INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts used some down time Saturday night to support coach Chuck Pagano and raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Indiana.
Just days after nearly three dozen players, including rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, shaved their heads to support Pagano in his battle against a form of leukemia, coach Bruce Arians, other team employees and some players showed up at a local night spot for the fundraiser.
Organizers were hoping for $10,000 to donate to the society in Pagano’s name.
Arians couldn’t think of a better way to spend a rare Saturday night off – watching Alabama, where he has coached twice, mingling with fans and supporting his close friend.
”This is about family, and so many families are affected by this disease that everything we can do to fight it, we will,” said Arians, a prostate cancer survivor himself.
The fundraiser was the brainchild of Sean Sullivan and his wife, who own Sully’s Bar and Grill on the city’s west side. Sullivan is the Colts’ equipment manager, and like the players, cut off his hair.
The big night included an auction of memorabilia that Sullivan collected from his contacts around the league and in other sports.
Among the items were signed NFL jerseys from Drew Brees, Edgerrin James and Tim Tebow; Peyton Manning’s signed high school jersey, a football signed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; helmets autographed by Dan Marino and Rex Ryan; a racing helmet signed by Dale Earnhardt Jr.; a basketball signed by Indiana coach Tom Crean and a football signed by Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson; and a mini-helmet signed by Dick Butkus.
The Baltimore Ravens, where Pagano coached before coming to Indy, also donated a helmet.
Some of the more unusual items included game-worn cleats from two Colts players – Luck and Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea – autographed basketball shoes from Pacers swingman Danny Granger and scripts autographed by the casts of some CBS shows, including Criminal Minds and CSI: New York.
”It’s in Coach’s honor and he doesn’t even know we’re donating the money in his name,” Sullivan said. ”When he first got here, he told me he had my back. I just wanted to help.”
Since Pagano took an indefinite leave from the team, players and coaches have shown their support in different ways.
Arians has worn a special button in the horseshoe on his baseball cap. Receiver Reggie Wayne used orange gloves during a surprising win over Green Bay, the first game Indy played after Pagano was diagnosed with the illness. The nameplates over players’ lockers at the team headquarters now have special stickers with the initials CP, and the team pro shop has been selling T-shirts and wrist bands that say Chuckstrong, a popular trend among the Saturday night crowd.
Arians also has appeared at three fundraisers and will hold a fourth Friday night at Dunaway’s, a restaurant in downtown Indy, with Luck and Wayne. Tickets for that event cost $100 and Arians said it’s almost sold out.
But those in the Colts organization believe the best medicine for Pagano is seeing his team win – something Indianapolis (6-3) has done five times in the six games since Arians took over.
”There are times when your team needs to play with a purpose and it’s been good because we’ve found a purpose,” Arians said. ”It’s just a shame that Chuck had to get sick.”