Tony Dungy had 1,000 volunteers and 7,000 empty baskets greet him when he arrived at Bankers Life Fieldhouse yesterday morning. When he exited, the baskets had been filled and shipped by United Parcel Service to America’s 32 NFL cities for distribution.
The Super Baskets of Hope program, with the former Colts coach and Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, takes the already-existing national program, Baskets of Hope, and makes it the first charity event in Super Bowl history to extend outside the host city to the rest of the nation. “We hope more cities catch the vision,” Dungy says.
Included in the baskets, sent to children living with cancer across the nation: toys, footballs, hats, books, school supplies, stuffed animals, and more. Dungy donated 6,000 copies of his new children’s book, You Can Be a Friend.
Delivery of the baskets is scheduled for this week to Riley Hospital and around Indiana. Nationally, the delivery dates are on or around Super Bowl Sunday. Dungy has been involved with the program since 2002, and when he released the reins of the Colts, now-former coach Jim Caldwell took over as Indy’s champion of the program.
Dungy, who arrived in Indianapolis late Sunday, has already visited the Super Bowl Village and the NFL Experience. “It’s phenomenal,” he says. “The city has done a fabulous job. I went to Georgia Street and mingled with the crowd. It looks fantastic.” Now a TV analyst, Dungy has made time to see his NBC cohorts but hasn’t spotted any other celebs wandering about. “I’m not much of a star gazer,” he admits.
Dungy is so impressed with this Super Bowl setup that he’s not ruling out a second big game for Indy. “We went into this as a once-in-a-lifetime event, but that may change after this,” he says. When fans are out in force on Georgia Street and downtown, steps are short and lines are long. “This won’t be crowded for the visitors,” he says of the throngs milling about. “Just the local people are saying, ‘Man, all that traffic.’”