The Times photo by Betsy Reason
Noblesville’s Tamela Grabb, her mother Linda O’Dell and Tamela’s daughter, Lindsey Carter, shop for, wrap and sort Christmas gifts for people in our community who are severely brain injured and have other disabilities.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason Noblesville’s Tamela Grabb, her mother Linda O’Dell and Tamela’s daughter, Lindsey Carter, shop for, wrap and sort Christmas gifts for people in our community who are severely brain injured and have other disabilities.

A group of folks are making the holidays brighter for people who might not otherwise be remembered.
Those who have attended or entered a vehicle in the annual Father’s Day Car Show at Forest Park might have already met some of these folks.
Central Indiana Vintage Vehicles, which puts on the car show, donates all of its profits to The Elysian Foundation, which uses the money to benefit those in our community who are severely brain-damaged or who have other disabilities. This year, the recipients were 69 young adults in 21 homes.
Volunteers called each of the houses to find out what each of the recipients need, then they shopped for the recipients, then wrapped all of the gifts. Once the gifts were wrapped, the presents were loaded and taken to the First Presbyterian Church of Noblesville.
That’s where I caught up with the volunteers, who were unloading and sorting more than 300 beautifully wrapped gifts.
It takes a lot of work. But Linda O’Dell said, “It’s worth it for all of the children.”
The Elysian Foundation was started 30 years ago, in 1987.
“I had a son, Mark, and Mark died seven years ago,” said O’Dell, who co-founded The Elysian Foundation with her husband, Jim O’Dell and daughter Tamela Grabb, all of Noblesville.
Her son lived at Normal Life of Sheridan, a residential facility for the severely brain-damaged. She would take him home and bring him back every weekend. “I would cry all the way home,” O’Dell said.

“I saw all of those kids there, and most of them didn’t have family,” she said, thinking, “If I could just do something for them.”
So she put out a letter, inviting their 56 families, and 17 showed up. Their first project was to replace a tiny television with a big-screen TV.

Then when O’Dell “found out that most of them got nothing for Christmas,” she got busy the second year. The volunteers cooked and sold hot German potato salad, Sheboygan-style brats and German chocolate cake, to raise enough money to buy Christmas gifts for the residents.
Then they came up with the name for their group, The Elysian Foundation. O’Dell said “Elysian” is “a Greek word that means state or place of perfect happiness.”
Every year since 1987, O’Dell has made sure that the residents, who most have moved into homes, are remembered during the holidays.
Wrapping the gifts is part of the fun, she said. “I’m a fanatic about making sure they look pretty.”
And the gifts were definitely beautiful, each having a fabulous bow. “On my tombstone is going to be, ‘She can make bows,’” O’Dell said smiling. “I won’t let any of them (gifts) go unless they have a pretty bow.”
They spent more than $7,000 on the gifts. The money is raised throughout the year, from donations and “our husbands” who have the car show. Tamela Grabb’s husband, Larry Grabb, who with Dave Shank Sr., head up the car club and its car show. The GTO Club of Indianapolis also donates its proceeds.
“Both of these local car clubs raise funds each year to support this worthwhile effort,” Larry Grabb said.
“They give us all of the money that they make. That’s our main source,” O’Dell said. Some of the money raised also goes toward burials.
The type of gift depends on the mental level of the resident. Some of the gifts are baby toys, teddy bears for blind residents, craft supplies, bird-house kits, Shrek posters and cool sunglasses that foster “a side smile.”
Their group of volunteers is small, and includes Linda and Paul Snyder, who have also helped for the past 30 years. But the volunteers don’t complain because they know they’re doing good.

Tamela Grabb’s daughter, Lindsey Carter, has been helping her family shop and wrap presents and volunteer at the car show ever since she can remember.
“We want it to look like Christmas….We like to see their big smiles,” said Carter, who spends time at each house visiting with residents on delivery day, during which they get the most volunteers, including folks from the car clubs.
She said they not only shop for needs, but try to make sure everything is shopped with the recipients’ personality in mind, if they like blue, or red, “finding things that they would wear.” They also bought a bed, nightstand and other necessities for the residents due to their needs.
And besides the wrapped gifts, each of the 21 houses received a cake.
Carter is treasurer of the Foundation and makes sure recipients receive gifts no matter how many dollars they raise.
She said, “There are days that it’s hard. It’s hard when I have to look at the list and wonder how we’re going to pay for all of this…….But somehow every year, we make it work.”
To contact The Elysian Foundation to make a monetary or in-kind donation, email
indiana.elysianfoundation@gmail.com or call (317) 556-0707.
-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.