They will run onto the court at Best Choice Fieldhouse in Fishers with smiles that hide their fear, bouncing basketballs and pretending things back home are OK. And things are not OK. Their jerseys tell the story.
On the front of their jerseys: The numbers 810. It’s their area code back home.
Look closer. That ‘1’, it’s not a number at all. It’s a bottle of water.
These kids are from Flint, Michigan.
Something special is happening Friday in Fishers – and I know you, Indiana. You’re going to want to get involved. Writing the story as it happens? That’ll be too late. You’ll be disappointed you didn’t know. Disappointed you couldn’t help.
This will be you: Heartbroken for those young boys. And for their families. And their community.
So let’s write this story now about the young boys from Flint and the AAU basketball tournament this weekend at Best Choice Fieldhouse and the gesture, the amazing gesture, being made this weekend on their behalf. A gesture that needs your help.
It’s the water in Flint. Folks there are still terrified to drink it. Do you know that? When the contamination was discovered in August 2014 it was a major story, and the fallout was covered nationally to some extent as hundreds of people were sickened by lead poisoning, but most of us moved on. That was almost four years ago. We have a life to live, you know?
Yeah, well, they have a life to live in Flint, too. And they’re still scared to drink the water. And it started almost four years ago.
This weekend, you can make a difference. So can I, if I get off my rear end and get over to Best Choice Fieldhouse. But I’m in Cleveland this week covering the Indiana Pacers, and then the Pacers have games at home Friday and Sunday, and the only chance for me to get to Fishers is Saturday. But I’m off on Saturday. It sure does sound like a lot of work ….
Hey, dummy? I’m talking to me here. There are two AAU teams from Flint coming to Fishers, boys in fifth grade and seventh grade, who are afraid to drink the water coming out of their faucets. So their parents boil the water first, or drive all over town and stand in line for the bottles being handed out by local government officials.
Oh, and this story has a punchline – only it’s not a joke: The state of Michigan has ended its bottled water program. Mission accomplished, state officials say: The water is clean.
Residents are not convinced. There are experts who say the pipes themselves are contaminated. Poisonous lead now coats those pipes. The water passes through those pipes.
Flint is still terrified.
So here’s what I’m going to do this weekend. And I’m asking you to join me: Let’s go to Best Choice Fieldhouse. Let’s bring a case of water. Let’s be part of this story.