When I think about why I love Indianapolis, I realize it’s the people who make it great—people who are willing to put others first, to step into the breach, to volunteer time, talent and treasure to help others.
You might just call it Midwestern sensibility. Regardless of where people originated, once they settle here, their better selves seem to rise to the surface. We’re so nice, even Raiders fans elevate their behavior when they’re in town.
It’s not surprising then, that a program such as Baskets of Hope has caught on here.
The charity launched in St. Louis with the goal of providing gift baskets to sick kids to help lift their spirits. Quarterback Kurt Warner was involved in the early stages, and when he was asked who else might be interested in getting involved, he mentioned Tony Dungy.
The program branched to Indianapolis in 2002 and Dungy became national spokesman. Today, Baskets of Hope delivers thousands of baskets to hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses around the country each year. The baskets contain age-appropriate toys, games, crafts, movies, pre-loaded MP3 players, gift certificates, and much more.
In many cases, the baskets are hand-delivered by celebrities, sports stars and community leaders. Parents also receive Hope Totes, filled with Bibles, journals, inspirational books and music to provide encouragement and support during difficult times.
With the Super Bowl coming to Indiana for the first time, some of that Midwestern sensibility got mixed up with Midwestern creativity and Super Baskets of Hope was born.
The idea was both simple and ambitious: Fill 7,000 baskets with products that represent Indiana and send them to every city with an NFL franchise, nearly doubling the reach of Baskets of Hope in one massive undertaking.
Volunteers were recruited and planning took off. Soon, sponsors signed on and products began flowing: The Colts and Pacers, Vera Bradley, LIDS, The Tony Stewart Foundation, The Saturday Evening Post, Fundex and many others donated goods to help fill the baskets.
Many other organizations donated money and services, from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans to Indiana University Health.
Now, with a little more than a month to go, nearly everything is in place. But more help is needed. There are two major endeavors left: filling the 7,000 baskets and delivering them to each of the NFL cities.
Fortunately, plenty of volunteers have signed up to help fill and prepare the baskets. What’s needed now is funding for delivering the baskets. The logistics and costs involved with transporting thousands of baskets to cities across the country are daunting.
How can you help? I knew you’d ask.
The website www.superbasketsofhope.org has additional information about the program. You’ll also find a map that shows which hospitals in each city will be receiving baskets, which is a nice way to see exactly what all the effort is for.
If you’d like to do more, visit www.basketsofhope.org. It describes how the program works, which cities are active, and opportunities for involvement long after the Super Bowl has moved on to the next destination.
Who knows? Maybe with a little luck, a little effort, and a dose of Midwestern sensibility, the momentum created by the Super Baskets of Hope program will help the program take root in new cities and bring a smile to more children suffering from serious illnesses.
And that would be even better than lifting the Lombardi trophy again.•
Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.