Perhaps you’ve heard there’s a game to be played this weekend; one that draws not only the finest professional football players and coaches, but also an influx of celebrities, performers and out-of-towners. Perhaps you’ve heard it’s in Indiana’s Capitol. That’s right, our dear metropolis, Indianapolis, located just a few hours south of our headquarters in Fort Wayne, is gearing up to host Super Bowl XLVI® this Sunday, and oh what a sight it is!
For the sake of research (somebody had to do it) and a great cause (we’ll get to that in a minute), we made the drive down. Our first stop in Indianapolis had to be Circle Centre Mall to visit the Vera Bradley Pop-Up Shop because, well, we have been longing to take a peek since it opened. It did not disappoint. Absolutely adorable!
A little product gazing and we were off to Georgia Street in the heart of Downtown to stroll The Super Bowl Village. There was almost too much to take in; the 20-story-plus-high signs wrapped around buildings, the fire and ice lounges scattered throughout the main drag, the zip-lining … oh, the zip-lining. Immediate feelings of adrenaline and nausea took over as we watched brave soul after brave soul blaze across the sky over Capitol Avenue, each making their ride unique and admirable. Much to our relief dismay, passes were sold out!
The big ticket for the evening was a performance by country music star Dierks Bentley. A fireworks show announced the evening’s festivities were about to begin, and Mr. Bentley did not disappoint. Packed into the crowd and shuffling to the upbeat set, the temperatures seemed almost balmy (though it was actually in the 20s).
As the show wrapped up, the population shifted to Monument Circle. A line of racecars were drawing a lot of attention, though our eyes immediately went to the brilliant tones illuminating the Indianapolis Power and Light building windows; a transforming, always-changing rainbow of colorful blocks. Right up our alley. We, of course, posed for a quick snapshot in front of the towering Roman numerals and stayed to watch the light show, a series of highlights from the NFL season.
The next day, Monday, we had a full agenda. The day began at Riley Children’s Hospital, where we first heard from Dr. George Sledge, the lead Oncologist at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. Dr. Sledge began his breast cancer research nearly 30 years ago, and has seen the program grow from just 6 researchers in 2000, to 35 today, as well as approximately $10 million a year in funding. The Vera BradleyFoundation for Breast Cancer ResearchLaboratories offer a place for experimentation and collaboration because, as Dr. Sledge said, “breast cancer will be cured at the water cooler, not the lab.” The work being done to cure this disease will carry on and impact women around the world for years to come.
Riley is one of approximately 25 comprehensive children’s hospitals in the country, seeing more than 300,000 outpatient cases annually, and ranking as the No. 10 recipient of funding for pediatrics among medical school programs. While the statistics are beyond impressive, as we sat and had the privilege of listening to Dr. Richard Schreiner, a retired Neonatologist and former Physician-in-Chief of Riley, it was the stories we heard that left the greatest impression. Dr. Schreiner carried folded pieces of paper inscribed with hand-written notes from mothers, fathers and children, all forever changed by the care they received at Riley.
We were privileged to tour the grounds, which are under renovation in an effort to accommodate the growing number of patients. As we walked and listened, it became clear that while this is a place of great sorrow, at times, and loss, it’s also an institution of hope, optimism and new life.
We loaded up and headed to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to join nearly 1,000 other volunteers in the Super Baskets of Hope project. This year, the goal of this initiative was to provide 7,000 baskets to give away to sick children in all 32 NFL cities. We heard from former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, who first participated by having his assistant assemble a few baskets for the local hospital, Gary Brackett, Linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts and George Hill of the Indiana Pacers. Perhaps most motivating were the stories from Riley Champions, patients who themselves once received a Basket of Hope and are now able to give back to others.
There were four assembly lines filling baskets with books, toys and little treats to lift spirits. While it wasn’t a race, our line finished with our supplies first (Go team red!).
These baskets are now en route to several hospitals and will be handed out by NFL players, a huge thrill for the patients. There’s something about knowing your energy is going toward making a young person’s day a bit brighter that puts an extra bounce in your step, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to put our hands to work for the cause.
As Indy nears the big day, and the big game, we could not be more proud of the city. The planning committee’s successful efforts are reflected in the smiles and photos of Hoosiers and those simply visiting from the north. Now, if we could just decide who to root for …