During a high school field trip to the internationally renowned Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) School in St. Louis, MO, Nancy Rosenstock was touched as she sat in a CID classroom, watching a teacher work with a little boy who was three or four years old.
The teacher had placed the boy’s hands on her cheeks so that he could feel the vibrations of her voice. She was encouraging him to repeat the sound of /b/.
“As I watched,” Nancy remembers, “that little boy said /b/ for the first time. And his teacher went absolutely berserk. She was so excited and proud of him that she took him into all the other classrooms so everyone could see what he could do. I remember thinking, ‘I’ve just witnessed a miracle.’’’
Inspired, Nancy enrolled in CID’s deaf education teacher training program, offered in partnership with Washington University, and received dual training as a speech/language pathologist.
When she moved to South Bend in 1967 with her husband Rabbi Elliot Rosenstock, she found that her professional skills were in demand. Over the years, she worked with the South Bend schools, Northern Indiana State Hospital, Head Start, and Memorial Hospital’s NICU, as well as private clients throughout the years.
In 1983, Nancy opened Speech Sounds, focusing on infants and preschoolers, the age group that she especially loves.
“But then the children would get to be five, six years old, and their parents would say, ‘What, you’re going to kick us out now?’ Of course I couldn’t.”
Nancy and her staff continued to work with many of the clients through their high school years, helping them with social and interpersonal skills as well as speech.
Some of her Speech Sounds clients were in wheelchairs; some had ventilators. Many had major motor difficulties. Others had been diagnosed with autism or autism spectrum disorders. With each day, Nancy’s admiration and respect for those adults, children, and their families grew—as well as her desire to find a meaningful, lasting way to show them how she felt.
Nancy became aware of the Community Foundation in the late ‘90s, and in 2001, she and Elliot set up the Rosenstock Family Fund. All her life, Nancy has had a strong interest in parks and nature.
“One of the first things I said to Rose [Meissner] was that I didn’t like seeing the way that parks were different in different neighborhoods,” Nancy says. “We lived in Mishawaka, and there was a beautiful, bright park there next to Walt Disney School. I knew children who lived all over the community, in many different neighborhoods. Sometimes all they had for a park was an empty lot.”
In 2006, Rose contacted Nancy about an opportunity: The Foundation planned to apply for a national grant from the Kellogg Foundation to create a universally accessible playground at Potawatomi Park, the most visited park in South Bend. It would be a playground that all children could use, regardless of their abilities. As part of the application process, the Foundation needed to raise funds to match the grant amount.
It seemed like a perfect fit: the project, the mission, those it would benefit—even the location. The Rosenstocks have two children, and Nancy remembers happy days with them at Potawatomi.
She decided to make a generous gift to support the project. The colorful, welcoming playground that resulted has become one of our community’s most popular destinations for children of all abilities and their families. Recently, Nancy helped fund additional strategic improvements to the park area that promise to make it even more engaging.
“I’m so blessed that I chose this career when I was young,” she says, referencing the high school field trip that had such a big impact on her life. “It’s been wonderful.”