19 Sep 2014
Jessica Finkel with her parents, Ken and Ann.  Ken is a former OI Foundation Board President.

Jessica Finkel, program associate-professional programs, with the OI Foundation shares her thoughts below about her recent experiences in at the OIF National Conference in Indianapolis.

Finding out that the 2014 OIF National Conference was going to be held in Indianapolis was especially exciting for me; not only was I going to be a part of planning an OIF National Conference for the first time, but it was going to be in my hometown! Although I have not actually lived in Indianapolis since I graduated High School in 2008 (Go LC Bears!), it is a place I am proud to call home.
I love coming home to Indianapolis. It is incredible to see how the city has changed and improved over the past six years.
Indianapolis is a home to wide and accessible sidewalks, fabulous restaurants and welcoming people. Everywhere you go, the people of Indianapolis are there with a welcoming smile and a helping hand. I have to admit, I did not appreciate the friendly waves and smiles of neighbors and strangers until I left Indianapolis.  I sometimes miss being able to strike up a conversation with the stranger next to you, which certainly is not as welcomed in the Washington, D..C area, where I live now.
This year, the OI Foundation organized our first ever National Unbreakable Spirit™ Walk-n-Wheel along the downtown Canal Walk. Everywhere I turned, conference attendees were talking about how beautiful the canal and park areas were and how accessible the canal is. With more than 200 people participating, many in wheelchairs or using walkers, it felt like a casual afternoon stroll instead of a mile walk in 80-degree weather plus humidity.
Volunteers from the Indianapolis community showed up to help cheer on the participants and pass out water bottles. Again, showing their Midwestern hospitality, only smiles adorned the volunteers. A huge shout out to the Lawrence Central Key Club who spent their Thursday summer afternoon yelling “good job” and “you’re halfway there.” It really goes to show the greatness of the city and faces of Indianapolis.
After sitting in a forum all morning, a large group of us had decided to walk to Steak-n-Shake for lunch on Friday afternoon. While a little bit longer of a walk from the JW Marriott, it is an easy walk with the smooth sidewalks and drop-off ramps. Entering the restaurant’s to-go line there were at least five wheelchairs among the usual lunch crowd. The staff was quick to make sure signs and line dividers were moved so there was plenty of space for us. They even came around the counter to hand us our takeout instead of struggling to reach around the counter.
It is the small things that really make a difference- Indianapolis remembers that.
I have always loved calling Indianapolis my home and after the OIF National Conference, I am even more proud to do so.  Everyone absolutely loved the city and everything it had to offer: the restaurants, the zoo, the bars and more.
As a Hoosier at heart, I could not be more proud of the growth of the city of Indianapolis.
OI Foundation Board President Mark Birdwhistell cuts the ribbon at the inaugural National Unbreakable Spirit™ Walk-n-Wheel.

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