INDIANAPOLIS –During the Colts' 29 years in Indianapolis, the organization has woven itself deeply into the fabric of the city and the lives of its residents.
One of the most special days for the organization happened on Tuesday when the Colts and US Foods teamed up to distribute 2,000 Thanksgiving meals through "Horseshoe Helpings."
Eight Colts players and* *four cheerleaders joined in with more than 100 volunteers at Lucas Oil Stadium to pass out dinners that included a turkey, pumpkin pie, a five-pound bag of potatoes, corn, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy.
The recipients of the holiday package were pre-identified through local community centers, churches and schools and as they were handed the bounty, the moment was compelling.
"This is outstanding. The economy is down and people have trouble looking out for themselves," said Casper Meade of Indianapolis. "This is going to make a lot of people happy on Thanksgiving. This will help four different families be able to eat because of what the Colts and everyone is doing."
Linda Wallace now will be able to share others because of what she received. "This is wonderful because I wasn't going to be able to cook. This should help feed 10 or 15 people. I always feed the homeless and my neighbors. I love the Colts, and it's exciting to have players put the food in your car."
Joe Reitz, a native of the Indianapolis area, was joined by teammates Dwayne Allen, Matt Overton, Kyle Miller, Scott Lutrus, Griff Whalen, Martell Webb and Shawn Loiseau. A fan of the team his entire life, Reitz is pleased the Colts play such a dedicated role in the community.
"I think it's great. The Colts always have been very active, especially around the holidays. We're able to give back and spend some of our time to cheer people up. It kinds of puts things in perspective on what life is about," said Reitz. "People have a passion for our team, and it feels great to help others. Indianapolis is a close-knit community. There are people helping people all the time. It's huge for us to be involved. The team is nothing without the fan base. I'm glad we can give back and make a difference."
Allen, a rookie tight end, is in his first year with the Colts. The North Carolina native remembers being on the receiving end of help when he was young. He finds it gratifying to reach out to others now that he can.
"I'm a guy from humble beginnings. I know what it feels like to go hungry. I know what it feels like to be homeless. More importantly, I know what it feels like to have a bad day," said Allen. "For us to be out here interacting with the community, I just hope to put a smile on someone's face. A smile can go a long way, and them smiling back at me impacts their life for the better.
"It's an absolute blessing to have this chance to help. Growing up, I was always looking for someone to help me out, lend me a hand up. To be in a position to be that hand up, I can't deny the chance to do it. The Colts have done a great job of allowing me to be that hand up in the community."
In addition to individuals receiving Thanksgiving packages, 10 local churches received 50 meals for the elderly and families who could not attend the event. Jerry Davis of Rock of Faith Missionary Baptist Church was on hand as a volunteer.
"To me it means a lot to help people who need it. I enjoy doing it a lot," said Davis. "I love the Lord. He loves a cheerful giver. This is great. This is important work, and I wanted to be a part of it."
Located in the local area, US Foods employs a number of people and has a deep commitment to benefit the area in which it resides.
"The Colts are an outstanding organization, and we share many of the same values. Certainly one of the core values we share is giving back to the community," said Kurt Cummings, division president of US Foods. "This was about eight months in the making, and we wanted to put on an unbelievable charity event for the community around Thanksgiving.
"The fact we distributed 2,000 full meals is remarkable. We hope people are thrilled. Many of these families may not have had the opportunity to cook a Thanksgiving meal in their homes. That's where the real pleasure will be."
The generous size of the package was something that pleased recipients. It will help go a long way on Thursday.
"It makes me feel very blessed, very excited," said Amanda Collins of Indianapolis. "I can feed a family of five with this. I think it's wonderful for the community, and it's great to see people giving back."
Juanita Marion and her son, David, happened to arrive along with the players. David was able to meet Reitz, Overton, Allen and Miller, taking a quick picture with the group. Marion felt the holiday spirit about 48 hours early.
"It's definitely going to help us because we didn't have anything," said Marion. "We were not prepared for Thanksgiving. We were going to hit family-to-family-to-family. I just started back to work, so it's going to help us. It will take care of five in our family. It will be a Happy Thanksgiving."
Along with US Foods, the Colts partnered with DEEM, Lucas Oil Products and Meijer in hosting the event. Qdoba Mexican Grill was an in-kind event sponsor by donating breakfast and lunch for the volunteers. "Horseshoe Helpings" is a part of the Colts "Community Tuesday" program designed to activate Colts players in the community every week of the season during their day off from practice.