This winter, Crown Point’s Bulldog Park Ice Rink is more accessible than ever before thanks to a generous donation from Hannah’s Hope and St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Student Center in Valparaiso. Together, the organizations gifted two special adaptive sleds which will allow those with movement impairments to enjoy the ice with their family, friends, and community.
“The number of families and kids that come and use this skating rink is massive; from when we open to when we close in the spring it’s packed,” said Crown Point Mayor Pete Land. “We want to be sure that we can include everybody who wants to come out. Hannah’s Hope providing these is a tremendous help to us. These sleds are a great thing that’s going to allow families and those who need them to have fun, and we’re incredibly grateful.”
Hannah’s Hope is a nonprofit founded in Northwest Indiana by Mike and Mary Martinez in honor of their daughter, Hannah, who was born with severe brain damage and developmental delays caused by a possible prenatal stroke. She faced many challenges, including mobility impairments, before she passed away in 2012. Hannah’s Hope honors her story by providing equipment to make life and communities more accessible to those with special, developmental, and mobility needs.
“She was with us for just over three years, and she taught me and a whole lot of people in Northwest Indiana more lessons than we were ever going to be able to teach her,” Mike Martinez said. “She truly was an angel among us – she’s never left.”
Hannah’s Hope donated sleds to Valparaiso for use at their ice rink at Urschel Pavilion a few years back and saw how successful it turned out. When St. Teresa of Avila called to help fund a new project earlier this year, Martinez identified Bulldog Park as the perfect opportunity to repeat that success. He is eager to spread the word about the sleds around the community, knowing there are families out there waiting on news like this to take the trip out.
“I think that’s what holds a lot of special needs families back, they just don’t know what sort of equipment is available in certain places so they just don’t go,” Martinez said. “If they know everybody’s included because they’ve got this kind of equipment, that’s so much more incentive to visit.”
St. Teresa of Ávila raised the funds for the sleds as part of their Lenten project. Having heard what Hannah’s Hope does for children in Northwest Indiana, the organization felt the nonprofit was the perfect partner.
“What really touched us was Hannah’s story, what she represents,” said Christine O’Connor, member of St. Teresa of Avila. “They’re keeping her legacy alive by helping others. That’s what really touches me the most as coordinator of this, and the community really rallied behind the whole concept. They’re helping hundreds of kids every year, and this is just one more avenue for those kids to have fun. There’s no limits for kids with disabilities.”
When Martinez sees equipment like the new sleds get put to use – it encapsulates Hannah’s story, and why their work is so critical.
“We’d go to parks and playgrounds and there’d be things for my other two children to do, while my wife and I would hold Hannah with nothing else she could participate in, nothing wheelchair accessible,” Martinez said. “When I go to somewhere like Bulldog Park and I see my kids skate, and I see those sleds sliding around with them – the smile on their face, the smile on their parent’s face, the fact that the entire family can be together… I know Hannah’s not here physically with us, but I know she’s here in those smiles.”
The Timothy Grzych Ice Rink at Bulldog Park is open from 5 to 10 p.m. on Fridays, 2 to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, and 12 to 6 p.m. on Sundays – weather permitting. Admission is $5 (free for senior citizens 62 years of age and older) and skate rentals are $3.