Children with autism in Marion County will soon be able to play and learn in a new, state-of-the-art, multisensory activity gym designed to meet their needs, in part as a result of a $10,000 grant from the Learning by Giving class at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI to Easter Seals Crossroads.
Students in the hands-on, undergraduate course learn how charitable foundations operate and about giving wisely by making real grants to local nonprofits, from deciding which community issues to address and writing requests for proposals to conducting site visits, evaluating applications and deciding where to give grant award money. Grant funds are provided by the Learning by Giving Foundation founded by Doris Buffett, sister of Warren Buffett.
The students described their experiences and presented an oversized check to Easter Seals Crossroads representatives during an award ceremony on Dec. 16.
“Our students are passionate about making a difference and improving people’s lives,” said Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the school. “Learning by Giving is one of our most popular courses because it, along with our other philanthropic studies classes, prepares them for a meaningful career in helping others.”
The vision of students in the current class is that Indianapolis will be “a community where every individual is treated with dignity and fully equipped to take advantage of all opportunities for success and stability.” Twenty-four local nonprofits competed for the grant.
“I’m always impressed with the great job students do working together to recognize local needs and establish funding priorities,” said associate professor of philanthropic studies and Learning by Giving project director Greg Witkowski. “This semester students wanted to inspire new projects so that they chose to grant $10,000 to one organization. They made the wise decision to award the grant to Easter Seals, which will have an impact both in the near and long terms on people with autism and their families.”
Easter Seals Crossroads improves the lives of children and adults with special needs, disabilities or challenges by promoting inclusion, independence and dignity, including serving more than 400 children with autism last year.
In its new Thompson Road facility, the organization is expanding its autism services to address the growing scope of needs. The centerpiece of the new facility will be a multisensory activity center – the only one of its kind in the region – which will offer a fun environment to foster learning, exploration and safe sensory experiences for children and adults with autism.
The center will offer a wide variety of treatment activities, creating a stress-free learning environment. It includes zip lines, a climbing wall, an overhead jungle gym and swings, a trapeze run, a ball pit and a jump deck. Designed especially for sensory recreation, the center will provide a safe alternative to a ‘typical’ playground, provide the health and fitness benefits of a regular gym, and help children with strength, movement, communication, behavior modification, social interactions and self-care skills.
About the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter @IUPhilanthropy or “Like” us on Facebook.