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January 27, 2014

And the winners are...Rauch announces Imagine Award honorees

NEW ALBANY — A teacher of the deaf at a local elementary school, a clinical social worker who treated residents after a tornado struck Henryville and an organization that advocates for people with developmental disabilities are the recipients of the 2014 Imagine Awards.

Rauch Foundation recognizes an organization, individual and community leaders annually who help Southern Indiana residents with disabilities, and 2014 marks the 14th year for the Imagine Awards.

This year’s winners will be recognized during a banquet on March 1 at the Horseshoe Southern Indiana Casino and Hotel.

Nominees are narrowed down by local leaders and residents called upon by Rauch to judge the awards.

“We had a pretty good turnout in terms of nominations, and as always, it was a really tough decision,” said Teressa Jackson, director of development for Rauch, Inc.

The Winners:


Traci Reister Hardy teaches deaf children at Mount Tabor Elementary School in New Albany.

Such a role would have qualified her for consideration for the Individual Imagine Award, but the fact that she was born deaf and chose to pursue a career to help others similar to her made her stand out.

“She really has a great spirit in terms of wanting to integrate herself into the community as much as possible, and she decided she wanted to help other people who were deaf,” Jackson said.

Hardy earned degrees from Ball State University and Indiana University Southeast.

Community Leader

Jana Kixmiller is the senior vice president of clinical services at LifeSpring Health Systems, and is the winner of the Community Leader Imagine Award.

Rauch noted that she helps develop excellence in others and provides training for dealing with trauma, mental illness and substance abuse.

“It’s not just a job, it’s something she’s devoted her life to,” Jackson said of Kixmiller.

Kixmiller also led a clinical staff to help residents with psychological issues in Henryville following the March, 2012 tornado.


The Council on Developmental Disabilities has been selected as the Organization Imagine Award winner after more than 60 years of serving the community.

The organization led efforts for educational, employment and residential opportunities for those with disabilities in the area, and has also provided support and outreach for family members and parents.

The event

As a way to show how successful those with disabilities can be, Rauch typically selects a performer who has battled through a developmental issue for the awards banquet.

This year, musician Sujeet Desai of New York will showcase his skills. Desai was born with Down Syndrome, but still completed a two-year post-secondary school study in Music and Human Services at Berkshire Hills Music Academy in Massachusetts.

He plays seven instruments including the drums, violin and trumpet, and travels around the world to perform.

Along with dinner and entertainment, another key part of the Imagine Awards banquet is the silent auction. The event serves as a fundraiser for Rauch — which was founded in 1953 and serves more than 1,000 people in the area — and contributions are still needed for the silent auction.

Rauch depends on the fundraiser to help support its programming and services.

“We really provide a whole spectrum of services for people with disabilities, and that’s really from birth all the way through the lifespan,” Jackson said.

Tickets for the event are $75 per person, and sponsorships are also available. For more information, visit the website


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