Making dog treats by hand, students at Franklin Community High School with developmental delays want to show the community they are just as capable of having an impact as any other teenager.
Lauren Brunning and Joe Admire are focusing some of their time at school on making the dog treats out of pumpkin, eggs, whole wheat flour and peanut butter. They knead the mixture and use cookie cutters to shape the treats. With the
help of Katie Crump, co-founder of the Inclusion Bake Shop, Annika Flodder, the other co-founder and an essential skills teacher at the high school, Valarie Brunning, Lauren Brunning’s stepmother, and Beth Admire, Joe Admire’s mother, they’ve made more than $300 on sales, and are looking at a long-term goal of having a storefront in downtown Franklin, Crump said.
“We talked about the kiddos’ future plans and they kind of started this up to where we want to have a storefront eventually. The goal is to provide young adults with disabilities the opportunity for community integration,” she said.
Laying the foundation of building toward that downtown storefront starts this summer, as the Inclusion Bake Shop will set 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. The two 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’s life-changing for them,” Crump said. “They don’t often get that experience or are given the time of day to be a part of a business or a part of a job. Long term, these kids, once they’re 22, are not in the school system anymore. To have that opportunity to go out and have a job is huge for them and their parents.”
The project will count towards their diplomas as a supervised agricultural experience, since the students are making food for animals. Right now, the money is going toward ingredients for the dog treats, but in the future, Flodder said the money can go toward increasing funding for related causes.
“Some of the possibilities down the line include creating a scholarship for kids who want to major in the special education field,” she said. “We’ve talked about buying bags of dog food and donating them to an animal shelter.”
The Inclusion Bake Shop 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’s not a lot of opportunities in the Johnson County community,” Brunning said. “There’s the Hope Gallery in Bargersville, but this is giving kids an opportunity closer to home.”