As I wrote about in my previous post (A Full Circle…Woven in a Basket of Hope) our worlds collided yesterday, January 30th, 2012. Over 900 volunteers gathered in Super Bowl host city, Indianapolis, to assemble 7,000 baskets to be delivered to critically ill children across the nation. All 32 NFL cities will be receiving a share of baskets this week before the Giants and Patriots kick off on Sunday night. These baskets, and accompanying Hope Tote Bags for parents, will be delivered by each city’s local athletes and celebrities to kids in their own children’s hospital.
As we stood on the assembly floor at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse we were not only surrounded by mounds of toys, books and goodies to be stuffed into baskets, but by friends from several spheres of our life who were working amidst the rows of tables. It really had come full circle and seeing it with my own eyes felt surreal, and wonderful!
It was a blessing to have about 180 high school students, coaches and parents join us through the ministry in which Kraig serves, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. These kids had to get up early and come from all around the state of Indiana (about 15 schools were represented) to volunteer. They arrived smiling and they kept up that positive energy throughout our entire shift. These FCA groups and their leaders had to work hard even before the event with getting school permission to be absent one day as well as permission slips, buses, sponsors, etc. What an honor and a blessing it was to have FCA staff and volunteers join us for Super Baskets of Hope. Thanks FCA!
We also saw friends who serve on the Riley Foundation Team and who have done an incredible amount of work over the last year to make yesterday a reality. Most of them had arrived at Banker’s Life before 3 am and they were still going strong at 3 pm! They are a dedicated group of people who truly care for children. I can attest that the Riley staff are always thinking of ways to care for and love children. For example, the Riley Family Suite where Karson and I spent a lot of time yesterday was filled with crafts for the children to do, toys for them to take home and at lunch they offered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (with the crusts cut off!) as well as macaroni and hot dogs. There were even Rice Krispy treats in the shape of a Riley wagon. The kids come first! It seems Riley staff thought of everything and they didn’t just think of it, they made it happen. We are blessed to know these Riley Foundation Staff members and look forward to continuing our service on the NE Indiana Foundation Team. Thank you Riley Foundation for the amazing vision and all of the “elbow grease” that made yesterday come true.
Kraig, Karson and I were given the opportunity to stand on the platform at 10am and to share our Basket of Hope story. Hundreds of people listened as our seven-year-old cancer survivor took a turn at the microphone. Karson did a great job and we are so proud of him for being brave enough to share in such a venue.
Karson took all of the attention in stride and has a childlike innocence to understanding how special the day really was. I had to stifle laughter later in the day at how cute it was when Karson was interviewed on camera for our local television news. He did an excellent job, but it was just minutes after we’d personally met Coach Tony Dungy and had a fairly private audience with him that others would envy. However, when Karson was asked what exciting things he’d been doing he mentioned only the crafts he’d done in the Riley Suite as well as the great snacks! Ha! The reporter had to prompt him several times to help him remember, that oh yeah… we spoke on stage and met famous people too! 🙂 So sweet to hear a child’s perspective.
There was much media attention. Our local news picked up the event as well as the Indianapolis Star (click here to read the article) and even some national news outlets. And, according to Basket of Hope, Coach Dungy has secured a slot on the Super Bowl pre-game show this Sunday, February 5th! Be watching NBC at 1:24 EST to see a 90-second special on Super Baskets of Hope.
Our morning shift which started at 8:00 and ended at noon assembled 4,112 baskets. The afternoon shift finished off the other 2,888. In between shifts they provided boxed lunches and held an inspiration program. Speakers included Pacer President and Riley Board Chairman, Jim Morris, the mayor of Indianapolis, Mr. Greg Ballard, the first lady of Indiana Mrs. Daniels, and more. My personal favorite moment came when Colt’s lineman Gary Brackett was introduced and then spoke. A high school football player who is also a leukemia survivor, Evan Meade, introduced Brackett. Evan shared how when he was hospitalized for months with cancer that Brackett stopped by one day and spent a long time visiting with him and talking life and football. Evan said that Brackett would never know how much he had impacted his life and introduced him as one of the most wonderful men he’d ever met. Brackett then shared a bit and closed by surprising Evan with Super Bowl tickets. The crowd stood and cheered and many of us got choked up. How neat. I don’t think Evan will ever forget yesterday either! The program concluded with some remarks by Coach Dungy. It was very impressive.
All in all, it was a Super Success! 7,000 baskets are now on their way to bring hope to families who are hurting. To us personally, we are so grateful that 7,000 tote bags including a Bible are being offered to the parents. We believe the Bible offers ultimate hope and we are thrilled that Isaiah 55:11 says,
“so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Super Baskets of Hope day was a Super Success. We are grateful to have been a part of bringing hope to sick children and their families. The full circle is complete… and we’ll never forget it!