2019 Taste of Hope fundraiser celebrates students in recovery

Hope Academy celebrated another record-breaking Taste of Hope event this year by raising over $70,000 to support students in recovery from substance abuse.

The crowd at the 2019 Taste of Hope.

The annual fundraiser, held on Feb. 24 in the Fairbanks Recovery Center, included nearly 300 guests and featured delicious cuisine and treats donated by 15 local food establishments:

  • Arni’s
  • Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano
  • Broad Ripple Ice Cream Station (BRICS)
  • City Barbeque
  • DeBrand Fine Chocolates
  • EKO African Restaurant & Banquet Hall
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Noblesville
  • Gordon Food Service
  • Jacquie’s Gourmet Catering and Cafe
  • Krueger’s
  • Meridian
  • My Pretty Little Pretzel
  • Shoefly Public House
  • Sodexo
  • Texas Roadhouse

Shoefly Public House was voted Best Taste for its Middle Eastern flatbread topped with hummus, cauliflower tabbouleh and greens. The chocolate-dipped pretzels and chocolate truffles presented by first-time participant My Pretty Little Pretzel won them Best Presentation. Shoefly was also presented with Taste of Hope’s first-ever Loyalty Award, along with Meridian and Sodexo.

The 2019 Taste of Hope had over 50 sponsors contribute more than $50,000 and over $5,000 in ticket sales to benefit Hope Academy. Almost $8,000 came on the day of the event.

Rafael Sanchez takes a selfie with the Taste of Hope crowd.

RTV6 News personality Rafael Sanchez once again emceed the event, which featured Hope Academy senior Sarah Platt sharing her story of recovery. She recently celebrated a year of sobriety.

Hope Academy student Sarah Platt takes a spin through the crowd at Rafael Sanchez's behest.

Her substance abuse started at age 13 with drinking.

“The feelings of euphoria it brought were immediately addictive, and the feelings of depression that followed ensured I would continue to use,” she said.

Having always been well-behaved and a good student with many friends, Platt’s descent into addiction went unnoticed for a while. Her struggle became apparent to her family midway through her sophomore year. After getting treatment, Platt realized she couldn’t return to her high school.

“It was home to too many memories, friends and opportunities to use,” she said.

Platt heard about Hope Academy while in treatment and enrolled starting her junior year. She said being in an environment with students who’ve been through the same things has helped her more than she can comprehend.

“At Hope Academy, I was met with love and acceptance rather than anger and judgment, and that is no easy thing to do,” said Platt, who will start college in the fall at IUPUI. “My family and I will forever be in debt to Hope and its entire faculty. They have not only given me what I need to be who I am today, but they have given me a second chance at life.”

Hope Academy Board President Amy Levander presented the annual Faces of Hope Award to Congresswoman Susan Brooks. Representing the 5th District of Indiana, which includes Hope Academy, Brooks has visited the school many times and met with students, as well as held a community roundtable on-site to educate others about Hope Academy. She also invited Hope Academy Chief Operations Officer Rachelle Gardner to Washington, D.C., to talk about recovery high schools to the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Congresswoman Susan Brooks (right) accepts her Faces of Hope award from Hope Academy Board President Amy Levander.

“Hope Academy is a force for good in our community, and it’s an organization that isn’t afraid to tackle a big challenge – like making sure teens who struggle with substance abuse get and stay in recovery while getting a good education,” said Brooks, adding that our society is starting to recognize that addiction is a disease and should be treated as such.

“Hope Academy is driving that change, and it’s a national model that we must continue to promote and encourage. Hope, and recovery high schools like it, are helping its students, parents and our community understand and support people who are in recovery, all while building a solid foundation for them.”

Money raised through Taste of Hope helps offset the cost associated with educating each student at Hope Academy, which is a tuition-free public charter high school. Hope Academy President and CEO Barb Elliott noted that, on average, the school must raise $9,000 per student to cover its costs.

“Your donations are saving lives and helping these incredible young people graduate from high school and go on to a life of meaning and value,” she said.