FISHERS, Ind. – The cars keep coming, one after another, like that scene from “Field of Dreams.” Here’s an SUV. A Civic. Now a Chevy Cruze. The cars are pulling up to the semi-trailer parked next to Best Choice Fieldhouse, and people are hopping out. Old people. Young. Black people. White. They have one thing in common: They are carrying cases of bottled water.
“It’s been non-stop since early this morning,” Josh Helvie is telling me, and the idea was his, but the execution has been yours.
Inside the fieldhouse, kids are playing an AAU basketball tournament. There are 76 teams in all, boys in fifth grade and seventh grade, but the cars keep coming because of the two teams from Flint, Michigan. These teams have boys who won’t, who can’t, drink their water at home. Some won’t take showers, not the usual kind anyway. Not with water flowing through the same pipes that coursed for years with contaminated water from the Flint River, causing eczema and other rashes. They’ll shower with bottles of water, or they won’t shower at all.
It’s been this way for almost four years. It’s called the Flint Water Crisis. Even has its own social media hashtag: #FlintWaterCrisis.
A kid can’t drink a hashtag.
So Josh Helvie had this idea. He runs the Midwest Circuit, a series of AAU events in Ohio and Indiana, and he decided to turn this weekend’s tournament in Fishers into an outreach. It started with a single tweet from Midwest Circuit, an account with a few hundred followers: Free admission Friday night at Best Choice Fieldhouse; donations of water will be accepted.
“I have a custom van for my team,” says Helvie, a Zionsville financial advisor who coaches his son’s seventh-grade team in the Indiana Elite program. “I thought we’d fill that with maybe 20 cases (of water), and drive it to Flint.
“Then we got some feedback.”
People were tweeting about it. Instagram posts were popping up. The newspaper wrote a story.
“So, Best Choice Fieldhouse said they’d donate a U-Haul,” Helvie says, continuing the timeline of a story that is so wonderful, it doesn’t seem possible. “I thought we’d get a medium-sized truck and drive that to Flint. Then we got some more feedback.”
Helvie is talking to me from the opening of a 55-foot semi-trailer, the kind you see on the interstate. It’s maybe half-full of water, cases stacked against the back wall and fanning outward. It’s an impressive sight, and I’m asking Helvie how much water he thinks is in here. If I’m going to write this story, I need to quantify it. What are we looking at? How many bottles of water are in this trailer?
“Well, I don’t know,” Helvie says, and hops down from the truck. “This isn’t the full one.”
This isn’t the … what?
Helvie walks to another trailer, another 55-footer from the looks of it, and pulls open the doors. If water were gold, and in Flint it is, we’d be blinded. Because this trailer is full, a testimony to the Indianapolis, and the Indiana, that we know and love. Show this place a cause, and it rallies behind it. So now I’m repeating my question: What are we looking at? How many bottles of water?
“Well,” Helvie says again, “I don’t know.
“We filled one truck already. It’s headed to Flint.”