December 1, 2017

Basketball legend praises volunteers who serve seniors

Indiana high school basketball legend Bobby Plump praises volunteers in four Catholic Charities Indianapolis programs that serve seniors during the agency’s Hoosiers for Seniors dinner event on Oct. 19 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Indiana high school basketball legend Bobby Plump praises volunteers in four Catholic Charities Indianapolis programs that serve seniors during the agency’s Hoosiers for Seniors dinner event on Oct. 19 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Bobby Plump is a legend across the Hoosier State.

As a senior at Milan High School in Milan in 1954, Plump hit a last-second shot to win the championship in that year’s Indiana High School Athletic Association boys basketball tournament.

Plump and his teammates from their small school in southeastern Indiana beat their much larger opponent from Muncie Central High School in Muncie in a hard-fought championship game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis.

That championship run and Plump’s game-winning shot were immortalized and shared with the world far beyond Indiana in the 1986 Oscar-nominated movie Hoosiers.

On Oct. 19, Plump came to the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis to serve as the keynote speaker at Catholic Charities Indianapolis’ (CCI) Hoosiers for Seniors dinner event to share memories of playing for Milan’s championship team, and to praise the teamwork of Catholic Charities staff members and volunteers who serve adults in its eldercare programs.

“All of you people who are giving your time are marvelous,” Plump said. “Look at the person next to you and smile. Doesn’t that feel good? That’s what you people do for these people that you’re volunteering for.

“If you can smile every day forever, you’re going to make somebody’s life happier.”

Another guest at the event regaled the attendees with his own basketball stories, even if they didn’t result in glory.

Indianapolis Mayor Joseph Hogsett recounted the time when he was on the boys basketball team for Rushville High School in Rushville, and he scored a basket in its opposing team’s goal.

Hogsett’s true purpose at the Hoosiers for Seniors event was to encourage the people who participate in and support Catholic Charities Indianapolis’ programs for seniors.

“You’re making a difference in the lives of so many people,” Hogsett said. “Those of us who find ourselves a little bit older than we care to admit—we need help from time to time. And your generosity tonight means the world to Catholic Charities’ efforts in this regard.”

In reflecting on his team’s championship run, Plump recalled how his coach refused to share scoring statistics for individual players on the team with the public. He wanted the focus to be on the team as a whole.

“We did not have, up and down the line, the best talent of most of the teams that we played in the tournament,” Plump said. “But I contend that we had the best team that played in the tournament in 1954. I contend that a good team will often beat exceptional talent if they don’t have the teamwork.”

David Bethuram, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities, spoke with The Criterion after the event about how important teamwork is for the programs he oversees that serve seniors.

“For years, the amount of people who have volunteered in programs helping vulnerable seniors has been incredible,” Bethuram said. “It’s just amazing. Bobby Plump’s conversation about tradition and how things are done as a team really rings true here. None of this can work unless we work as a team.”

One of the “team members” present at the Hoosiers for Seniors event was volunteer Alice Whitney. She is 86, and has been a volunteer for 16 years in Catholic Charities Indianapolis’ Senior Companion Program, which is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

It recruits, trains, gives support and matches volunteers age 55 and older with frail seniors, helping them to remain living independently and offering friendship and alleviating the loneliness that can often burden them.

Whitney currently volunteers in the program for about 20 hours per week with three different seniors.

“It’s been a great blessing to me because it makes me feel like I’m doing something for somebody else,” she said. “It’s kept me going. It’s a great program. I hope it continues forever. It’s helped so many people.”

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is also a part of the Corporation for National and Community Service and is one of the largest volunteer networks for people 55 and older. Catholic Charities Indianapolis staff members link volunteers with opportunities that either match their gifts and talents, or help them develop new ones.

“Seniors love to be independent,” Bethuram said. “Sometimes through their independence, though, they become lonely and isolated.

“For us to say that you can be part of something in our community that gives back and, at the same time, gives you something in return means a lot.”

Catholic Charities Indianapolis also has a Caregiver Support Program that helps those who care for seniors to care for themselves and to better support the seniors in their care. Services include support groups and home modifications.

Another senior program in Catholic Charities Indianapolis highlighted during the event was A Caring Place Adult Day Services. It is a respite care program to provide support for families and caregivers of seniors, and therapeutic and meaningful activities for seniors.

Bethuram also noted that the kind of care that Catholic Charities Indianapolis has given to seniors for years has been praised by Pope Francis.

“He talks a lot about the fact that nobody is dispensable,” Bethuram said. “Seniors sometimes feel as if they aren’t as important. But they have wisdom to give back to the community. As Pope Francis said, ‘I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land.’ It’s important for us to tap into that.”
 

(For more information about Catholic Charities Indianapolis’ eldercare programs, visit www.archindy.org/cc/indianapolis and click on “For Seniors,” or call 317-261-3378.)

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