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Easterseals names Tom Smith its 2019 Champion, launches autism initiative in Rowan

For the Salisbury Post

Easterseals North Carolina & Virginia honored former Food Lion chief executive Tom Smith as the organization’s 2019 Champion at a gala in Charlotte on April 11.

Former colleagues, friends and family joined in the celebration at Foundation for the Carolinas.

While chief executive officer of Salisbury-based Food Lion, Smith initiated and supported a cause marketing program to benefit Easterseals services to children with disabilities.

Shop&Care provided funding for and awareness of the work Easterseals does, raising $30 million in contributions from the grocery community — manufacturers, brokers, store personnel and Food Lion shoppers.

“Tom is such a strong and powerful thread in the fabric of Easterseals.” said Easterseals CEO and Rowan County native Luanne Hall Welch. “And we are a part of the fabric of every community in which we operate. We are also part of the fabric of every family we support.

“Easterseals is like a strong, invisible thread in the fabric that you can’t always see … but if you pulled out our threads, the fabric would ravel.”

Over time, Shop&Care financial support transformed Easterseals. Its annual mission impact grew from 8,000 clients to 22,000; from 100,000 hours of service to 9 million hours; and from 15 service sites to 152.

“Tom’s authentic interest in the children and families we serve and the communities we support set the bar for corporate philanthropy,” Welch said. “Tom continues to inspire us today. He truly is our champion.”

In addition to recognizing Smith as the 2019 Champion, Easterseals launched the Tom Smith Autism Initiative to expand Easterseals autism services to help families in Rowan County.

One in 57 children in North Carolina has autism, the second most prevalent state for families living with autism in the country.

Easterseals provides services so that children and adults living with disabilities and mental health challenges can live, learn, work and play in their communities.

Learn more about Easterseals at www.eastersealsucp.com.

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