The sanctuary of St. Jude House just completed a huge new addition for the kids and families they serve – a new and expanded playground right in their backyard. Built with the support of the Crown Point Community Foundation, the Dawn Brancheau Foundation, and the Service League of Northwest Indiana, the playground gives the young shelter residents a beautiful new place to relax and play.
They unveiled the facility with a celebration and ribbon cutting on Wednesday. Built as part of the Let Kids Be Kids campaign, the playground features three different sections offering all the classic features like slides, climbing walls, and more. St. Jude House Executive Director Ryan Elinkowski looked on as kids started scrambling and sliding.
“This is a game changer for us because we serve more children than adults,” he said. “To have something like this, which will last for so many years to come, will truly bring joy to the children that we serve. It's a really exciting time for us.”
The playground came together in stages. First, they acquired the equipment thanks to the Community Foundation’s contributions, then they got the funds to construct it with the support of the Dawn Brancheau Foundation, and finally, the Service League put on the finishing touches with all the woodchips.
“We wouldn’t be here if they weren’t so kindhearted,” Elinkowski said. “They made this project a reality.”
One of the most challenging parts of the build were the logistics behind getting the equipment into the backyard. As a shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault as well as their dependent children, confidentiality and security is the foremost concern. Their strong support network and constant diligence let all their effort pay off.
“To do something for the children is especially amazing,” said Vanessa Jacobs, Vice-President of the Service League of Northwest Indiana. “I’ve been here in the past, and this equipment is going to go a long way. It’s a beautiful playground.”
Elinkowski honored each of the biggest contributors with a hand-painting made by their child residents.
“For the past nine years the Dawn Brancheau Foundation has supported projects for children and animals internationally,” said Marilyn Kazwell, who cut the ribbon on behalf of the Dawn Brancheau Foundation. “That was Dawn’s passion, so it’s a great pleasure to do something for the St. Jude House.”
For the Crown Point Community Foundation, the chance to make a difference in the lives of kids around their community was an opportunity they had to leap at.
“To watch these kids playing and having a good time is huge,” said Jim Larsen of the Crown Point Community Foundation. “Before they come here, they might be struggling 90% of the day. So to see them smiling out here, it makes me wish we could give even more.”
To learn more about the St. Jude House, visit www.stjudehouse.org.