HAWK Foundation Spreads Cheer For Special Needs Families With Events Like VIP Christmas

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Paul Dreier has been working with special needs kids since he was in high school. He was offered the chance to use one of his study halls to volunteer, and he started tutoring children with special needs. Working with this population has become one of Dreier’s passions.

Dreier has also been a member of the Lions Club for years. As a service with the Lions Club, he’d help out during the Zionsville Fall Festival, serving hot dogs and other treats. Leigh Ann Akard was also highly involved with the Fall Festival and noticed attendance on Friday nights was slow. Knowing about Dreier’s involvement with the Special Olympics and the Special Olympics Torch Run, she suggested they invite families who have a family member living with special needs to the carnival to ride the rides for free and enjoy the food the Lions Club provides.

Dreier pitched in money so the families could play games for free too.

“The overall idea was to get a group of people together who have similar circumstances and let them enjoy the time together with their families, all for free,” Dreier says.

Ten years ago, they offered the first VIP Carnival event. There were 38 participants the first year. The second year, Dreier and Akard asked those families to invite another family with a child with special needs. They had 98 people show up for the fun. It grew from that point on — last year 1,600 people were there celebrating.

Because the VIP Carnival was such a success, Dreier, and other volunteers, decided to organize more events. There’s the VIP Christmas event, which takes place on the first Friday of December every year. Santa is there available for photos, sleigh rides are offered, food is served and high school and local church carolers perform.

A VIP Luau and Kite Day Event were added as Spring and Fall events. All events are free to families with a member who has special needs. Many families travel a good distance to attend.

“People come from Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio,” Dreier says. “Some spend as much time in the car getting to the event as they do at the event. That’s pretty amazing.”

All events are well-attended and all are organized and staffed with volunteers. Events can be reached by people when posted at websites like Backpage2.org.

In order to accept donations to help support these events, Dreier and others created a non-profit organization: HAWK (Helping All With Kindness). There are 10 board members who all share the duties of organizing and producing the events. Dreier says all members are essential and work hard to make these events a success. The members include Leigh Ann Akard, Hugh Breene, Jeff Collins, Paul Dreier, Amy Hamather, Brad Pillow, Val Pillow, Tina Randel-Lizama, Gerry Stevenson and Jane Winters. 

Dreier’s favorite part about being involved in the HAWK foundation is seeing the joy on the children’s faces as they get to hang out with their friends from school at events that are not school related. They get to experience joy and freedom.

It takes a great deal of organizing and a supportive community to put on these events, but the board members know it’s worthwhile.

“Zionsville really is a mecca of goodness,” says board member Val Pillow.

HAWK’s VIP Christmas Event will take place Friday, December 7 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. If you are interested in volunteering, the HAWK Foundation welcomes all. You can learn more by visiting thehawkfoundation.org.

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