City’s hospitality on display again

September 17th, 2016

By The Journal Gazette

Before Andrew Gritzmaker even started his job three years ago, he attended a Seattle conference for directors of hospital hospitality houses. Next week, the executive director of the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House will welcome the Healthcare Hospitality Network to Fort Wayne for its annual conference.

The group’s decision to meet in Fort Wayne instead of one of the larger cities where it usually convenes is a testament to Hope House, Visit Fort Wayne and the community overall.

Before the first conference guest has set foot in the city, they’ve sold it as a warm and welcoming place. And Children’s Hope House has garnered a reputation as a program worth visiting.

Gritzmaker, 31, had the enthusiasm and energy to tackle a major conference even as he operates the busy Children’s Hope House. Located on the Lutheran Hospital campus off West Jefferson Boulevard, the hospitality house serves families of children undergoing treatment at Lutheran and other hospitals.

On the city’s north side, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeast Indiana provides similar accommodations inside Parkview Regional Medical Center.

The four-day conference is primarily centered at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Fort Wayne, but guests will attend both a welcome reception and closing gala at Children’s Hope House. A tour of the Ronald McDonald House at Parkview also is scheduled.

Conference presenters include professionals from the Healthcare Hospitality Network, but also numerous Fort Wayne experts. Former Fort Wayne Fire Chief Tim Davie will present a session on mitigating the risk of violence in hospitality homes. PNC Bank’s Catherine Hill will give a general session presentation on “The Surprising Science of Happiness,” and IPFW associate professor Abe Schwab will address ethics and conflicts of interest.

Gritzmaker said the conference has come together with great support from Visit Fort Wayne, Lutheran Health Network and others who have donated time and materials to welcome the out-of-town guests.

The event also serves as a warm-up for Thursday night’s Treasure Chest for Hope, the hospitality house’s annual gala. Chef Kenny Walpole has organized a group of chefs for a tapas-style dinner and silent auction.

Children’s Hope House, with 10 rooms, hosted about 750 guests for 3,200 overnight stays last year. With much volunteer support and contributions from the Mad Anthonys, area foundations and individual donors, the program is part of the strong hospitality network that has become a trademark for Fort Wayne.