Theresa Swenson

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Theresa Swenson’s life revolved around helping children. She was raised in a community that always put the needs of children first, ingraining a desire early on in her heart to help children. Her journey began in the 1940s when she became a volunteer for Camp Fire Girls, America’s first multiracial, multicultural and nonsectarian organization for girls. This was Swenson’s first opportunity to help children, but it wouldn’t be her last.

As a nurse, Swenson worked in a ward for premature infants and found boundless joy in nursing children to health. She was a nurturer by nature, so nursing was the perfect profession for her. But like many women of her era, she became a stay at home mom after her first child was born; but she began to miss nursing and caring for children beyond her own home. Once her children were school age, Swenson was volunteering in the community again and making it a part of her weekly calendar.

She soon found her niche volunteering at Crossroads Rehabilitation Center, now Easterseals Crossroads. Swenson was fondly known as the "Popcorn Lady" -- she purchased a theater-style popcorn popper and would deliver popcorn to the children arriving for therapies, the adults in Community Day Supports and all the employees.

Swenson spent nearly 50 years volunteering at Easterseals Crossroads, which involved not only serving the children but also fulfilling the roll of president of both the Crossroads Guild and Crossroads Volunteer Association. In 2003, the guild honored her with its Heart of Gold award, given to a person with a "generous spirit; willing hands; a kind, caring heart; and giving of oneself beyond the expected." In 2008, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard presented her with a Mayor's Community Service Award.

For Swenson’s 90th birthday, her children created a fund in her honor and had her many of her friends make donations in lieu of birthday gifts. Hence, the Theresa M. Swenson Children's Fund at Easterseals Crossroads was born.

Swenson’s favorite project was "I Can Bike" -- teaching children with challenges how to ride bikes. Swenson arranged for every child in the program to have a t-shirt and medal to commemorate their hard work.

Although she passed in January of 2017, her legacy will go on through not only her fund, but the thousands of children and families she impacted through her volunteering at Easterseals Crossroads.

Written by Janine Robertson