For children of Porter County Education Services, seeing the board during class can be a struggle. With limited federal and state funds to apply toward equipment for the visually-impaired children, Porter County Education Services turned to Hannah’s Hope for help.
County Education Services joined volunteers and other fellow grant recipients of Hannah’s Hope Tuesday night at the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. Breaking bread with one another, they celebrated the good that Hannah’s Hope has provided to the special needs community and the amazing volunteers that work to make it all possible.
Hannah’s Hope, a non-profit providing developmental equipment to the special needs community, granted Porter County Education Services funds to purchase eight iPads. Karen Ennis of Porter County Education Services and Morgan Township Schools attended the event with her husband Mark Ennis to celebrate the grant they received and to say thank you to the volunteers who helped make it possible.
“There’s not enough availability to get all of the equipment we need. Having these kinds of other programs helps us give additional support to get the kids to be independent,” Ennis said. “Programs like Hannah’s Hope make it so kids can be independent, and that’s what the main focus is: getting these kids ready for independent living.”
Ennis first connected with Mary Martinez, Co-Founder of Hannah’s Hope, after hearing about the organization and the grants available. Ennis applied in hopes of receiving funds that could ease the common struggles of some of her visually-impaired students. The grant allowed Porter County Education Services to fill that need.
The iPads allow students to read with a larger font size and use Bookshare, an online library. Many students use the iPads as magnifiers, enhancing the world around them to a visible level, while others use the audiobook features to connect with literature.
“One of my students in middle school uses the iPad to take pictures of algebra work that is up ahead,” Ennis said. “She’s got it right in front of her, so she doesn’t have to strain to see what is up on the board.”
Other students at Porter County Education Services are just beginning to learn braille and need an avenue to continue their love for literature while learning how to read an entirely new way. For these students, the audiobooks are invaluable.
“I’ve got a fourth grader who did not start learning braille until this year,” Ennis said. “His classmates are reading books that he cannot. Bookshare offers audio and visual narration, so he can listen to the stories that his class is reading and he can talk with the classmates about the books. I also have a third grader that has gotten into the ‘Magic Treehouse’ books. He’s able to enlarge the font really big, allowing him to be able to connect with his classmates about these books.”
The grant given to Porter County Education Services is just one small contribution that Hannah’s Hope has given to the Region. To date, Hannah’s Hope has provided more than $500,000 to the special needs community. In 2018, they spent more than $42,000 on equipment to be used by more than 208 children.
The evening honored several recipients of funds, including the Down Syndrome Association of NWI, Merkley Elementary, Jacob’s Ladder, Kidworks, Reflectors at Faith Church of Dyer, Southridge Elementary, Behavior Specialist of Indiana, and Chasing Dreams.
More than 100 volunteers dedicate their time to support the special needs community through Hannah’s legacy.
“They put in a lot of time and hard work. Without them, our events would not be successful,” said Hannah’s Hope founder Mary Martinez. “We appreciate all the time and effort. They spend hours and hours with us.”
Alongside husband Mike Martinez, Mary established Hannah’s Hope to honor their late daughter, Hannah, through generous endeavors that support the special needs children of Northwest Indiana.
Lynn Andersen, a volunteer of Hannah’s Hope, braved the icy conditions to celebrate with the Martinez family.
“I’ve been best friends with the grandmother of Hannah for 37 years,” Andersen said. “I loved Hannah, so I just love being part of this great organization. There are a lot of children that need help.”
The evening recounted some of the major projects for Hannah’s Hope of 2018, including collecting pop tabs, the Shamrock Shootout, Hannah’s Family Picnic, a fundraising golf outing, the Dreams Gala, the vendor fair, and various other contributions.
“It’s people in this room that actually make things go,” Mike Martinez said. “From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.”
To learn more about Hannah’s Hope and to find out how you can volunteer, please visit http://www.hannahshope.org/.