By Rachel Terrill, Player Engagement Insider
The Colts wives’ annual visit to Teen Challenge is among my favorite events of the year. Perhaps it is because this event is held in my hometown, or perhaps it is because of the quiet selflessness of the NFL women involved. Either way, it is special.
Three years ago, my family moved to Indiana (my husband’s childhood home) from Seattle (our NFL home for almost 10 years). When we realized that moving to Indiana also meant living closer to Matthew and Sarah Hasselbeck (who we knew when my husband and Matthew were Seahawks teammates) we were thrilled.
While in Seattle, Sarah taught me, and so many other Seahawks wives, how to be selfless and how to serve others as she pointed us in the direction of opportunities to give back to the greater Seattle community. We threw events for pediatric cancer patients, bowled for great causes, and bid on a vast array of items at auction fundraisers for children, families, community centers and more.
Not long after we arrived in Indiana, I received a text from Sarah: “Some of the other Colts wives and I are throwing a holiday party for the girls at Teen Challenge this morning. Come join us!”
There was snow on the ground as I held my newborn daughter in my arms. It would have been easier to stay home. Still, I wanted to be there.
“I’ll see you there,” I texted back.
The Colts event at Teen Challenge was different from most of the fundraisers I’d attended. Teen Challenge is a 12-18 month residential program for 13-18 year olds females with addictions and/or troubled pasts. This was not a fundraiser and they had not asked for anything. It was simply a celebration. “We want these girls to know that Jesus loves them no matter what,” Sarah explained.
Three years later, this is still my favorite event of the year. Colts wives and significant others who planned and attended the event this year included Kiley Blythe (Austin Blythe), Shantrell Hilton (T.Y. Hilton), Sunny Jones (Arthur Jones), Nicole Pechanec (Andrew Luck), Brandi Mathis (Robert Mathis), Jill Reitz (Joe Reitz), Sheriza Ali (Antonio Morrison) and Melissa Lagarra (Jordan Todman). Melody Gandy, wife of NFL legend, Dylan Gandy, and Kendra Simpson, wife of Eric Simpson, the Colts Chaplain, were also there.
Sixteen teens sat at decorated tables, intermingled with the Colts wives. No money was being raised – but hearts were being touched. No names were being boasted – but the moments were meaningful. In each other, they recognized resilience. The message the Colts wives gave to the girls: “We see you. We hear you. We’re cheering for your future.”
The Director of Central Indiana Teen Challenge, Dawn Rose, opened the event. “This is the seventh year that the Colts wives have come here to bless our girls, she said. “Each year, these women bless us with their time, with gifts, and with new and fun surprises. Despite being married to famous NFL players, they come here with no pretenses and with nothing to gain.”
Rose then introduced three of the teens who shared their stories of trial and redemption. Following their powerful (and tearful) presentations, Melody Gandy, shared a message with the group about each woman’s inherent value and Jesus’ unfailing love for them.
Gandy then opened the floor to Jill Reitz who got the teens out of their seats to compete in fun games including a marshmallow toss, a blind snowman-drawing contest and Bingo – all for great prizes purchased and provided by the Colts wives.
Finally, the teens and Colts wives gathered together to decorate gingerbread houses. With candy treats and goody-bags for all, smiles adorned the faces of everyone in attendance. No doubt, the event left everyone feeling a little warmer on that winter day.
With the snow on the ground and my now two-year-old daughter running around beside me, I find myself feeling grateful for programs like teen challenge for those whose lives seem out of control – and grateful for the NFL. As NFL wives, we have opportunities to learn from each other – to be ushered by women like Sarah Hasselbeck, Melody Gandy, Jill Reitz and so many others as we learn to use our NFL platforms in ways big and small.