Vogel, Pacers provide ‘Christmas in July’

by Sam Rogian

July 14, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (July 14, 2011) -- Like a mother hen corralling its chicks, Amber Core crouched over her three small children in attempt to curb their enthusiasm while they waited.

The Core children had reason to be excited. It’s uncommon for kids to experience “Christmas in July.”

The Indiana Pacers and Fever partnered with U.S. toy-company JAKKS Pacific, Inc. and the Indiana National Guard for the event Thursday at Stout Field, donating 15,000 toys to be distributed among Indiana military children this summer.

Many Pacers Sports & Entertainment (PS&E) employees, including Pacers head coach Frank Vogel and mascots Boomer and Freddy Fever, handed out gifts and interacted with several military families on hand.

Core, whose husband is a full-time member of the National Guard, smiled as her 6-year old son Daniel played with his toy fighting gloves.

“It just shows that we haven’t been forgotten-- that we’re being thought of, too,” she said.

That was the goal according to Maj. General R. Martin Umbarger, who said many deployed soldiers regularly ask him to make sure their families are taken care of back home.

“Thank God we have organizations… like the Pacers and Indiana Fever that want to reach out and do so much for us,” Umbarger said.

Rick Fuson, PS&E chief operating officer, confessed there was nothing the organization does that is as important as the services the armed forces provide.

“The core purpose in our business is really to win championships, and secondly to serve community,” Fuson said.  “As we strive to win championships… it’s the important thing for us to serve community.

“What better group could we partner with to do this (than the military)? There is not a better group.”

Vogel told the crowd that though his job may keep him away from his family, it’s nothing like what military families go through.

“There’s a lot of talk in my profession about how hard coaching is on families and wives and spouses,” Vogel said. “It’s a difficult challenge, but it does not compare to what you all endure and the struggle and sacrifices that you guys make.”

After handing out toys, Vogel told Pacers.com that giving back to the community feels better than winning basketball games.

“No disrespect to competition, but this doesn’t even compare,” he said. “Everyone is thanking me for being here, but I’m thanking them for allowing me to be here.

“This is my first community-relations event as the official head coach and it’s an honor. It’s a good one to be a part of.”

Little Daniel Core thought it was worth the wait for the gift he received from Vogel.

“I got a toy that pops,” he said with a grin. “I knew it was going to be nice.”