Jesters group receives $250,000 grant

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Anthony Wayne Services Foundation of Fort Wayne has awarded the University of Saint Francis-sponsored Jesters Program $250,000 to help with future programs.

Jesters was founded at the university in 1978. It helps people with mental and physical disabilites get involved in creative arts and ultimately enhance their quality of life. It also focuses on developing self-expression, self-esteem, socialization and other life skills while providing learning opportunities to the USF and local communities.

AWS has provided funding for Jesters since 2010, giving the group $25,000 a year.

For the next five years, the Jesters will receive double that. The grant will provide $50,000 in annual program support.

“As the program continues to grow, we wanted to ensure that they had a really solid foundation, which enables them to be more fluid in their planning,” said Lynne Gilmore, Executive Director of AWS Foundation.

That funding will support costs for theater performances, salaries for teachers, educational enhancements and marketing.

The number of Jesters participants has doubled in the five years of AWS funding. “I never cease to be surprised at how important the work is—the participants have such pride in their accomplishments—I’m so happy to serve in this way,” said Jesters Director Allison Ballard.

“The support of the AWS Foundation is critical to the ongoing growth and development of the Jesters program,” said School of Creative Arts Dean Rick Cartwright. “We are grateful for the long-term commitment and support of AWS.”

Cartwright said there are two major benefits of this grant, not only for Jester members, but for USF as a whole.

“One is helping the individual strengthen their ability to have a productive life and number 2 educationally, it gives our students an opportunity to work with these individuals in a hands-on situation that will help them as they go out in to the workforce,” said Cartwright.

Since the Jesters has taken off locally, other parts of the country, like Texas and California have developed the same program.

For more information about the Jesters program, click on this link.

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