The parking lot at Portage High School was bursting at the seams — an unusual scene for a chilly November Saturday — but it wasn’t because of a sports event, practice session or voting. This Saturday was the 10th Annual Craft and Vendor Fair to benefit Hannah’s Hope, and the fieldhouse at the high school was filled to capacity.
Hannah’s Hope is a Northwest Indiana non-profit organization that provides developmental equipment to children with special needs and helps to connect families by making life and communities more accessible. Their vision statement is clear and concise: Helping all kids with special needs reach their full potential. They focus on children living with special needs in Northwest Indiana, from birth through age 18.
More than 1200 shoppers attended the event, which boasted fun activities for the kids, as well as more than 140 vendors. Portions of the profits go to benefit special needs children across the region.
Mary Martinez, Hannah’s mom and co-founder of Hannah’s Hope, was excited to see the turnout.
“We started Hannah’s Hope because of my daughter Hannah, who was born with severe brain damage, believed to be due to a stroke she may have suffered during my pregnancy,” Martinez said. “My husband Mike is a golfer, and he wanted to hold a golf outing to raise money to benefit all those agencies that helped us when Hannah was first born. I thought he was crazy, but we did it and it was a huge success.”
“Then, my mother and her friends, who are very much into crafting, suggested we also hold a craft fair. We did, and that was also a huge success that has grown year after year,” Martinez said.
This year’s Craft and Vendor Fair was expected to be their biggest ever.
“Last year, our craft fair raised $11,000. This year, we set a goal of $15,000,” Martinez said. “Attendance this year is great! We had people coming here non-stop, and even had a line of people waiting at the doors when we opened.”
Among those attending were Danielle Schultz of Portage and her three children, Zachary, Kennedy and Blake.
“This is a super great organization! It’s just amazing! They just built a tremendous playground right here at Founders Square in Portage that caters to children with special needs and I think that’s just fantastic,” Schultz said. “There are so many vendors here, and the quality of items here is outstanding.”
Schultz was surprised by the variety of items available, like holiday items, clothing, decorations, and more.
“We bought some bath bombs. They turn the bath water different colors and even have a special treat inside, which is revealed once it dissolves. My boys can’t wait to get home and take a bath now!” Schultz joked.
In addition to crafts, visitors to the fair were also invited to participate in the Santa’s Reindeer Cookie Crawl, which allowed shoppers to pick up a different homemade cookie at each station around the fair. A Kids and Canvas painting class allowed the little ones to show off their inner Picasso, as well as a Gingerbread House Decorating event, sponsored by Albanese Candy Factory. Children were given one hour to decorate their gingerbread house. Best of all, the children got to take home their yummy gingerbread house, just in time for the holiday season to start.
Natina Chow of Valparaiso was happy to oversee an ornament decorating table at the fair, where children and their families could stop and make their very own Christmas ornaments. As a long-time volunteer with Hannah’s Hope, this was Chow’s first time participating in the Craft and Vendor Fair.
“Hannah’s Hope is such an incredible organization. They do such amazing things for special needs children right here in Northwest Indiana," Chow said. "I just can't imagine not being a part of this."
Martinez was thankful for the support of all those who came out, from shoppers and vendors, to volunteers and sponsors.
“We couldn’t have this event without all of them. They are what makes this possible and we really appreciate all the love and support,” Martinez said.
For more information about Hannah’s Hope, visit them online at https://hannahshope.org/.