Indiana’s former first lady was often busy as an artist and small business owner before the election. She believes that art therapy can help children. She has also been instrumental in preparing for Indiana’s bicentennial celebration this year. The couple have been married for over 25 years.
Here’s a look at Karen Pence.
1. She Created the Indiana First Lady’s Charitable Foundation
In August 2013, Pence created the Indiana First Lady’s Charitable Foundation, which aims to promote the well-being of children in the Hoosier State. The first grant went to Riley Children’s Hospital Art Therapy Initiative. Pence is also honorary chair of that initiative.
“We want to shine a light on the people and organizations who are working every day to benefit our children and Hoosier families, and in doing so help them further their efforts,” Pence said of the foundation.
In June 2016, the foundation awarded $52,500 to 57 groups across the state that also help families and children during the seventh reception for grant recipients. The individual checks ranged from $500 to $1,000.
“Whether helping a child develop a love for reading or supporting families in need or encouraging a child to go further in the arts, these organizations are the backbone and the heart of our communities,” Pence said in June. “They represent the very best of what it means to be a Hoosier, and we thank them for their service.”
2. Her Husband’s Election to Governor Was a Homecoming for the Pence Family
Prior to being elected governor in 2012, Mike Pence represented Indiana in the House of Representatives. He was first elected to the House in 2000 and they lived in Arlington, Virginia while Congress was in session. Becoming Governor was a homecoming the Pence and their children – Michael, Charlotte, and Audrey. Pence grew up in Broad Ripple, Indiana, reports WTHR.
“You know, [former Indiana First Lady] Judy O’Bannon told me, ‘Just get over it. Just get over it,’ so I am taking her advice. I am just going to get over it and realize the never four years we are going to be in the public eye and we want to make the most of it,” Pence told WTHR in 2013.
When Mike Pence went back to Washington in February 2014 for a Governor’s meeting, Pence went as well and got to sit next to First Lady Michelle Obama.
“She is delightful. She’s so gracious,” Pence told AM 1310 The Light in 2014 of Michelle Obama. She also said that the couple were at the first small luncheon President Barack Obama had after he is sworn in. At the time, Mike Pence was Chairman of the House Republican Conference. It was the first time she was in Obama’s pretense.
3. She Loves Painting & Teaches Art
Pence told the Indy Star that she got into art while studying at Butler, where she majored in teaching. She picked art for a minor. “I pulled it out of the air,” she said.
She went on to teach at John Strange Elementary, Acton Elementary and Fall Creek Elementary. While teaching at the private Orchard School in the 1980s, she met Mike Pence, who was going to the same law school as her sister. He initially asked for her sister’s number when he met her after church. When he called, Pence picked up and they ended up going out together and later married in June 1985.
She later took watercolor classes and even sold her work at art fairs.
Pence still loves art. She’s on the Board of Directors for Tracy’s Kids, an organization that focuses on art therapy for young cancer patients and their families. She also helped unveil a special quilt in February at the Indiana State House. The quilt will be auctioned off for a fundraising event in March.
Karen Pence’s other artistic avenue is towel charms. As Fortune discovered, she created “That’s My Charm!,” but the company’s website is now inactive. She also launced a Twitter page, but this is now private.
4. She Helped Launch the Labor of Love Campaign to Reduce Infant Mortality
According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the infant mortality rate in the state was 7.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011. The goal is to lower that to 6.0 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2020.
To help the numbers, the state launched a campaign called Labor of Love in January 2015 that ran until December. However, the campaign’s website still provides resources for parents.
WFYI reports that Pence helped launch the program, which included radio ads, television commercials and print ads.
“Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep. Keep your baby’s sleep area in your room but not in your bed,” Pence said when the program was announced. Lowering the infant mortality rate is among Pence’s major initiatives.
Another concern for Indiana is the premature birth rate. According to the March of Dimes 2015 Premature Birth Report card” target=”_blank”>March of dimes 2015 Premature Birth Report Card for the state, Indiana has a 9.7 percent preterm birth rate.
5. She’s the Official Indiana Bicentennial Ambassador
In December 2016, Indiana will celebrate the 200th anniversary of its statehood. June 29 was also an important date, since it marked the anniversary of Indiana’s first state constitution being signed. Ever since Pence became Indiana First Lady, it was clear that she would lead the effort to celebrate. Pence and the governor held a special ceremony at Charlestown Cemetery, where Jonathan Jennings, the state’s first governor, is buried.
Pence and Mike Pence also visited the old State Capitol in Cordyn, Indiana on June 29, reports the Courier Journal. The two posed for pictures with original copies of the Indiana state constitutions.
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