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Hope's Way reaching out to community to win $100,000

Friday, September 2, 2011

If they win a national contest, Sharon Smith (left) and founder Elizabeth Shafer plan on using the $100,000 prize money to build a new bunkhouse as well as adding more sidewalks to the ranch.
BAINBRIDGE -- As Hope's Way is approaches its 10-year anniversary, it may have something much more to celebrate in the coming months.

The non-profit organization is now eligible to win a donation of $100,000 from the Oscar Mayer "Good Mood" contest.

Hope's Way is a free recreation shelter for special needs children. The shelter not only provides a place for special needs children to go but also those of low-income, incarcerated parents and military families.

Richard and Elizabeth Shafer started the center in January 2002. The idea to start the shelter came after their grandchild, Hope, died shortly after being born.

"We decided to keep her memory alive though all children," explained Elizabeth.

When researching special needs children, the couple found that in just a few counties in Indiana there are more than 60,000 special needs children. That's when they knew they needed to help.

"This is their place," said Elizabeth. "It's a little bit magical."

The shelter believes that all children, especially those with special needs, should be included rather than excluded. The people at Hope's Way believe that no child should be ignored or left behind. Children of all ages are free to roam their 26-acre ranch and enjoy such festivities as pony rides, a petting zoo and even their own western town called Glory Town.

One of the many educational activities is in Glory Town. It is there where the kids are able to pan for gold in which they trade in for money. They learn to budget and spend their money throughout the town, which includes such attractions as an ice cream shop, general store, as well as a saloon serving root beer floats.

"We have created something worthy of being replicated," said Elizabeth.

The ranch has 125 animals, most are rescues and some even are handicapped. These animals provide a way for kids to relate not only to the animals but also to each other. It shows them that they are no different than anyone else.

Typically, around 100 children and families participate in the events that occur at Hope's Way. Not once in 10 years has an event been rained out. These events strive to challenge the children both physically and mentally as well as emotionally.

Many non-profits have struggled to keep their doors open lately due to the economy. Even though the shelter has no real source of income, the donations never seem stop. Most every building has been built through donations, community service projects, or just good deeds.

Each month the shelter has donors upon whom they can depend. In donations they make about $35,000-$45,000 per year. Every single dollar goes back into the project.

"It's a combination with everyone helping and working with us," said Elizabeth of the success.

It is because of the good deeds done by the Shafer couple that the favor is being returned. Longtime visitor and friend Sharon Smith of Plainfield has entered the national "Oscar Mayer Good Mood" contest, designating Hope's Way as the recipient should she win.

Smith found out about the contest while searching through Facebook. In order to win, she has to do five good deeds a day, record them, as well as write an essay. Having three autistic children of her own she was no stranger to doing good deeds.

"It's just simple things I do every day," Smith said.

In the beginning she started out at No. 30 and quickly progressed to No. 5.

Smith decided that Hope's Way deserved it simply because it helps all children, not just a select few.

"I wanted something that would help everybody," said Smith. "This would be the best place for it."

Plans have already been considered for the money, including building a two-story bunkhouse and several additional wheelchair sidewalks. The Shafers are hoping the competition will not only get the word out about Hope's Way but also bring in more volunteers and donors.

The community will be able to vote online on the Oscar Mayer Facebook page. Voting will begin on Sept. 19 and run through Sept. 26. Voting is allowed once a day.

Hope's Way is open from April through October. For more information on Hope's Way or how to help with the contest, contact Elizabeth Shafer at 522-5566 or Sharon Smith at 317-459-1551.

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Not that it makes a difference, but is Hopes Way in any way affiliated with Hope Haven? Just curious. I think both are quality upstanding programs for children.

-- Posted by dcsaiht on Fri, Sep 2, 2011, at 7:59 AM

No, they are not affiliated in any way.

-- Posted by John3:16 on Fri, Sep 2, 2011, at 8:17 AM

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