— Linda Hankins, an Avon resident and board member for Sycamore Services, Inc. of Hendricks County, was recognized by the Indiana Governor's Council for People with Disabilities during the council's state conference Dec. 4 in Indianapolis.
Hankins was presented with the council's Distinguished Leadership Award for her 30-plus years of dedicated state and national leadership and advocacy on behalf of children with special needs and their families.
The Distinguished Leadership Award recognizes parents of children with special needs for dedicated leadership and advocacy over a period of time. Hankins' career as an advocate for more than 30 years has included many milestones, including:
- Advocate, Special Kids Can't Wait Coalition. As a member of the coalition, Hankins worked with many individuals and statewide organizations to advocate for and achieve the goal of legislation being enacted in Indiana to establish the First Steps, Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities. Her son, David, sat on Gov. Evan Bayh's lap as he signed the legislation into law in Indiana.
- Co-founder of the Indiana Parent Information Network 25 years ago, which later became ASK. Hankins served on the board of directors in several leadership roles, including president and treasurer, for more than 20 years.
- First parent liaison on the Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Hankins "invented" what a parent liaison looks like and does to help families and medical staff connect together to communicate and provide care for a child with disabilities. There are now three family liaisons in the Riley NICU, and several others in various Riley Hospital clinics.
- Associate director of Riley Hospital Community Education and Child Advocacy. Hankins was one of the co-founders of the Riley Safety Store (www.rileysafetystore.org), served as Riley Hospital's public policy liaison for a dozen years where she participated In several leadership roles in state coalitions advancing public policy on behalf of children and families, and represented Riley Hospital for Children on the Council on Child Advocacy of the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions.
- Board member for Covering Kids and Families. Hankins spearheaded the effort to organize and expand an initiative to ensure that all children with special health-care needs be considered for Medicaid eligibility upon being admitted and/or discharged from the hospital.
- Board member, Sycamore Services, Inc. After retiring from Riley Hospital for Children, Hankins became a board member of Sycamore Services, Inc., an organization that makes a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities and others experiencing daily challenges by providing individualized training and services to increase independence and enhance their quality of life. Sycamore Services, Inc. provides support through children's programs, employment programs, residential programs, community activity and integration, respite care services, work centers, day programs, transition planning, behavior management, recreation therapy, and protection for persons who are deaf.
Hankins' son, David, who has Down syndrome, and her grandson, Logan, who passed away after nearly two months on Riley Hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Unit, remain the inspiration and motivation behind her persevering efforts and leadership to help make life better for children with special needs and their families.