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Competitive runner-eaters attempt ‘Donut Challenge’ to support teachers, students in need

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Could you scarf down a donut halfway through a 5K and continue running after the mid-race sugar fix? How about a dozen donut holes?

More than 300 people attempted the “Donut Challenge” Saturday morning at the Circle City Donut Dash 5K in Indianapolis.

Several competitive runner-eaters said they were motivated by the opportunity to support a good cause, while others admitted they simply wanted a shot at winning a race medal, gift cards and, yes, even more donuts. 

Proceeds from the annual event, emceed by News 8’s Randy Ollis, will benefit Teachers’ Treasures, organizers said.

The Indianapolis-based non-profit was founded in 2000 by a retired school principal seeking to help needy and at-risk children succeed in school.

Teachers’ Treasures partners with local businesses, charitable foundations, neighborhood organizations and individual contributors to collect and distribute school supplies to teachers in Marion County and surrounding school districts.

“Every day at public, private, charter and parochial schools located throughout Marion County, children of all ages attend class without the most basic supplies they need to get a good education,” the organization said. “Dedicated teachers are often willing to pay for these much-needed supplies out of their own pockets to make sure the kids in their classrooms have the necessary tools to learn. On average, teachers spend $800 to $1,200 a year on school supplies for their students.”

Approximately 94 percent of public school teachers reported paying for school supplies without reimbursement during the 2014-2015 academic year, according to a study released in 2018 by the National Center of Education Statistics. 

Margaret Sheehan, the executive director of Teachers’ Treasures, said education funding challenges created “a very difficult time” for teachers nationwide and touted the importance of keeping passionate educators in the classroom.

“We need these young teachers to stay in the industry [and] on their career path,” Sheehan told News 8 at Saturday’s race. “For every dollar we make today, we’re able to give away $15 in school supplies. That’s a lot of pencils.”

She encouraged Donut Dash participants to honor memorable teachers by writing their names on a donut-themed poster ahead of the race.

Almost every runner could recall their favorite grade school teacher within seconds, as well as ways they had impacted their lives and careers.

Mayor Joe Hogsett — dressed in a lime green donut T-shirt and matching donut beanie — smiled as he listed Mrs. Ellison, Mr. Baker and Mr. Hodge as his favorite instructors.

The first grade teacher, junior high school social studies teacher and high school history teacher each played an important role in shaping his academic interests and career goals, he told News 8. 

“I had so many teachers that have been positive role models in my life,” Hogsett said. “Does it surprise anybody that I ended up majoring in political science and history, and have used that education to pursue public service?” 

Experienced educators do more than teach, the mayor added; they instill hope in their students.

Hogsett lamented the plight of “young people in our community who don’t have that hope,” as well as teachers who remain “unrecognized and underpaid.”

“It’s the teachers who are the front line,” he said. “Probably more so than the mayor or anyone else. Anything we can do to support them will make Indianapolis a better city in the future.”


TEACHERS’ TREASURES: GET INVOLVED

Learn more about volunteering with Teachers’ Treasures on their website.

Sign up to host a supply drive by emailing organizers or calling (317) 264-1758.

Donate new school supplies and gently used items at the organization’s Indianapolis headquarters at 1800 E 10th St during the following times:
Monday – Friday 
8:00 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.

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Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

  • FIND SUPPORT: Learn more about supporting law enforcement wellness on NAMI.org

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