The FCHS pastry shop helps students with special needs

By handcrafting dog treats, Franklin Community High School students with developmental delays want to show the community that they are just as capable of making an impact as any other teenager.

Lauren Brunning and Joe Admire spend some of their school time making dog treats made from pumpkin, eggs, whole wheat flour and peanut butter. They knead the mixture and use cookie cutters to shape the treats. With the

help from Katie Crump, co-founder of Inclusion Bake Shop, Annika Flodder, the other co-founder and high school life skills teacher, Valarie Brunning, Lauren Brunning’s mother-in-law, and Beth Admire, the mother of Joe Admire, they’ve made more than $300 in sales and are considering a long-term goal of having a storefront in downtown Franklin, Crump said.

“We talked about the kids’ future plans and they kind of got started until eventually we wanted to have a showcase. The goal is to provide young adults with disabilities with the opportunity to integrate into the community,” she said.

Laying the groundwork for construction of this downtown storefront begins this summer, as the Inclusion Bake Shop sets up shop starting June 4 at the Franklin Farmers Market, she said.

Lauren Brunning lives with fragile X syndrome, which causes learning disabilities and cognitive impairment, while Joe Admire lives with Down syndrome. Both students can continue with Franklin Schools special education until age 22. Crump hopes the Inclusion Bake Shop will set them up for success once they are no longer enrolled.

“I think it changes their lives,” Crump said. “They often don’t get that experience or have the time to be part of a business or a job. In the long term, these young people, once they are 22, are no longer in the school system. Having this opportunity to go out and have a job is huge for them and their parents.

The project will count towards their degrees as a supervised farming experience, as the students make food for the animals. Currently, the money goes to ingredients for dog treats, but in the future, Flodder said the money can go to increasing funding for related causes.

“Some of the possibilities include creating a scholarship for children who wish to major in the field of special education,” she said. “We talked about buying bags of dog food and donating them to an animal shelter.”

The Bake Shop inclusion is a needed addition for Johnson County, where structures and supports for the special needs community are lacking, Valarie Brunning said.

“I’ve been in the special needs community for about two years and there aren’t a lot of opportunities in the Johnson County community,” Brunning said. “There’s the Hope Gallery in Bargersville, but it gives kids an opportunity closer to home.”

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