Who is Dennise Ettinger? © 9/19/2017 By Hadassah Shabnam Lal
I ran into Dennise at McAllisters as I wanted their amazing Chicken and Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Little did I know that my life would change forever. I’m pretty friendly and love meeting new people. In this case it turned out to be an old High School friend. We caught up on stuff and then Dennise shared her heart and vision for (www.IndyChampionsPark.org). I made an immediate decision to support and help her with my knowledge of Social Media & technology coupled with my Masters in Leadership, Non-Profit Management along with my BSM in Business. I want to ask everyone to please consider donating to her passion for building a Park in Indianapolis. It will be the only one of its kind in the Midwest. Please read her story. I was personally touched when I met her two grandsons and the love she has for them, and they for her. I have worked as a Substitute teacher with Special Needs children. They are amongst the sweetest and most humble of individuals. I will be posting a lot of info on this project that has become a part of my mission and my heart. Help us to make Indy Champions Park “Our Park With a Heart” a reality.
My Story by Dennise Ettinger © 2017
My life changed radically eighteen years ago. My daughter gave birth to twin boys. They were both born prematurely with Trey weighing in at 1lb and Blake weighing in at only 2 lbs. I immediately made a decision to help my young daughter raise them. Over the years we have faced challenges and many close calls, especially with Trey who is the more challenged of the two.
Fast forward as the boys are toddlers and then grade school and high school. At each step of the journey I kept running into roadblocks when it came time to take them to do fun things like playing at the Park, riding a Merry Go Round, being involved in some sports activities with children their age. I for one believe that every child should have a normal fun childhood. To me, there is a Champion in every child. Let me share just one story with you, and there are many. This particular day, I went home in tears brokenhearted.
We got to the park, as Trey and Blake excitedly waited in the car. First of all, the parking was somewhat limited. We took Blake with his walker and pushed Trey in his wheelchair down a little ditch: can you imagine that? Then we went across a big uneven grassy (not level at all) area toward the swings. We got to the swing set and our hopes were immediately dashed. The swings were in the midst of thick mulch, surrounded by 4x4 timbers and the harness equipment was broken. We were able to carry Blake over the timbers and through the mulch, but sadly Trey was sidelined because he cannot swing safely without the safety of a harness. As we pushed Blake higher and higher on the swing, he began gleefully shouting “I FEEL FREE; I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO SWING SINCE I WAS A LITTLE KID.” My heart began to break as I realized that both of my grandsons had missed so many opportunities of having simple pleasures of being a child, and doing such things as riding on a swing set.
Something in my heart began to stir as more of these kinds of experiences were being echoed by other parents, grandparents and loved ones as well as caregivers of special needs children as well as adults who also face physical challenges. Slowly my fire of indignation and frustration led me to take action and explore, and investigate parks around the State and subsequently around the country. I have traveled to New Mexico and visited “A Park Above” as well as “Morgan’s Wonderland” in San Antonio Texas. Time and again, the stories were the same. A parent or loved one got frustrated at watching their child lose and miss out on a very essential part of childhood which is “play and fun time.” For children with special needs, it adds even a greater amount of grief as many of them suffer from immense medical challenges, and constant ridicule as well as isolation.
As a result of my experiences I became a “random woman” (that’s what an Indy Parks Official referred to me as). I made phone calls, visited numerous State and City Parks only to be faced with the same challenges and given the same bureaucratic BS. I thought to myself “I’m going to build my own private park for others like me who have watched their loved ones sit on the sidelines. I want a park that communicated my heart and my love for my grandsons Blake and Trey. It’s important to me that “fun time, and play time be inclusive for everyone in the family, where all the kids and adults can play together, ride a train together, go on a Merry Go Round together, play ball together, ride swings together.”
This is how “Inclusive Indiana” a 501C-3 organization came about. Next came my quest for getting a group of people who have a heart for “the least of these” including my grandsons who I love dearly. For me, the sky is the limit when it comes being the best grandmother I can be. It’s my heart’s desire that no child or adult with physical limitations be sidelined as fun and playtime passes them by along with life, as many of those with special needs individuals also have a higher rate of mortality.
Great News! After visiting and haggling with several potential sites and owners, God miraculously made a way for us to purchase an amazing plot of land which has 32 acres. The owners are adamant that their land must be the future home of “Indy Champions Park” Our Park with a Heart. As a result we have to come up with an initial capital fund of $75,000.00 by October 31, 2017 and have until June of 2018 to cover the remaining amount of the cost of the land which will serve as the future site for “Our Park with a Heart.” More on that as we reach that goal. But first we ask to you join us in sharing our message with anyone and everyone. Please help us to raise the necessary funds for a Park where no one is left on the sidelines and everybody is included in the fun. Thank You and God bless.