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Sacramento Non-Profit Sues Parent Organization Over Misleading Messages

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SACRAMENTO --

Gary Novak's proud to talk about the ways kids with developmental disabilities build strength and success in the 'Suitability Room' at Easter Seals in Sacramento, known officially as the Easter Seal Society of Superior California.

"The kids have to do 150 sit-ups to improve core strength," he said, pointing at a work-out area where kids where compression suits connected to cables.

That area and entire room it's a part of was made possible thanks to local donors whose dollars were mailed to a Sacramento P.O. Box, funneled to Easter Seals national and then shipped back here.

That cash flow doesn't happen that way any more, but Novak and others believe direct mailers sent to donors suggest it does.

And that's why they've gone to court.

"Currently the way it is...we feel that it's deceptive and misleading," said Novak, the chief marketing and donor relations director for Easter Seals' Sacramento affiliate.

At issue?

Words in the mailers that still reference local areas, local p.o. boxes and locally provided services.

"He's learning sign language and how to dress himself -- those skills, services are provided by us the local affiliate," Novak said, reading from one of the mailers.

For the last five years money given as a result of such wording has stayed at the headquarters for Easter Seals, INC. in Chicago.

Easter Seals's Chief Strategic Officer Randy Rutta says this arrangement helps with local affiliates through lobbying and public education.

During a phone interview with FOX40, he confirmed that dollars don't return to local affiliates as in the past.

Still Rutta says, "we're surprised to have this action taken."

Gary Novak's group doesn't get the confusion since they've been asking for a clearer message for five years and finally felt a suit to maintain the public trust was the only choice.

"The black eye, the bloody nose is worth it because we wouldn't want to lose that loyalty," said Novak.

Novak wants to stress to the public that any donation mailed to their Hurley Way offices or dropped off there will be put to work locally.

Since it relies on insurance, private payments, local fundraisers and its own corporate partnerships, the Sacramento affiliate of Easter Seals is financially independent from its national office.