|Indiana Neighborhood Networks Center Makes Wishes Come True|
Indianapolis, IN—When planning programs and activities for her Neighborhood Networks center’s 54 residents, Heather Bischoff, Center Director/Service Coordinator at the Knowledge Center at the Terrace, strives for variety. From classes aimed at building computer skills and managing stress, to health screenings and exercise programs that help users maintain their well-being, Bischoff’s main goal is to create a center that offers something for everyone. This year, Bischoff added a new goal to her list.
“I wanted to help the residents make their wishes come true,” said Bischoff. “I just wanted to make it a really great year. So, when I met Bob Haverstick from Never Too Late, I knew I had to invite him to the center to give a presentation and see how we could team up to grant some wishes.”
Never Too Late is an organization that helps people 65 years of age and older turn their dreams and wishes into reality. Since it began granting wishes in 2000, Never Too Late has made more than 1,000 wishes come true.
It was after Haverstick visited the center that 92-year-old Mildred Monroe, a resident of Green Park Terrace Apartments and a center user, shared with Bischoff her love of diamonds—baseball diamonds, that is. Monroe confessed that she always dreamed of hitting a ball at Victory Field, the stadium where the minor league Indianapolis Indians play their home games. Bischoff called on her new partner to bring Monroe’s dream to life.
Making It to the Big Leagues
Growing up, when most girls her age were playing with dolls and hosting tea parties, Monroe was covering left field and working on striking out the next batter. As a member of the local baseball team, Monroe spent her summers playing baseball with the guys at Willard Park in Indianapolis—and her free time dreaming about hitting it out of Victory Field.
But other than an informal backyard game with family members in 1988, the Neighborhood Networks’ resident has not seriously played the game since 1930, when she used to practice with a former minor league baseball player. For one, recruiting 17 people to play a game can be a challenge. And two, Monroe suffers from macular degeneration, an eye disease that destroys central vision, making it difficult for her to see the ball.
Although time has stolen some of Monroe’s eyesight, it has not robbed her of the hope of hitting a ball in Victory Field. Bischoff decided it was time for Monroe to take her stance in the batter’s box at Victory Field, and she immediately sought Haverstick’s help. After Bischoff provided him with a bio for Monroe, Haverstick began engaging his community network to see what he could do.
Trying Out for the Team
When Haverstick brought Monroe’s dream to the attention of the Indianapolis Indians, they were interested in helping. But, policy required that Monroe’s health was good so that she would not injure herself while fulfilling her dream at Victory Field. In March, representatives from the Indians visited the Neighborhood Networks center to meet Monroe and hold an informal batting practice. During batting practice, Monroe’s swing was solid, but she lost her balance. This caused some concern for the Indians’ representatives, and rather than allow Monroe to hit the ball, they invited her to a game and gave her great seats and a VIP tour of the stadium.
“This was not what Mildred wanted to hear,” said Bischoff. “She was determined to hit that ball at Victory Field and she said to me, ‘If I could just get the starch out of me, I could hit the ball.’”
Partners Pitch In to Provide Spring Training
Fueled by Monroe’s determination, Bischoff began working on ways to help Monroe “get the starch out.” “I contacted Regency Place, a local nursing home that is also one of our partners,” said Bischoff. “I told them the situation and they agreed to pick Mildred up three days a week and bring her to Regency Place and provide her with free physical therapy for two months. For each session, two physical therapists worked with her—one was the pitcher, the other was the catcher. At first, they tried to give her a big pink softball to hit, but Mildred was having none of that. She was insulted and demanded they use a hard ball.”
For two months, physical therapists worked with Monroe. And each time they took her to the practice field at Regency Place, residents would crowd the windows to watch. “Mildred’s courage and determination inspired many residents to get well and become more active,” said Bischoff. “Her determination was contagious.”
At the end of May, local media personality Dick Wolfsie planned to air a piece on Monroe on Indianapolis’ WISH-TV. Once again, Bischoff and Haverstick contacted the Indians to see if they would reconsider. The Indians visited Monroe during one of her physical therapy sessions and decided that she was indeed ready for the big league.
Swing, Batter, Batter, Swing
On June 7, Monroe stepped into the batting box at Victory Field. With a stadium full of fans, Monroe was given six pitches. After letting the first five pitches go by because she thought they were balls, Monroe made contact on the sixth pitch. “The crowd went wild,” said Bischoff. “You would’ve thought she just hit the winning home run in the World Series.”
For more information about Neighborhood Networks centers in Indiana, contact:
Dawn K. Manley
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development–Indianapolis Field Office
151 North Delaware, Suite 1200
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2526
Phone: (317) 226-6303, ext. 7012
For more information about the Knowledge Center at the Terrace, contact:
Center Director/Service Coordinator
Green Park Terrace Apartments
110 East Meridian School Road
Indianapolis, IN 46227
Phone: (317) 807-0400
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Department of Housing and Urban
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