For 81 years, Easterseals Crossroads has improved the lives of children and adults with special needs, disabilities, or challenges by promoting inclusion, independence, and dignity.
The local affiliate in Indianapolis has provided important services to children and adults at its Keystone Road location for many years. Recently, however, staff had noticed need in southern Indianapolis was growing, and in 2015 set out to expand their services by purchasing a new building.
Easterseals Crossroads also wanted to add a new, state-of-the-art multisensory room, but they were looking for matching funds to build it. At the same time at IUPUI, undergraduate students in the philanthropic studies program had begun their Learning by Giving course, taught by Dr. Greg Witkowski.
Every year, Dr. Witkowski teaches this course, which is sponsored by the Learning by Giving Foundation and provides students the opportunity to grant $10,000, whether to one nonprofit or distributed among several.
“They go through this whole process, including defining a mission, reviewing grant applications, conducting site visits, and at the end, they are the ones to decide whom to grant the money to,” Dr. Witkowski explained.
That year was a little different, he stated.
“They were the first group from the beginning to decide they wanted to grant the full $10,000 to one organization,” Dr. Witkowski said. “They wanted to inspire an organization to create something new and complete a project it otherwise couldn’t.”
When Elizabeth Farley, director of corporate partnerships at Easterseals Crossroads, heard about this grant opportunity, she thought it would be a ‘great match’ and saw the opportunity to complete funding for this new room, appropriately titled ‘The Fun Factory.’
“It’s a custom-designed room that gives children the chance to improve their sensory and motion skills and movements,” Farley said. “Applying for this grant would give us the possibility to have a one-of-a-kind room for the children to learn and grow.”
After reviewing applications, the students chose to grant the $10,000 to Easterseals Crossroads for this room. Two years later, you can still see the impact of that grant money.
“We loved working with this class—they chose to take this class for a reason and now they are part of something that makes a difference every day,” Farley said. “They can see the results whenever they come by; there are dozens of children that use it every day. The students have become a part of our work to improve the lives of children and adults with special needs.”
Dr. Witkowski agreed.
“The students felt that this was something that was really fulfilling a need, which it has,” he said.
Added Farley: “It’s made an amazing difference. This room will be used for a long time.”
Abby Rolland is the blog content coordinator for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.