Most people are familiar with Easter Seals—a non-profit organization that provides assistance to disabled individuals and their families—but not everyone may be aware of the storied history behind the charity, or its connection to real estate.
The origin of Easter Seals dates back to 1907, when the son of Ohio businessman Edgar Allen was killed in a tragic streetcar accident. Allen knew that with the right medical care his son could’ve been saved, and so he sold his business to begin fundraising for a new children’s hospital in town. Through his involvement with this hospital, Allen came to learn how stigmatized disabled children were—kept away the public and denied adequate care—and was inspired to start the National Society for Crippled Children, or what would later become Easter Seals.
Today, Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with a variety of special needs, and looks to all industries for financial support. In the real-estate realm, Century 21 has been a longtime sponsor, raising a total of $106 million over its 34-year involvement with the organization.
“It’s been a tremendous venture,” says John Kersten, head of fundraising for Century 21 Town & Country in Utica, Mich. Kersten’s brokerage was this year’s top Century 21 Easter Seals fundraiser, bringing in $847,000 for the cause. Kersten began fundraising about 15 years ago, and has since built up his efforts to include prizes like a $50,000 cash giveaway plus a Corvette Coupe. With a one in 5,000 chance of winning—and at the cost of only $50 a ticket—the charity raffles have become tremendously popular throughout the Metro Detroit area.
Other Century 21 brokerages across the nation organized activities as varied as golf outings and casino nights to beer and barbeque cook offs or charity walks. Through these and other means, the company collected $2 million for Easter Seals in 2012.
“We’re just glad to be able to raise money for a charity that reaches out to the community with their service and has the ability to help such a cross section of people lead more independent lives,” Kersten says.
And as beneficial as charitable giving is for the community, it’s just as valuable for boosting office morale and colleague camaraderie, says Patsy Molloy, director of marketing and corporate relations at Easter Seals. “Charity fundraising is great for real estate businesses who want their agents or other employees to feel good about giving back,” she says. “It’s about knowing they’re all part of something very special.”