It was just a pass. Something that Andrew Luck had done a million times.
But this pass during the Indianapolis Colts Fan Fest at Lucas Oil Stadium last August was different.
Luck’s toss of a few yards to 8-year-old Holden Harless, a Riley Hospital for Children spinal cord patient, made a special connection.
“To see the fight that he goes through and his struggle and his positive attitude was very inspirational,” Luck told IBJ this week. “I will never forget that first encounter.”
By now, most know that Luck, the Colts rookie quarterback, has signed his first significant local commercial partnership with Riley. But few know the back story.
Luck told IBJ that he was introduced to Riley through his meeting with Harless, who was just 2 when a tumor was found on his spinal cord. Holden’s family said the setback hasn’t dampened his spirit. The work that Riley had done for young Harless made Luck interested in making a connection with Riley as well as the Indiana youngster.
“That’s the first time I heard of Riley Hospital,” Luck said of his meeting with Harless.
The result of that meeting between Luck and Harless is a four-year pact between the Colts quarterback and Riley.
Luck and Riley officials said the partnership is aimed at helping improve the health and wellness of area children. The Riley/Luck “Change the Play” initiative will include programs such as sports performance camps, educational tools for kids and Luck speaking engagements. Already, Luck has made several appearances at Riley to visit one-on-one with patients.
“We think this relationship has tremendous potential to grow,” Riley CEO Jeff Sperring said. “I hope this partnership extends well beyond his playing days.”
There’s already talk of Luck becoming involved in various Riley programs. There’s even discussion that the Stanford University architecture major could be involved in helping design some of the expansions the hospital is undergoing, Sperring added.
Luck said he was attracted to the deal in part because it’s a far-reaching, statewide initiative.
Sperring hopes the deal is the start of a lifelong relationship with Luck.
It started with one kid. And one pass.