“Welcome back and welcome home,” said Colts Owner and Vice Chair Kalen Jackson to more than 100 women gathered in the Crown Royal Blue Room at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday evening.
For the Blue Ladies, it’s an annual tradition and a fun way to kick off the 2018 season.
“I always love coming to this event because it’s kind of like my baby,” Jackson said. “I started it when I graduated in 2010 and now it’s become this amazing group that they helped create and change and make it what it is today.”
What it is today is a group of 550 of the most passionate die-hard Colts fans you will ever meet – and they all happen to be women.
“They are literally the heart and soul of our city and our team,” said Jackson. “They really truly are our best ambassadors.”
Joining them on Saturday were a few new team ambassadors who also happen to be women – Kristin Ballard, wife of Colts General Manager Chris Ballard and Linda Reich, wife of Coach Frank Reich.
Interviewed on stage by Colts reporter Caroline Cann, they talked about their arrival in Indianapolis – for Ballard, it was one year ago and for Reich, it was just over 100 days ago.
“Chris was called by several teams and there were a lot of times it was just like, ‘I don’t feel it,’” Ballard said. “And then finally with Indianapolis, we felt it. And we knew going into the process that this was something we really wanted.”
“One thing that I’m just so excited about is just the embrace that we’re seeing from all of you and everybody welcoming us in the community,” said Reich. “It’s humbling and overwhelming. That’s been the greatest impact on both Frank and I. It’s so appreciated.”
For both women, football has shaped their husbands, their marriages, and their families. And both have a family motto they live by.
For the Ballards it's, “When other kids complain, Ballards work and train.”
For the Reichs, it’s, “Always growing and finishing stronger.”
And just like the Blue Ladies, both women are passionate fans themselves.
“When my team is on, I am focused, I am all in – the kids know, they’re all trained,” Ballard said. “Game day is very passionate and very much a heartache if we don’t win.”
“I’m more excited than nervous. I really get excited for game day. Like Kristin, I love the game of football. I just love it, I’m passionate about it, I follow it, I could probably call many plays, actually,” Reich laughed.
When they were finished speaking, the women stuck around to socialize and pose for pictures with the Blue Ladies.
“They’re immersing themselves into the group and getting to know these women and it’s a lot of fun to see,” said Colts Marketing Manager Ashley Powell. “And I think it’s a lot of fun for them too. It’s getting to know the fans and it’s important to know your fans.”
These fans know how important giving back is to their team and its players. It’s something they wanted to be a part of themselves.
“That’s kind of how they shaped this event,” Jackson said. “It’s really fun because throughout the night they’re buying tickets for some of these amazing raffle items. So, they themselves are the ones donating that money and they get to see that at the end of the night.”
The Blue Evening was hosted by John Simon with special guests Linda Reich and Kristin Ballard. Simon chose the Noblesville School's Education Foundation to be the recipient of $5600 raised from the event through auction and raffle purchases.
As the player guest, John Simon got to choose the beneficiary of this year’s Blue Evening. He chose the Noblesville Schools Education Foundation, which is raising money to support the victims of a shooting at Noblesville West Middle School.
“That’s a terrible thing that’s going on in the world today,” he said. “As a new father – you can see my son, he’s been running around here – just seeing what those parents had to go through and what those kids had to go through, anything that makes their life a little better right now, we might as well do.”
By the end of the night, the Blue Ladies raised more than $5,600 for the cause and they had a great time doing it.
“This is one of my favorite nights of the year,” said Laura Mullen, a five-year member of the Blue Ladies. “I get to come out with my friends and come to the stadium or the training facility and meet a Colts player and maybe give him a little hug.”
And make some new friends along the way.
“It just shows you another way that sports really do bring people together. It’s not just about what’s being played on the field,” said Jackson. “It’s what’s happening behind the scenes, like in the offseason right now and the relationships that are created because of football. And I think this is the perfect example of that.”
For information on becoming a member of the Colts Blue Ladies group, click here.