Last month we finished our year-long 10th Anniversary celebration. As we look back on the year, we also look to our future in making Northeast Indiana a thriving, inclusive community for those with disabilities. Here’s a look at all of the fun we’ve had this past year.
We kicked off our celebration at our annual TinCaps game. To make this year’s event extra special, we added a few surprises. The TinCaps provided opportunities for some of our friends to play on-field games that were a blast! We also gave out limited edition AWS Foundation hats to guests. These annual games are always fun, but our 2017 game was an all-time high with record attendance and activities.
For those who don’t know, a Buddy Bench is a catalyst for friendship. A child sits on the bench to let other children know he/she wants to play. We asked local artists to paint benches which we placed at ten different schools. These schools were selected for continues efforts to enhance the education of their students with disabilities. Four of those benches honored founding board members who had fulfilled their board terms, Andy Brooks, Patti Hays (current CEO), Ben Eisbart and the late Ian Rolland.
How many people can say they’ve met an astronaut? We can! As part of their Omnibus Lecture Series, IPFW (now PFW) featured speaker Captain Mark Kelley. We couldn’t pass up a chance to hear him speak about his wife (Gabby Giffords) and how she became a person with a disability after an assassination attempt. As a sponsor of the lecture, we got a chance to meet Captain Kelley which was an opportunity of a lifetime. The most exciting part of the night, though, was hearing his story about how disability can happen to anyone at any time, and the strength of his wife to overcome her new life challenges.
To represent our ten years of grant making, we gave local non-profit disability service providers a chance to receive $10,000 each. On Giving Tuesday, any new or increased donations they received were matched by AWS Foundation dollar for dollar. It was an exciting campaign and we gave away $44,727.61. Two organizations reached their fundraising goal to recieve the full $10,000!
Everyone deserves the opportunity to engage in community activities. For some this is difficult because the environment can be too bright, too noisy and overstimulating. We partnered with area venues to provide sensory kits at their guest services to check out during events. These kits are filled with items to help families of kids and adults with sensory sensitivities enjoy events they may otherwise avoid. Since our launch of the kits with the Coliseum, TinCaps and Embassy Theatre, we have received overwhelming gratitude and requests for the kits in other venues across Northeast Indiana.
Website Scavenger Hunt
Possibly the most exciting activity we did for our 10th Anniversary was our website scavenger hunt. We placed ten icons all over our website. When people found all ten icons, they were able to vote for their favorite nonprofit organization serving those with disabilities in Northeast Indiana. The organization with the most votes received $10,000 and 9 others received $1,000 each. The hunt went on for the entire month of May. It was a close race and we loved seeing the daily changes in votes. This win-win game introduced more people to AWS Foundation as well as the organizations we support.
We had fun celebrating our 10th Anniversary for an entire year! Over the past ten years our organization has grown from one employee to seven, from 16 grantees to over 130, and from granting $300,000 per year to over $4 million per year. We are proud of the strides we’ve made for those with disabilities in Northeast Indiana, but more importantly, we are excited at what we know we can achieve in the future. Thanks to all of you who support our mission and follow along on this journey, stay tuned for what’s next.