Claire Kenney
Freelance Writer
April 16, 2024 // National

For More Than 100 Years, Indiana Knights Have Supported At-Risk Youths

Claire Kenney
Freelance Writer

For more than 100 years, Knights of Columbus councils and their members throughout Indiana have helped Gibault Children’s Services foster a faith-fueled and fulfilling lifestyle for at-risk youths. Since founding the mental health clinic in 1921, the Indiana Knights have supported Gibault as their team has worked alongside 10,000 children and their families through the years.

Originally founded as a clinic to help wayward boys, Gibault now works with children, teens, and adult men and women. Through counseling and rehabilitation services both in a residential-based format and a community-based format, Gibault services youths with mild to severe emotional disturbances and those with aggressive and oppositional behaviors.

Gibault also serves youths who are struggling with substance abuse issues, victims, and perpetrators who exhibit sexually harmful or reactive behavior, those with learning disabilities, children who have been diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum, and youths struggling with a variety of clinical issues.

Photos from Gibault Children’s Services’ Facebook Page

“Our biggest supporters are the Indiana Knights of Columbus,” explained Melissa Reed, Gibault’s Director of Fund Development, “and we are their number one charity.”

Today, Gibault has grown to include two campuses – the original location in Terre Haute and one now in Schererville. The Knights are highly involved in both via a variety of activities and donations.

“The Knights come to our campuses and treat our children to chicken fries, cornhole tournaments, fishing rodeos, and provide Christmas gifts and parties,” Reed told Today’s Catholic.

These visits help the youth understand their value.

“Visits from the Knights and their families to our campuses ensure our kids feel special, because they know the Knights visit because they care,” Reed said.

State Deputy for the Indiana Knights of Columbus, Scott Schutte, has witnessed how the work of the Knights impacts the youths at Gibault.

“This gives the children a sense that there is a larger community supporting them,” Schutte said.

Gibault was originally slated to open in 1914. However, because of the outbreak of World War I, the founding was delayed.

“The Knights of Columbus in Indiana were requested by the bishops to create a home for wayward boys in 1914,” Schutte told Today’s Catholic. “With World War I intervening, the Knights opened the facility in 1921.”

At a community level, Gibault offers outpatient counseling services, diagnostic and evaluation services, risk assessment and treatment, as well as supervised visitation. The approach toward tending the needs of young residents is more holistic and focuses on the comprehensive effects of trauma. Children who are living at Gibault as residents require a completely immersive experience.

Additionally, Gibault has an accredited academic program with intramural sports and recreational activities to further enhance a student’s experience. The educational experience offers a low student-to-teacher ratio, structured classroom setting, day treatment, a year-round calendar, and Title 1 services. While a majority of the youths served at Gibault come from the Hoosier State, “we also receive students from outside of Indiana – Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Iowa primarily,” Schutte said.

Indiana Knight and Gibault Board Member Paul Zielinski told Today’s Catholic he has many fond memories getting to know Gibault’s youths.

“The annual Knights of Columbus Envoy Conference in September of 2012 was my first opportunity to talk with some of the children,” Zielinski said. “The conference included a tour of a dormitory area, and the attendees were encouraged to engage with the children by playing board games in their common areas.”

In early 2023, Gibault Children’s Services in Terre Haute acquired the Campagna Academy in Schererville, giving Gibault the ability to enhance the lives of even more at-risk youths, including those requiring a residential setting.

“With this acquisition, we are expanding the number of rooms to provide services to more children,” Schutte said.

Several facilities on Gibault’s original campus have been funded by the Knights.

“Because of the love and generosity of the Indiana Knights, we can provide many extra amenities to the children we serve,” Reed said. “We have an ice cream parlor, movie theater, splash pad, and arcade on our Terre Haute campus, which were all funded by the Knights.”

Charitable donations from the Knights are collected through a variety of Knights’ initiatives and fundraising efforts.

“The Knights host fundraisers in their own communities to benefit our children and invite our youth to come to their council halls for Halloween parties and spaghetti luncheons,” Reed said.

The Knights’ most recent fundraising appeal went toward Gibault’s new Campagna Campus, Zielinski said, noting that the money went “to finish up all the renovations in the living units and to renovate the tennis courts into pickleball courts” on the new campus.

And certainly, he said, this appeal will not be the last.

“I expect the Indiana Knights of Columbus will continue to support Gibault as they have for more than 100 years,” Zielinski said, most notably through “prayer, donations, and support” – of which, “prayer is most important,” he added. “The children, residents, and staff need our prayers more than ever.”

Officials with Gibault said the organization plans to continue to cultivate its relationship with the Knights to facilitate opportunities for the children Gibault works to support.

“The love and support of our Indiana Knights will allow us to continue to thrive and serve more children, hopefully [another] 103 years,” Reed said. “We will continue to nurture our partnership so the children at Gibault will always know there is a community of people who care about them.” She added, “The Knights are instrumental in helping us to provide life-changing opportunities for children, adults, families, and communities with their gifts of time, talent, and treasure.”

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