Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

May 8, 2013

Breakfast celebrates United Way successes

Bart Doan

— “Always remember the three bones,” Indiana Fever basketball coach Lin Dunn said. “The wish bone, because you’ve got to have a dream. The funny bone, because laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects. And the backbone, because if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Dunn, who coached the Fever to a WNBA championship last year, is about to get another season started. But on Wednesday morning, she was the featured speaker at the Hendricks County United Way’s sixth annual Breakfast of Champions, lighting the morning with laughter at a packed banquet room at Primo Five Star Catering in Plainfield.

The Breakfast of Champions gave the United Way a chance to reflect on its 2012 successes and set goals for the coming year.

Executive Director Susie Friend, who was named United Way employee of the year in central Indiana, will be retiring at the end of the year. It was announced at the breakfast that she plans to go out with a bang — setting a 2013 fundraising goal of $1 million.

The breakfast had a “vacation” theme that will carry on throughout the United

Way events this year as they look to reach that goal.

Dunn applauded the work the group does.

“I’m here to celebrate all of the wonderful things the United Way does,” she said. “It’s just so impressive.”

Dunn, who led Purdue University’s women’s basketball team to an NCAA Final Four and three Big 10 championships in addition to coaching and being the general manager of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, kept the crowd laughing, but also gave advice.

“My first game I coached at Purdue, there were 250 people there, if you count the ushers and the ticket takers. The last game I coached there, we had 9,500 people,” she said, noting that when she was in school in Alabama, it was against the law for girls to play high school basketball.

She spoke of perseverance and how she once helped to sell season tickets by dribbling a basketball for 5.5 miles through Seattle as the Storm was just getting started as a franchise there.

“I learned tenacity, I learned how to find a way,” she said. “I think the number one lesson I learned is to do the right thing. If you’re going to be a champion, be a success, do the right thing.”

Friend expounded upon what the last year meant to United Way locally last year.

“It was a year of transition for United Way,” she said. “And though that transition can bring feelings of uncertainty, exciting opportunities abound. We started off the year with a new strategic plan, resulting in several task forces looking at how we can increase volunteerism, fundraising, and our impact in four areas — education, income stability, health, and basic needs.”

Friend noted that while the United Way always strives to improve the lives of children, the impact was felt deeply in the adult and senior community as well, noting that more than half of the individuals served were adults and seniors.

“Equal emphasis is placed on sustaining vital private human services for those that need help the most,” she said. “More than 1,000 children are enrolled in the United Way early readers program.”

She also pointed out that more than 600 youth volunteers contributed to a host of community projects in the past year and said that a next area to tackle is working with county emergency management to understand how United Way can better assist in major disasters.

For more information on the United Way of Central Indiana, visit  the website at www.uwci.org.