 4th annual Fenders & Fireflies fundraising event, which raises money to support the nonprofit’s children and adult programs. You’re invited to join them on Thursday, August 6 at Old Car Heaven—learn more at www.eastersealsofbirmingham.instagift.com.

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