Indianapolis Colts Ambassador and former player Bill Brooks addresses the crowd during the first Moment Makers event at Washington High School Thursday night. Lindsay Owens | Times Herald
Indianapolis Colts Ambassador and former player Bill Brooks addresses the crowd during the first Moment Makers event at Washington High School Thursday night. Lindsay Owens | Times Herald
We all experience moments every single day. Some are significant ones that will be remembered for years to come. Others are more minuscule. Those moments though are a part of each of our story and it’s that story that has the power to impact others.

On Thursday, six panelists from around the state came to Washington to be part of the first Moment Makers — a chautauqua-style event for students, staff and the community.

“This was the dream of Dr. Dan Roach,” said Nikki Sparks, Washington Community Schools integration specialist. “He saw this at another school corporation and wanted to bring something like it here.”

Indiana Basketball Dall of Fame Executive Director Chris May, retired University of Indianapolis Athletic Director Sue Willey, Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame member Sam Alford, Indianapolis Colts Ambassador and former player Bill Brooks, Vice President of ISC Network Greg Rakestraw and IU Health’s Dr. Ben Obaseki spent the day touring WCS facilities and meeting with students before addressing the community.

“This one is centered on athletics having an impact on life and careers,” said WCS Superintendent Dr. Dan Roach, adding the inaugural event was held in honor of the late Steve Bouchie.

Willey, who retired from UIndy after the 2019-2020 school year, touched on the importance of Title IX as well as some of the changes that took place in sports over her tenure.

“Most don’t understand that Title IX is not just about sports,” said Willey reminding the audience there was a time when women couldn’t get into law schools or medical schools and suffered other inequalities just because they were female. “Things are better but even after 50 years, there are still some.”

A multi-sport collegiate athlete at UIndy, Willey earned 19 letters and 11 MVP awards during her four years of college. She started a tennis team at UIndy to earn that 19th letter.

“When I was in high school, there were four sports for girls. You had golf, tennis, gymnastics and swimming,” she said. “The summer I took driver’s ed I also took tennis lessons so I could play.”

Willey went onto coach for more more than two decades at UIndy, helping athletes excel both in the classroom and on the field for five sports before moving to the administrative side.

Always fighting to improve the experience for students, Willey shared a story about the time she rented a sod cutter to make the dirt infield for the softball team.

“The student athletes deserved what could be done for them,” said Willey, who said it’s been her mission to help improve the life of others.

Following Willey was Washington graduate and Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame member Sam Alford.

“I spent 40 years coaching,” said Alford who led teams at Monroe City, South Knox, Martinsville and New Castle.

While Alford accelerated in basketball, he stressed that sports offer every person opportunity.

“You have to work hard to succeed,” he said.

Chris May may be in charge of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame but he’s quick to point out he was no star athlete.

“I never played a second of varsity athletics,” he said, adding that he has been to 100 games at the Hatchet House, one of his favorite facilities. “In fourth grade, I knew I was short and not athletic. I wanted to be like Bob Costas and be a sports broadcaster.”

May said he never imagined landing a job at the basketball hall of fame but it’s one that has connected him to many people.

“This job is all about relationships,” he said, noting that one day during the pandemic, he received a call asking if former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight could come up for a tour. “So there I was, in the midst of the pandemic walking about the hall of fame with coach Knight.”

Obaseki is also a Washington High School graduate. He said sports helped him form friendships when he was in elementary school and later on helped him make a lifestyles change.

“In junior high, I was not happy with myself. I was an obese kid and sports provided me a way to help shed the weight,” he said, adding after high school he went on to play football at Indiana State University and that experience led him on a different path. “I went to ISU with a chip on my shoulder and that chip helped me work to a goal.”

Obaseki went on to earn All-American honors for the Terre Haute school and found the attention of NFL scouts. An injury during his senior season shook things up a bit though.

“The scouts were saying I’d be a third or fourth round pick. I ended up not even being drafted,” he said. “I had to learn how to handle failure.”

Needing to change his plans, Obaseki enrolled back in school and after some hard work, made it into medical school in Grenada. He found himself in Brooklyn, New York, serving patients in a hospital there during the pandemic and has since found his way back to the Hoosier state. He now works for IU Health.

“I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family,” he said.

Bill Brooks was the only person on stage who played in the Super Bowl. That was Super Bowl XXVIII when he played for Buffalo and his team lost. Brooks said sports helped him better learn how to work with others and that’s something that has served him well in life.

“As an only child, sports teaches you to be unselfish,” said the former Colts player turned ambassador. “On a team, you need others to do their job. We all have to work together.”

ISC Network Vice President Greg Rakestraw has called over 200 high school state championship games but he doesn’t consider himself to be a moment maker. Instead, he claims to be moment describer.

He remembers the details of Washington’s state championships. He remembers the tiny details. He knew at age 5 he wanted to be a sports broadcaster and that’s exactly what he’s done.

“What people know of Washington is what’s happened in the Hatchet House,” he said.

Rakestraw recalled many other moments in the Hatchet House too but was quick to point out that although sports played a vital role in the lives of everyone on the stage, sports are not everything.

“Sports are like the connective tissue but they are not everything,” he said.

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