Colts Players, Cheerleaders and Blue Head To Kokomo To Aid In Tornado Relief

Intro: Following a practice on Thursday morning in Indianapolis, the Colts 2016 Draft Class and long snapper Matt Overton headed up to Kokomo to help the victims that were impacted by Wednesday's tornadoes in Indiana.

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INDIANAPOLIS – Put simply, it's Hoosiers helping Hoosiers.

That includes adopted Hoosiers, too.

From Maine (Trevor Bates) to Texas (Hassan Ridgeway) and even California (Matt Overton), the Colts who hail from elsewhere, but now call the state of Indiana home, have been ingrained into how this community operates.

When others are in need, a helping hand is lent.

"The first time I stepped foot into Indianapolis," Ryan Kelly said on Thursday afternoon, while signing autographs for tornado victims in Kokomo, "I could feel how tight the community was, how important giving back to the community was for everybody in the organization.

"Obviously, it's a tragedy what happened here but it is warming to see everybody come together in this time of grief. It's part of our responsibility as players to give back to the community that gave so much to us. We certainly feel everybody's presence when we play out there, so we wanted to let everyone know that even though they are going through a hard time that we are here and doing the best we can to help them out."

Kelly and the entire 2016 Draft Class had a busy Thursday in banding together to help those in Indiana.

Following one final practice ahead of their Week Three preseason contest this Saturday, the rookies boarded a bus for Kokomo.

This wasn't the bus ride they are typically used to.

Upon arriving in Kokomo players witnessed tree limbs down, farmland torn apart and street signs ripped.

Along with cheerleaders, Blue and members of the Colts staff, it was time for the home team to try and lift spirits.

From the moment the destruction in Kokomo became evident on Wednesday, the Colts knew they had to help.

"I know this was something that was important to Mr. Irsay and Coach Pagano that we really try to have some people on the ground here and bring some cheer," Senior Director of Marketing Stephanie Pemberton said on Thursday from the Kokomo Events Center, which the American Red Cross has turned into a home base for more than 220 displaced people from the tornadoes.

"These families have lost so much. Bringing them a football and a Colts hat is so small compared to what they've lost. But we are already seeing, especially for the children, this really brightens their day and really gives them a little ray of sunshine, which is the least we can do."

Players present on Thursday night interacted with those affected by the storms by taking pictures and signing autographs.

They also helped transport goods into the center and delivered Meijer gift cards to those in need.

It didn't take long on Thursday for the Colts players to bring some smiles to the young children inside the shelter.

"My first thought was of the kids," Marc Slusher from the Red Cross Public Affairs said Thursday when he heard the Colts were sending players north.

"This is a great morale booster to these kids."

The clear leader of the Colts' contingent in Kokomo on Thursday was long snapper Matt Overton.

Just minutes after the storms made their way through Kokomo on Wednesday night, Overton began showing his support.

Overton, an avid supporter of the community he now calls home, remembered all too well coming up to the Kokomo area three years ago when tornado devastation ravaged the city located about an hour north of Indianapolis.

Once Thursday's practice concluded in Indy, Overton was headed north.

This is Overton, always one wanting to help those around him, which falls right in line to the organization he's worked for since 2012.

"I always say it starts with the Irsay family on down," the fifth-year long snapper said on Thursday.

"It's always been about serving the community. These are our fans, our family and it really is Hoosiers helping Hoosiers and Hoosier Hospitality. We are just here to lend a hand, give a little morale boost and show that we care."

Along with the Colts offering financial support for the American Red Cross and United Way of Howard County, here are other ways the Colts are helping out:

  • 50/50 Raffle proceeds from Saturday's preseason game vs. Philadelphia will be donated to the American Red Cross and other service agencies.
  • Public service announcements featuring Head Coach Chuck Pagano and CBS4's Chris Wright will air during Saturday's game broadcast on CBS4.
  • Colts Cheerleaders will participate in a telethon this evening at CBS4 to help raise funds for the Salvation Army's relief efforts.
  • The Colts digital and social channels will be used to encourage support and donations for the American Red Cross and United Way of Howard County.

The Irsay family and the Colts are calling on residents across the state to help out fellow Hoosiers during this time of need. To donate to the American Red Cross and support their emergency response efforts, visit www.redcross.org or text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10. To support the long-term relief efforts in Kokomo, individuals can donate through the United Way of Howard County at http://unitedwayhoco.org/ and indicate Kokomo Tornado Relief in the memo.

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