Eagles win visit to Colts' facility after successful blood drive

Friday, August 9, 2013
South Putnam coach Troy Burgess (right) thanks Indiana Blood Center representative Kari Fletcher (left) for providing dinner to his team after practice on Thursday as the Eagles' football players line up to get a steak dinner. (Banner Graphic/GRANT WIEMAN)

In just its second year of organizing a blood drive, the South Putnam football team became champions. The Eagles rounded up 42 participants for the Colts Leadership Challenge, 10.6 percent of the school's population, and won a prize package that includes an on-field appearance during the pre-game ceremony of a Colts preseason game.

The event, also sponsored by the Indiana Blood Center, included a number of other prizes, including a catered dinner and a chance to practice on the Lucas Oil Stadium field prior to the Colts Aug. 24 preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.

"It's a really, really neat thing for our kids," South Putnam head coach Troy Burgess said. "Our juniors and seniors actually will be on the field before the game holding the American flag."

The Eagles were runners-up last year, their first time participating in the contest. The first-year honor came as a surprise to Burgess, not because of the success but because he didn't know there was a competition.

"I didn't realize it was a contest" Burgess said. "(Indiana Blood Center rep) Kari Fletcher told us we got second place last year. 'Second place in what?' ... We kinda tried to ramp it up a little bit."

Two other teams were winners of the blood drive contest, Westfield High School and Terre Haute North. Westfield had the highest-total turnout and THN won a raffle.

The Eagles were intended to win a trip to the Colts training camp facility and have a cookout there after watching practice, but that was cancelled because it rained on the day they were scheduled to go.

As a rain check the Indiana Blood Center brought a steak dinner, catered by Outback Steakhouse, to the South Putnam High School following the Eagles' practice on Thursday evening.

Burgess thought the steak dinner was a pretty substantial consolation prize. Then he got even better news.

"They called me the next day and said the Colts want to do something," Burgess said. "They've given us tickets to the preseason game against the Browns, they're going to allow us to practice on the field before the game. ... It'll be the day after our Owen Valley game so it won't be much of a practice.

"It's going to be a lot of fun. ... We really appreciate what Kari Fletcher, the Indiana Blood Center and the Indianapolis Colts have done."

South Putnam played a regular season game at Lucas Oil Stadium in week two last season. The IHSAA state finals are also held at the venue.

"The kids all went out and got the donors and did it," Burgess said. "We've got good senior leaders that got everybody involved and did it.

Greencastle High School also participated in the event, gaining 51 participants for 8.25 percent, the third-highest percentage of the 24 teams involved.

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