It wouldn’t be summertime without a family picnic with the sun in the sky, good food, and fun activities for the whole family. Hannah’s Hope kicked off summer with their annual Hannah’s Family Picnic.
The annual gathering welcomed families and children with special needs to Wicker Memorial Park in Highland where they were greeted with all of the best picnic food, fun sensory activities, and a place where everyone was welcomed.
“This is our fifth year hosting this picnic,” said Niki Avina, Board Secretary for Hannah’s Hope. “This is one of our only events where we actually get to meet families, so it’s very important for us to have this picnic every year so that we can connect families and meet the people we are helping.”
Hannah’s Hope was founded in 2010 in honor of Mike and Mary Martinez’s daughter, Hannah, who was born with special needs and passed away at the age of three. Since the nonprofit was founded, Hannah’s Hope has worked tirelessly for children with special needs in Northwest Indiana, providing equipment like wheelchairs, braces, cranial helmets, and so much more to children who need them.
The annual picnic is just one of many events Hannah’s Hope holds throughout the year to bring together families and children with special needs.
“I love seeing the families start to talk to each other,” said Mary Martinez, Co-Founder of Hannah’s Hope and Hannah’s mother. “It’s fun to see everyone interact and learn from each other and help each other. That was the whole purpose of this picnic; to connect everyone together, so it’s really great to see that happen.”
As families mingled and ate a delicious lunch, children were able to enjoy a number of activities courtesy of Hannah’s Hope and their sponsor, Lake County Legacy Foundation, who made the entire picnic possible with their generous donations. Different sensory activities were available like Make Your Own Slime, a Play-Doh and bubble station, and an instructor from Kindermusik, an international music, and movement program, helped keep kids entertained and moving along to some fun music.
“Music is something that all children really connect with and enjoy,” said Nancy Hehemann, Instructor for Kindermusik. “It doesn’t matter what their abilities are; they can enjoy the rhythm of the music and it gives them a chance to socialize and connect with other kids and families in the group.”
Fostering that connection between families was the focus of the picnic Sunday afternoon. Some families, like Anne and Ken Lakowski made their way to the picnic for the first time Sunday afternoon after Hannah’s Hope helped them obtain an arm brace for their son, James.
“I think it’s important to get families who have children with special needs in touch with other families who also have children with special needs,” said Anne Lakowski. “Plus, the picnic is giving us ideas of great sensory activities that we can use for our son in the future.”
Other families have made this picnic a tradition, like Lynn Garrison and her family, who have been attending the picnic for the past three years.
“This picnic is huge,” Garrison said. “Finding that local support and connection between families who have kids with special needs similar to your own is very important.”
That connection is what drives Hannah’s Hope in everything the nonprofit does. From creating a Facebook group called NWI Special Needs Family Connection to help connect families around the community, to raising money for a new inclusive park in Portage, to inviting families and their children to a relaxing day at the park, Hannah’s Hope is continuing to reach out into the community and lend a helping hand to all those who need it.
For more information about Hannah’s Hope, go to www.hannahshope.org.