*Reprinted from the Indianapolis Colts website.
By Heather Lloyd
Elsie Sizemore has lived in the Westside community for 36 years. She attended Stephen Foster School 67 and so did her husband. Now, she has grandchildren there.
Every year, her neighborhood looks less like the one she grew up in. For years, she’s been praying someone would come along and fix it up.
“I want the yard to be cleaned up. There’s a lot of trash and dirt,” she said. “This is our neighborhood. This is where we live. This is probably where I’m going to die.”
On Monday, her prayers were answered.
The Colts showed up with their partners and an army of volunteers to build a playground and give School 67 some long overdue attention.
“I’m getting ready to cry, I’m so grateful,” Sizemore said.
For the 11th year, the Colts have teamed up with their partners to build a playground in a day as part of their Community Monday activities. It’s also a way to encourage kids to get at least 60 minutes of activity each day, as part of the NFL’s Play 60 campaign.
“It’s probably one of our favorite projects. And I think one of the reasons is because it literally brings an entire community together for one day to change the landscape of a neighborhood,” said Stephanie Pemberton, Vice President of Marketing for the Colts.
Sizemore and her neighbor, Beth Crosby, were so thrilled — they wandered over to pitch in.
“We’re in our 60s. There’s not a lot we can do, but we can do something,” Sizemore said.
Crosby also lives in the neighborhood. She has four grandchildren at the school.
“This is super. It’s wonderful,” she said. “They needed this.”
The women picked up a couple of paintbrushes and got to work on the chain link fence.
Across the playground, Kristin Ballard, wife of Colts General Manager Chris Ballard, was hauling wheelbarrows full of mulch.
“It definitely fills your heart to know that you’re out here working hard and getting sweaty and dirty for everybody in the community,” she said. “There are so many big hearts out here in this community trying to be a family. Us being out here and working together is definitely something that Indianapolis stands for.”
Linda Reich, wife of Head Coach Frank Reich, knows the value of a playground.
“Not only for the school, but for the community – to have mothers after school or fathers bringing their children and having a really cool, safe place to go,” she said. “Of all the different cities that we lived in when the children were little, the first two things I did was find a park and a library. That’s what a community is – a park and a library.”
And just like building a football team, building a community takes teamwork.
“This is a different kind though, in the sense that you’ve got people from all over the place – a lot of different individual teams are teaming up to put something on that no one of the teams could do themselves, so it’s awesome to be a part of,” said safety Matthias Farley.
On Sunday, the Colts came together on the football field and got a win for their team.
“I feel like I have a job on and off the field,” said cornerback Kenny Moore. “And my job off the field is to serve others.”
On Monday they came together at School 67 and it was a win for the entire community.
“When you want to build a community, a team, you want everyone to be involved and that’s what it’s about,” said linebacker Anthony Walker. “Days like this are what make it special.”
“It really is about the whole unit working together, everybody feeling good about what they’re doing and making an impact in the community,” Reich said. “It takes a whole team. And just like on Sunday, everybody is doing their job and doing their job well. Everybody is pulling together and making it happen and it’s just a beautiful thing.”
And so was the outcome.
“It’s for the kids,” said defensive end Jabaal Sheard. “It’s bigger than us.”
Colts players, wives, employees, cheerleaders, partners, and volunteers – it was a great example of what people can do when they come together.
“For people who have a heart to serve others and for them to choose us,” said Principal Debra Pickett, “it exemplifies what Indianapolis is all about and what the Colts organization is all about.”
In the end, Crosby said it’s more than a playground. It’s a life lesson.
“As they say, ‘Love thy neighbor.’”
The Colts thank their partners in this year’s playground build: Indianapolis Public Schools, Rebuilding Together Indianapolis, Sinclair Recreation, Lucas Oil Products, Ingredion Incorporated, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, Indianapolis Power & Light, Kinetico and Republic Services.