Indians build lasting legacy with charitable ties

Indians build lasting legacy with charitable ties

CLEVELAND -- Like the generations of a family who share a table for a Thanksgiving meal, the Cleveland Indians' relationships with some of its local charity partners stand the test of time.

Charities like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, whose partnership with the Indians dates back nearly 25 years, and Our Lady of the Wayside, which began in the 1970s.

On Sunday afternoon, generations of residents who benefit from those charities, along with three other local charity organizations, joined together at Progressive Field's terrace club for a Thanksgiving meal that fed roughly 375 individuals.

The Boys & Girls Clubs is a nationwide organization that strives to enable young people in need to reach their full potential as productive and responsible citizens by providing ways to learn and grow, develop relationships and inspire hope and opportunity.

Since 1994, Cleveland Indians Charities (CIC) has been helping to fund the Cleveland chapter and has historically been one of their biggest funders, according to president Ron Soeder.

In 2012, CIC gave a record $1 million donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland's "Save Our Kids Capital" Campaign. Earlier this season, the team donated iPads to be used in the club's Learning Center.

"To have their support, their backing, and to have a group that really cares about our kids is critically important," Soeder said.

At Sunday's Thanksgiving meal, food was served directly by members of the Indians organization, including team CEO Paul Dolan, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff.

President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti helped serve on Sunday.(Cleveland Indians)

"I think it means so much for the Indians because they don't often get to see the people they serve," Soeder said. "So to have this day and be able to really look the people in the eye, and for our people to look them in the eye, it's heartfelt. It's really a terrific thing for our families to get to see the caring and see people like Paul serving food. "

Tribe serves Thanksgiving meal to nearly 400

Similar sentiments are shared by Our Lady of the Wayside, a local organization that supports children and adults with developmental disabilities. Their partnership with the Indians dates to the early '70s, when former Tribe pitcher and then-broadcaster Herb Score and his wife, Nancy, got the organization involved. Herb and Nancy's youngest daughter, Susan, was a resident of Our Lady of the Wayside.

"We were one of the first organizations to develop group homes out in the community, and we were able to do that because we had support not only from the community but teams like the Indians," president and CEO Terry Davis said. "The players would come out to the homes and visit and support us in many different ways, and that was what put us in a position to continue to grow and develop and provide those services and support that the individuals at Wayside need."

The history between the Indians and these organizations dates back decades. The Thanksgiving meal is simply a celebration and a chance for these separate and diverse families to join as one.

"[Our residents] don't see themselves as fans, they see themselves as partners, they see themselves as part of the Cleveland Indians," Davis said. "For us, that's very unique and very much appreciated. And we hope that the ball team recognizes that what they do on the field is important, but what they do off the field is just as important to this community."

August Fagerstrom is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.