Ginger Summers: Wishing Wings Founder Empowers Teens
This month, we are pleased to feature Zionsville resident Ginger Summers, founder of Wishing Wings, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 2020 and developed to help children being placed within the foster care system.
Summers is a Boone County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) since 2017, whose mission is to be a voice for children in court who are abused or neglected and to provide clothing and essential items to meet the needs of youth that are in kinship placement or foster care in and around Boone County.
Empathetic for Children in the System
There is an estimated 443,000 youth in foster care on any given day in the United States. Of those 443,000 youth, 20,000 will age out of foster care and never achieve permanency. In Indiana alone, there are an estimated 32,000 youth in foster care.
“Along with Wishing Wings, being a CASA is something that fuels my drive even more,” Summers shared. “Last year, on Aug. 3, I became an employee of the county and became the Boone County CASA volunteer coordinator.”
The Boone County CASA program is a court-run program, and all the Children in Need of Services (CHINS) cases are run through the Boone County Circuit Court.
“I’ve always had a passion for kids in the system,” Summers said. “I went to school with a good amount of kids that were in the [foster] system, and it always pulled at my heartstrings. I was never a child in the system, thankfully, but my dad’s job was transferred state to state, and I was enrolled in multiple schools, and I hated moving. I would always think about the kids that are in the system who were not only moving schools but moving from and to a whole other household.”
Summers realized early on how fortunate she was to have the support of her family every time they had to relocate and that children in the foster system do not have that support system to help them acclimate to a new school, a new home and a new community.
“I wanted to be that constant and to be that person they know is going to be there for them if they call me or text me,” Summers expressed. “We all know the system is broken, but I didn’t want to sit back and complain about it. I wanted to try and find a way to make a difference.”
How to Become a CASA In Boone County?
Most people who hear about CASA programs think they need to have a legal background, and the simple truth is you don’t. You just need to have the desire to be a child’s advocate in court.
“You have to be 21 years old and be able to pass a background check,” Summers explained. “If you go to boonecounty.in.gov/offices/guardian-ad-litem/, you can fill out an application online. You have to go though 30 hours of training if you’re approved and will also do courtroom observations. The commitment is to see their child at least once a month, but really, if you’re the voice of that child, you really should see them more than that. It is a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. So, if you have a passion for kids and want to help be that voice for them in court, there’s definitely a need in Boone County. And you don’t have to be a lawyer, you just need to have the heart and the passion to be able to do this.”
Expanding Her Impact on the Youth
Realizing the needs of older children that are in foster care or kinship care, Summers decided to expand her service to the children in the system, and she founded her nonprofit, Wishing Wings, Inc., just as the global pandemic was unfolding. With the encouragement of her husband, Summers opened up her boutique for teens and tweens.
“I started Wishing Wings in January of 2020,” Summers said. “It started out as the Wishing Wings Boutique and Grant a Wish program. The boutique is set up just like a store. I didn’t want the kids to come in and feel like they were going to a foster closet where they were receiving handouts.”
Wishing Wings Boutique focuses on teens and preteens. Summers rents out two classrooms from the Central Christian Church in Lebanon. One room is set up for males, the second room is set up for females and both offer sizes 10 in children all the way to 2XL and 3XL. Wishing Wings Boutique is open to CASA kids from Boone County and the surrounding counties.
“We only accept new or gently used items,” Summers said. “We don’t accept items that have the tags cut out or little ‘Johnny’s’ name in Sharpie. Undergarments and socks have to be brand new. We also do makeup, bedroom accessories and sometimes sporting equipment and prom dresses. There’s no limit, and the kids can come in as often as they want and take as much as they want. Everything is free to them, and we are open one Saturday a month, but we do accept appointments.”
Making an Immediate Impact
In the short period of time that Summers has been running and growing her organization, Wishing Wings has made tremendous strides in its mission. Wishing Wings accepts donations so that it can grant wishes to the kids in a variety of ways. Extracurricular activities and other special extras can be a financial stretch for foster families and kinship placements.
“Last year, we did 16 wishes, which was amazing,” Summers said. “Wishing Wings was awarded the first quarter Women of Impact grant last year, so we were able to grant those wishes. We sent four kids to the prom, paid for the tuxedo rental, prom dresses, flowers, haircuts for the boys, hair and nails for the girls and gift certificates to go out to eat. We’ve purchased sports glasses for a little boy who plays dodgeball at the Boys and Girls Club because Medicaid would only cover his regular glasses. We were able to purchase fire-retardant clothing for a young man who was getting ready to age out and needed the clothing for his job. And there was a girl who had made honor roll, so we were able to gift her a $50 Visa gift card. It’s the little things that we take for granted that matter to these kids, and we can do these things through the abundance of the community’s generosity. Last year, we were able to grant Christmas experiences like Christmas at the Zoo, Yuletide and Disney on Ice.”
In January of this year, Wishing Wings welcomed Packing Hope—a local organization—as a division of Wishing Wings.
“Packing Hope provides birthday bags for Boone County CASA kids,” Summers explained. “They also do meal trains for a week or two for new placement families.”
In addition to monetary and item donations, people can easily support Wishing Wings while you shop on Amazon by choosing Wishing Wings, Inc., at smile.amazon.com.
If you’re in a place where you can do something and you’re not sure what to do but are compelled to give back, donating to Wishing Wings is definitely a way to reach out and make an immediate and positive impact on the youth of Boone County.
Summers added, “If you’re passionate abut something, you can do anything.”
For more information on Wishing Wings and Packing for Hope, visit wishingwings.org.