Indianapolis Club Rewards Perseverance
Each day we work hard to promote our specific organizations and promote our profession. Without a chance to view other organizational activities, this could lead to tunnel vision. If you are fortunate, you will be able to witness concepts in our profession placed in action by other organizations also dedicated to enhancing our profession. I recently took advantage of an invitation to attend a special event, and I am very glad I did.
Kiwanis is an international, co-educational service club headquartered in Indianapolis that focuses on strengthening communities, serving children and promoting philanthropy.
The Downtown Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis recently sponsored the 42nd annual Abe Lincoln Awards Program, an event rewarding perseverance. This event was very inspirational and touched me very deeply. The program recognized students’ achievements who have overcome physical, emotional and environmental adversity. The program had three important goals:
- Recognize 25 high school students for their achievements.
- Give four students the opportunity to receive significant sponsorship funds.
- Deliver a loud public message to other young students with difficulties that others care about them and their quest for success.
While the Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis was the host organization, there were several individuals and organizations that provided philanthropic support to this scholarship program event. The event program provided stories of Abe Lincoln and how he persevered in his life. Did you know he lost eight elections, twice failed in business and suffered a nervous breakdown? Yet, he endured and was elected as the 16th president of the U.S. He provided a powerful example for others to follow.
Speakers introduced 25 students and their personal and compelling stories. In some cases, students were physically abused as children. In other cases, students endured many surgeries and sicknesses, are blind and deaf, are in wheel chairs, battled depression and contemplated suicide. Some had to grow up without one or both parents. As the stories continued, I was amazed at how these young adults fought through life and viewed the future with positive hope. It made me count my blessings as a parent of two healthy children who enjoy a stable and loving home life.
After the students received their plaques, four finalists were reintroduced. An awards committee had previously met to determine the first through fourth place finishers. While each student received $250, the first through fourth place finishers received scholarships valued at $5,000, $8,000, $12,000 and $16,000, respectively. Each of the four finalists planned to go to college and use their scholarship funds to promote their varied educational pursuits. In 42 years, the Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis has given close to $1 million to over 150 students.
The first-place scholarship award winner was DeShawn Thompson. His future goal is to be a surgeon. He met Ben Carson, MD, retired neurosurgeon and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development nominee. This chance meeting helped inspire him to pursue a career in medicine. He said his main inspiration for medicine was the dissection a frog in middle school. He grew up in a broken home and is now being cared for by his grandmother. This young man’s story of hope was inspiring. I left the event with a greater appreciation for the hardships and pressures young adults face in trying to secure a positive future.
Without philanthropy and $41,000 in scholarships, many of these wonderful students would face greater challenges seeking financial aid to reach their educational dreams. I thank the Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis for sponsoring such a profound event in the Indianapolis community. I was blessed to attend this event with several co-workers who were also touched.
I have not attended an event in quite a while where I wanted to laugh, cry and yell for joyous encouragement. When philanthropy rewards perseverance, dreams and hopes are realized. While several student lives were touched this day, you can rest assured that each attendee was also affected.
Happy 208th Birthday, President Lincoln. You continue to inspire us.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last nine years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 25 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years. He received his doctorate from West Virginia University with an emphasis in philanthropy, masters from Marshall University with an emphasis on resource development and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with emphasis in marketing/management. Currently he is executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.