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Beyond the scoreboard: Indiana sports and philanthropy

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Indiana sports teams, athletes and organizations made significant strides in philanthropy and charitable work throughout 2023. From hosting celebrity softball games to raising funds for cancer research and supporting food equity in Indianapolis, the sports community in Indiana has displayed a remarkable commitment to giving back.

The Quenton Nelson Blocking Cancer Celebrity Softball Game took place July 22 at Victory Field. This was the third year that the Blocking Cancer Celebrity Softball Game raised money for charities.

Quenton Nelson, an All-Pro offensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts, partnered with the V Foundation for Cancer Research to host the annual event.

The V Foundation – a non-profit organization founded by the late Jim Valvano, former basketball coach and ESPN commentator – focuses on cancer research and finding a cure for cancer.

Since 1993, the V Foundation has raised more than $250 million for cancer research, funding over 1,600 grants.

This year also saw Indianapolis Colts Linebacker Zaire Franklin team up with Hoagies and Hops to host a fundraiser to benefit the charity Shelice’s Angels – an organization that sets out to “inspire and ignite the potential of the community in which it serves,” per the foundation’s official website.

sports and philanthropy. Colts player during charity event at Hoagies and Hops with a fan.
Zaire Franklin with a fan during his charity event at Hoagies and Hops, located near the intersection of 42nd Street and Boulevard Place, in October of 2023. (Photo provided/Indianapolis Colts)

The fundraiser was Oct. 10 at Hoagies and Hops, a sandwich shop located in the heart of Butler-Tarkington near the intersection of 42nd Street and Boulevard Place. The initiative raised more than $2,500 for Shelice’s Angels.

Franklin, a Philadelphia native, now has a feature cheesesteak on the menu dubbed “The Zaire.” Hoagies and Hops will donate a portion of sales from the cheesesteak to Shelice’s Angels during the 2023-24 Indianapolis Colts season.

The third annual WNBA Commissioner’s Cup – an annual in-season competition that involves ten designated regular-season cup games – also played a role in sports and philanthropy in Indiana.

The prize pool for the 2023 championship game equated to $500,000 for the players and at least $165,000 in charitable donations to be made throughout the season. Despite missing out on the championship game, the Indiana Fever helped raise $8,000 for the Wheeler Mission Center for Women and Children – an organization that provides an atmosphere that is physically, emotionally and spiritually safe for women and children.

“It is upon all of us to inspire the next generation to be the best people they can possibly be throughout all of our communities,” Indiana Fever All-Star guard Kelsey Mitchell said.

Various Indiana sports teams and organizations, including the Pacers Foundation, Indianapolis Colts, Christamore House and Edna Martin Christian Center, came together in 2023 to support Drive & Dish – an initiative to provide nourishing fruits and vegetables to needy families in the race toward food equity in Indianapolis.

Drive & Dish was unveiled at Cristamore House Nov. 15, where Mayor Joe Hogsett confirmed the food security program is funded for the entire calendar year of 2024.

Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle addressing the media on the current state of the team during NBA Media Day at the Ascension St. Vincent Center in downtown Indianapolis on Oct. 2. (Photo/Walt Thomas)

“Today, one out of every four Marion County residents utilize food assistance due to hunger,” Hogsett said during the unveiling of the Drive & Dish program. “Far too many live in food deserts without convenient access to a grocery store. We cannot accept that any longer.”

Through these initiatives, Indiana sports went beyond the scoreboard to uplift the communities that support them in 2023.

Contact multimedia staff writer Noral Parham III at 317-762-7846 or via email at noralp@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @3Noral. For more sports and philanthropy news courtesy of the Indianapolis Recorder, click here.

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