Letter from the Chairman of the Board
Since this is my first annual report letter as Chairman, please indulge me with a bit of an introduction. I’m a resident of Kenosha, proud father of two amazing grown children, Casey and Cailin, and Chief Actuary for Northwestern Mutual in Milwaukee. I’ve served on Easterseals Wisconsin’s board since 2015.
My wife, Beth, and I were first introduced to this organization through the Wisconsin Elks/Easterseals Respite Camp. This camp and its staff has served my family by serving our son, Casey, since 2006. When he was 12, it was with some trepidation that we entrusted this camp with Casey, given his disabilities and challenging physical behaviors. While Beth and I badly needed respite, we camped nearby assuming we’d get a call to pick him up that first day or the next (as had been the case with other programs). But with each passing day, we increasingly relaxed and reconnected with one another. Our minds were blown. A year later, Casey went back to camp, and Beth and I went to Napa Valley! What a difference trust can make! COVID aside, he’s attended camp each and every year since. Casey and my entire family have been blessed through the work of Easterseals Wisconsin and the graciousness of all of you who give to it.
As former Chair, Pam Birschbach, wrote in her annual report letter last year, “We know there will be challenges we must face, and that change is inevitable. The work at Easterseals Wisconsin is first and foremost about the people we serve, their families, and their communities.” Little did she know the year we had in front of us!
This past fiscal year has been quite a challenge. The ripple effect of COVID-19 was not lost on this agency. We were forced to pivot, prioritize, and serve in new and creative ways. Major fundraising events were canceled, the Annual Campaign had just kicked off, summer camp was canceled, and programs were deeply impacted (see pg. 3). But not all was negatively impacted. Once again, we were amazed by people’s generosity. Donations immediately flooded in and still continue today! To that end, you’ll read a heartwarming story on page 5 about the impact of the 2020 Urgent Appeal.
I’m extremely proud of our staff and the manner with which Christine Fessler “ran to the tape” in a year none of us predicted – her last year of leadership before retiring after 26 years. Her legacy will have a lasting impact, and leaves our new CEO and President, Paul Leverenz, with an outstanding staff and a fiscally healthy agency. The board has every confidence that Paul will build on that legacy as he takes this agency into the future!
While change comes, sometimes in big ways, the needs of those most in need only grow. Your support is vital now more than ever. With that, I trust you will find this report affirming of the work we do and how we do it. I’m incredibly proud of Easterseals Wisconsin, and I thank you for your support.
Jason T. Klawonn
Chairman of the Board
View 2019-2020 Annual Report