Executive Director's Column

Sarah Elsen

Executive Director

Dear Friends and Supporters,


I'm thrilled to share with you the success of our inaugural Dink and Volley pickleball tournament, which took place on March 4th. Thanks to the incredible support of our sponsors, staff, board members, and participants, we achieved results that will directly benefit Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas.


The funds raised during the tournament will play a crucial role in furthering our mission of ensuring that every child in our community has access to safe, nurturing, and high-quality child care. Whether through early learning programs, support services for families, or resources for educators, these contributions will make a big difference in the lives of countless children and families across our area.

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Agency Highlights & Happenings 

Introducing Dasher: Our New Therapy Dog Bringing Comfort and Joy to Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas

Stephanie Prue, Library Resource Specialist, holding Dasher on his first day at CCAEKS

Dasher sporting his solar glasses during the eclipse on April 8th

We are thrilled to introduce the newest member of our team at Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas: Dasher, a friendly and lovable Cavapoo! Dasher has joined us to provide comfort, support, and joy to our staff members.


Therapy dogs like Dasher have a unique way of connecting with people. With his gentle demeanor and wagging tail, Dasher is already making a positive impact on our team. Studies have shown that interactions with therapy dogs can have numerous benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, promoting emotional well-being, and enhancing social skills. By having Dasher with us, we aim to create a supportive and uplifting work environment for all our staff members.


Dasher will be available in our office to provide support and companionship to our staff. Whether it's a quick cuddle or a friendly wag of his tail, Dasher is here to brighten our days and lend a paw when needed. We are incredibly grateful to have Dasher as part of our team and look forward to the positive impact he will continue to make on the well-being of our staff. Look for updates on Dasher's office adventures, and feel free to stop by and say hello!

What Our Mission Looks Like in Action

Empowering Families and Businesses: Family Forward Initiative Addresses Child Care Challenges in Shawnee County

Access to quality child care is a critical concern for families across Shawnee County. Recognizing the significant impact this issue has on both parents and employers, the Greater Topeka Partnership and Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas have joined forces to launch the Family Forward initiative.


Family Forward, a grant-funded initiative, aims to expand child care options in Shawnee County by bringing together businesses, families, and child care providers to address the shortage of available quality child care. This collaborative effort is crucial in overcoming one of the major barriers faced by parents who wish to re-enter the workforce.

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Program Events

Dink & Volley for Child Care Pickleball Tournament: Fun Times for a Good Cause

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the 3.0 pickleball tournament

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the 3.5 pickleball tournament

Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas recently hosted its first-ever pickleball tournament, "Dink & Volley for Child Care." It was a blast!


People of all ages came together at SportZone on May 4th in Topeka to play pickleball and support families and child care providers. The lively and friendly atmosphere showed how much our community cares about child care.


We want to say a big thank you to everyone who made "Dink & Volley for Child Care" such a success, especially to the participants, volunteers, and sponsors: CoreFirst Bank & Trust, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Golden Rule Design & Build, Stifel, Azura Credit Union, and Jamie Lou Hornbaker—State Farm Agent. Together, we're making a real difference for families in Eastern Kansas.

Volunteer & Engagement

Celebrating Our Volunteers: Honoring the Heart of Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas

April 21-27, the agency celebrated Volunteer Appreciation Week. Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas wants to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the amazing volunteers who help make our mission possible. Volunteers are the heart and soul of our organization, and we're incredibly thankful for their dedication and generosity. Today, we want to shine a spotlight on four special volunteer groups who have gone above and beyond to support our Successful Connections program: Jill Griego and her family, a mother and daughter duo, Carole Denton, and finally, Althea Parsons. Their ongoing commitment and selfless acts of kindness have made a real difference in the lives of the families we serve, and we're honored to have them as part of our volunteer family.

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Upcoming Events & Fundraisers

Save the Date: Celebrity Waiter Gala September 28th at Townsite Tower

Board & Staff...

2024 Board of Directors

Dawn Bicknell-Reiser, President

Erin Lewis, President-Elect

Cherie Sage, Secretary

Catherine Deters, Treasurer

Christina Schmitt, Treasurer-Elect

Cherie Sage, Immediate Past President

Amy Bauer

Joe Beasley

Deb Crowl

Natalie Gordon

Jordan McKnight

Catherine Shafer

Kelly Trussell

Lisa Walker

Lisa Walker

Staff Members

Sarah Elsen, Executive Director;

Diana Ingram-Cantrell, Accountant;

Julie Scott, Marketing & Communications

Coordinator;

Earlina Faurot, Administrative Assistant;

Melissa Mosher, Projects Coordinator;

Rhianna Nelson, Community Outreach & Engagement Manager;

Nancy Rohr, Family Services Manager;

Lori Boos (Team Leader), Tosha Lawson,

Heidy Sanchez Arreola, Resource Specialists;

Michelle Gilbert, Talia Juiliano, Provider Services Managers;

Karin Juarez, Project Manager, Topeka Child Care Access Project;

Holly Wehner, Data Specialist;

Kristina Griffee, Autumn Ryser, Regional Community Consultants;

Dawn Brown, Kari Cronister, Mary Murphy, Professional Development Specialists;

Grace Cott, Susan Drewelow, Olivia Falk, Debbie Hildebrandt, Deana Turner, Early Care & Education Specialists;

Regina Blaske, Regina Blaske, Deb Danielson, Tia Wright, Child Care Health Consultants;

Jane Redger (Team Leader), Jennie Heim, Ashley Buss, Successful Connections Parent Resource Specialists;

Stephanie Prue, Library Resource Specialist

Marie Treichel, Special Projects & Initiatives Coordinator.

ERC Resource & Referral, Inc., d/b/a Child Care Aware® of Eastern Kansas supports the healthy development of young children by improving access to high-quality child care options and educational resources for families and early childhood professionals.
1100 SW Wanamaker Rd. Topeka, KS 66604 • (785) 357-5171 • https://east.ks.childcareaware.org
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