INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A fundraising project introduced years ago by a group of Indianapolis students has turned into a unique educational opportunity and beloved holiday tradition in Broad Ripple.
Students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) began handcrafting packets of glittery oats, marketed as “magic reindeer food,” in 2001 to raise money for student activities and classroom needs.
Sprinkling the special oats on your lawn on Christmas Eve will help guide Santa’s reindeer to your house, legend goes, unless you’re already on his naughty list.
ISBVI’s elementary-aged students delighted in making the reindeer food but initially only sold about 50 bags, with sales limited to their campus. 16 years later, demand has exploded and production involves students of every age working in assembly line fashion to fill orders totaling more than 1,000 bags each year.
“I never expected it to get as big as it has,” said retired teacher Lynn Baize. “We’ve really created a tradition.”
Shops, restaurants and galleries throughout Broad Ripple – in addition to kiosks at the annual Lights Up! festival – sell the packets of glittery oats for $1 each.
Baize, who taught at ISBVI for 43 years before retiring and returning as a volunteer, revealed the not-so-secret ingredient in magic reindeer food: magic.
“If you can believe in this magic, then you can believe in being part of something bigger than yourself,” she explained. “For children with disabilities, sometimes their world is kind of small. [This project] is a great way for that world to be bigger, to recognize that they’re participating in something bigger and that they share it with other children.”
Simply measuring and scooping a cup of oats has been an impressive feat for some children, Baize said.
“There are so many things we may take for granted that not all children can do,” she told 24-Hour News 8. “Opening and closing a plastic [Ziploc] bag can even be hard but doing it repetitively – as part of a project they enjoy – is a great way to learn.”
The extended concentration, fine motor skills and teamwork required to produce magic reindeer food are the same skills needed for technical jobs sought by many ISBVI students after graduating. Alumni working at Bosma Enterprises, a non-profit supporting Hoosiers with low or no vision, have been hired for a range of positions that call for skills “directly related to what they learned while scooping oats for Santa’s reindeer,” Baize explained.
She grew emotional while recalling students who had graduated, grown up and then returned with their own children to share the holiday tradition with them, as well as community members who returned each year to local shops and festivals looking for the magic reindeer food.
“That’s the magic of tradition,” said Baize.
Magic reindeer food can be found this holiday season at the businesses listed below. Proceeds from sales support the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
- Artifacts Gallery
- The Blue Door
- The Bungalow, Inc.
- Deering Cleaners
- Haus Love
- HoiTEA ToiTEA
- Hubbard and Cravens
- Just Pop In
- Marigold Clothing
- Ossip Optometry
- Runners Forum
- Union Jack Pub