The story behind Hannah’s Hope is not the way one would choose to start a story, but with an ending that continues through the positive work being done by its organizers.
Born in 2009, Hannah Martinez was identified to have had a prenatal stroke, causing severe brain damage. She was developmentally delayed, but that sweet smile, bright-blue eyes, and love for those around her, created a quality of life that far exceeded the quantity of life she was given. The awareness that Hannah brought o family and friends inspired them to want to help others like her, and through this awareness Hannah’s Hope was born. She passed away in 2012, however, by then the Hannah’s Hope organization had already been established in honor of Hannah’s incredible strength.
Her parents, Mike and Mary Martinez, began the non-profit in order to help raise money for a program Hannah participated in, First Steps, which provides certain early intervention assistance for those under the age of three.
In 2010, Mike decided on an event to raise money for First Steps, thus beginning Hannah’s Hope.
“He wanted to host a golf outing and raise $10,000,” Mary said. “That’s how it started. We started with the golf outing then we kept adding events and going from there.”
Now, the organization is an established not-for-profit that aims toward assisting children with special needs. They help families with therapy needs, costly medical equipment, and overall, helping families feel like they are supported on their journey. Since its early days, Hannah’s Hope has grown from only helping First Steps patients to helping children of all ages.
The Hannah’s Hope team have their own Equipment Assistance Program, which allows them to purchase the equipment families need to help the child reach their developmental milestone, Mary explained. These items include wheelchairs, weighted blankets, apps for iPads, and more.
The money raised by Hannah’s Hope supports families with the added cost of raising a child with special needs.
“Even though First Steps and other organizations offer low-cost programs for kids, families still face a huge expense. For example, just in copays, if a child has five therapy sessions a week, with $20 copay, that’s $100 a week,” she explained. “Families paying those costs then also are paying for wheelchairs, braces, and other therapy equipment. So, our goal was to try to get involved and take down some of those costs for families.”
Some of the events put on by the organization include the golf outing, a bowling tournament, a softball tournament, and a craft fair. They also hold a large family picnic families of kids with special needs, which is just designed as a free day of fun, Mary said.
Over the years, Mary believes the name and mission of Hannah’s Hope are being spread and heard about by more and more people in the community, as well as the public awareness of the amount of children who live with special needs.
“People are realizing what we do and there is a need for it,” she said. “People don’t realize how many kids have special needs, what it takes to have a child who has special needs, and what they need. I think we are bringing that to light.”
Hannah’s Hope is comprised solely on unpaid volunteers who meet regularly to plan out the next project. Whether it is a small need from a parent or a big project to tackle, the volunteer staff is trying to achieve the goals and dreams that will better the lives of the region’s children and parents.
One big upcoming project is to build an all-inclusive playground at Founders Square in Portage. The plans are still in the early stages and the group is taking recommendations on what types of equipment families would like for the structure.
“We are always looking for other ways to make life more inclusive for the kids with special needs in the area,” Mary said. “People come to us with a need for the child in the community and we try to fill those needs when we can.”
Since 2010, every dime raised for Hannah’s Hope has gone to helping a child reach their fullest potential. Mary and Mike understand what it is like to want what is best for each of your children and understand the needs of families who are raising a child like Hannah.
“Now is the time for organizations like Hannah’s Hope to make real strides toward addressing those needs and creating awareness,” Mary said. Social media, she claims, has helped spread the awareness of the needs of families, but that is not enough. “I think we are part of the action. Social media has created the awareness, but our goal is to step into it and fill the need.”