By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer
By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer
Tracey L. Colucci, chairwoman of the board of directors for Easter Seals Rhode Island, followed in her parents footsteps, volunteering for the organization, which works to ensure that people with disabilities or special needs have equal opportunities to live, work and play in their communities. She has been chairwoman for a little more than a year. Her term ends in August of 2014. Her parents started fund raising for Easter Seals in 1977 and included their children in that effort. She works in Coventry at Century 21 Access America, which has supported ESRI for years, and has worked in management at Ames Department Stores and MetLife. Born in Warwick, she now lives in Coventry with her husband, Anthony, and two children.
PBN: Growing up with parents dedicated to Easter Seals must have influenced how you view the organization. What do you see as its principal strength, the strength that makes you, like your parents, stick with it over the years?
COLUCCI: The Easter Seals Rhode Island mission statement says it all: Provide exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities or special needs and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities. Their strength is the staff at Easter Seals Rhode Island and how much they truly care about their clients and families. ESRI will go to one’s home to provide services in the early intervention program.
PBN: Fundraising is a skill you have honed. Last month, nearly 100 golfers helped raised more than $25,000 for Easter Seals Rhode Island in the third annual Golf Tournament at Crystal Lake Golf Club in Mapleville. What role do you play in fund raising today and to what do you attribute your success?
COLUCCI: Being on the board of directors for ESRI, my main role/focus is to help raise funds for this great organization. Each of the board members is involved in at least one fund-raising event throughout the year, though many participate, volunteer, or coordinate several events. My success in fundraising has been attributed to being a champion for ESRI for so many years … since I was a child. I so passionately believe in this organization and the work they do. I believe sharing the stories of the families who lives have been touched by ESRI helps others to understand that 100 percent of the money raised stays right here in Rhode Island and really does help to change the lives of those with disabilities or special needs.
PBN: What one myth or misconception do you actively work to dispel about people with disabilities or special needs?
COLUCCI: The biggest misconception is that they are not contributing members to a community. Through ESRI services (specifically, the Early Intervention and Pediatric Outpatient Program), children and young adults can learn and build lifelong skills to achieve their dreams and participate in a community.
PBN: What service would you highlight as one that is growing?
COLUCCI: We have been actively working on getting the word out about our Pediatric Outpatient Program, which is a family-orientated pediatric outpatient center that provides outpatient occupational, physical and speech therapy services for children and young adults through the age of 21. Individualized services help them to perform everyday living activities by enhancing or restoring functions. ESRI has been providing Early Intervention within the state of Rhode Island for many years. Early Intervention provides evaluation, education and therapy services from birth to the age of 3. With the Pediatric Outpatient Program, ESRI can now provide services from birth to 21 years old. As an organization, we are working hard to communicate this great service to the public and will continue to do so.
PBN: Give an example of an individual or family that your organization recently helped. What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
COLUCCI: Every year, I look forward to hearing the story of this particular client’s experience at summer camp at our annual cocktail party, which takes place in October. When I started this cocktail party which was a fundraiser for ESRI, I wanted to help a family within our Century 21 Access America family who had a child with a disability or special needs. We chose a family who had a son with autism. I work with ESRI to place funds aside from our event to send this child to an Easter Seals camp for a week or two during the summer. The first year of camp was a success for this child and his parents. It was a memorable experience for the family and for us at Century 21 Access America. We continue to sponsor this child to attend summer camp the last few years. As his dad said at our event a few weeks ago, this experience has been life changing not only for his son but for him and his wife. His son looks forward to attending Easter Seals camp every summer and our party in October – can’t wait to go every year. My biggest challenge with this event is getting sponsors and people to the event. But with good planning, exceptional organization, generous donations and the dedication of our agents at Century 21 Access America for ESRI, we are able to put a successful and fun event together for the past 10 years. It is a lot of work but worth it, especially when we see this child and parents at the event and they provide a camp update. It is always exciting to see them and hear their story.