Our Golden Girl
To the rest of the world, she’s America’s outspoken Olympic swimmer who won her first two gold medals in Rio. But to those who really know her, she’s Lilly King — daughter, sister, friend, and small-town girl with a fun-loving spirit and heart of gold.
Lilly on Deck
EL: As you touched the wall to win your first gold at the Olympics, what was the first thing that popped in your head?
LK: I honestly was just really relieved, to tell you the truth. You know, after speaking out and then having this race that had been hyped up so much, it was really nice to come out on top like I was supposed to. I think that was the No. 1 feeling, the relief. But then obviously the excitement, too. I had just won an Olympic gold medal, which is kind of a big deal.
EL: How was Rio?
LK: It’s a beautiful city. It’s kind of hard to get around because the Olympic Village was about an hour from Copacabana with no traffic. But other than that, it was great. It was a really cool experience. Like I said, the city is absolutely gorgeous. Really, driving around, it looks like you’re in Jurassic Park. I was expecting a pterodactyl to come flying out of the mountains at any point. But it was really cool.
EL: Lots of people are saying your life is never going to be the same, and we’re sure you’re already experiencing some big changes. What do you think about all of the new things you’re experiencing right now?
LK: It’s weird, because my life is changing, but I still feel the same. I’m still the same old Lilly. But especially with the social media, the following has skyrocketed. I’m enjoying it right now. I think it’s going to die down in a couple months, hopefully. But it’s been fine so far.
EL: Have you been back in the pool yet?
LK: I got back in this morning (Friday, Aug. 26). This was my first morning back in. I actually lifted on Wednesday and feel like I can’t walk right now because I’m so sore. But I’m back in. I’m getting started on my full training schedule next week (starting Aug. 29). It was nice to have a little break.
EL: Do you see yourself being a multi-game Olympian?
LK: I hope! Right now I’m looking to swim through 2024. But still, that’s eight years down the line. Definitely looking forward to Tokyo in 2020. But we’ll see. If Los Angeles gets the bid for 2024, I would really like to keep swimming to that point. I would like my last games to be in the Unites States. That would be pretty neat.
EL: Do you still have a goal to teach swimming?
LK: Yeah, definitely. I’m majoring in physical education; right now I’m thinking either teaching or coaching or maybe both. That’s kind of where my mind is right now. I don’t know, though; I’m 19 years old. Everyone asks, “What are you going to do with your life?” and I’m just thinking, “I don’t know. I’m going to swim until I can’t swim anymore. I guess.”
EL: Would you like to coach back here in Evansville or just wherever you land?
LK: I don’t know. I think wherever I land. I’d like to stay in the Midwest, though. I’m not really a California girl; I learned that when I was looking at colleges.
EL: Can you give us the story on your tie-dye towel you had at the Olympics?
LK: I had a friend, she had special needs and she passed away right before my junior year in high school. Her mom sent me the towel at the beginning of my freshman year at IU. So I kind of bring it with me everywhere; it’s my special, lucky towel.
We caught up with Lilly King’s dad Mark after his return from Rio to learn what the Olympics really were like.
How was what the media portrayed at the Olympics different from reality?
NBC’s role is to document the events taking place, but they also attempt to create a narrative the viewing audience will find compelling and give them a reason to tune in. We did not see NBC’s portrayal until we returned home; we were only aware of it because of social media. NBC did not have broadcast rights in Brazil. When you’re at an Olympic venue, you are “in the moment” watching the races as you’ve watched them a thousand times before. The stadium is a little larger, the lights are a little brighter, and the stakes are certainly much higher. But at the core, it’s still a swim meet and the pool is 50 meters long, just like the pool every kid trains and competes in.
How often were you able to interact with Lilly in Rio?
We had very little interaction with her during the week. USA Swimming works to build a team culture between the kids, and one of the ways they accomplish this is to minimize outside distractions — parents and family are rightfully considered distractions. Folks who are outside this world may consider this unfair, but the cumulative effect of getting together, chatting, and dining together during a major competition can be draining on the athlete. On her way up, Lil took a number of overseas trips (Hawaii, Japan, and Singapore) and she took those trips without us. We did have a number of phone conversations when she returned to the Olympic Village each night. We sometimes talked about swimming, but often we just talked about who she met, what she had for lunch, and just everyday-type discussions you would have with your child.
What did Lilly do in her downtime, especially after swimming events were over?
USA Swimming made it possible for the kids to get out and see some of the city. She was able to visit the beaches and also to see Christ the Redeemer. We also had an athlete, staff, and parent social on Ipanema Beach after the competition ended. It gave us an opportunity to interact with all of the athletes (minus Michael Phelps). We were struck by how exhausted everyone (athletes, staff, and parents) seemed to be. Just to get to this point of the year is a real grind.
What was Rio like?
Rio is a real contrast. On one hand, it is a beautiful city (as shown on TV), but there also is poverty and suffering that is hard to describe. The weather was great, as it was winter in the Southern Hemisphere. The strangest thing, perhaps, was the fact that it got dark around 5 p.m. We enjoyed food from a small plaza that was directly across from Olympic Park. For some reason, it seemed we were the only visitors who discovered it. We found a variety of foods, such as pizza, pasta, and shish kebabs. Brazil’s currency is in a bit of a drop, so everything was quite affordable, too.
Several coaches in the Evansville area and beyond helped Lilly King toward her Olympic journey, creating a special bond with her:
DAVID ESTES: Estes was head coach of Greater Evansville Aquatics Team (GREAT) when King was 8 to 10 years old. He now lives in Owasso, Oklahoma, and coaches swimming in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“The first few months I was there, we would do a lot of drill work. Lilly was only 8, but she was energetic, happy, dancing around all the time. She never could be still, but she was paying attention at the same time. She was fearless as a little girl; every time you spoke to her, she made good eye contact.”
MIKE CHAPMAN: Chapman is a former head coach for GREAT and former head age group coach for Newburgh Sea Creatures. He currently is head swimming coach for Boonville High School and Boonville Aquatic Dolphins. He accompanied the King family to the Rio Olympics.
“One of the keys in Lilly’s development is that we never did too much too soon. I’ve seen many kids in the sport get burned out because they start doing two-a-day practices, lots of yardage, or weight training too early. We always were patient and let Lilly enjoy the process. She didn’t do doubles until her sophomore year of high school and didn’t lift weights until college. I think that’s why we saw her pop when she got into college.”
AARON OPELL: Opell took over as head coach of Newburgh Sea Creatures at the start of King’s junior year of high school.
“I was not surprised (that she won the individual gold medal). If you said three years ago she would win a gold medal, I would’ve been very surprised. But every single year, she made improvement by leaps and bounds. You will often see athletes rise and have success (like an S curve), exponentially improve, then some will level out. Lilly is still on the exponential rise, which is nuts because she just won an Olympic gold medal.”
DAVE BAUMEYER: Baumeyer is the transportation manager at Courier & Press, as well as assistant cross country coach and boys and girls head swim coach for Reitz High School. He coached Lilly during her four years of high school, from 2012 to 2015. He saw her swim as an eighth grader, went to some of her club meets, and watched her swim with GREAT.
“She wasn’t afraid to tell someone in her lane they needed to work harder. She took time out of her own practices to help some of the other kids.”
RAY LOOZE: Looze is the head swim coach at Indiana University, where King is a sophomore. Looze was in Rio with IU’s Olympic swimmers.
“There were a lot of factors (in King’s success her freshman year). She got into a great team environment; she had a lot of people to compete with every day. She joined a rich culture, got top-notch training and coaching. She never missed a practice session. We’ve got a great weight coach. Lilly’s body has really changed; her fitness level has gotten so much better.”
Katie Schnautz and Jessica Coleman — two of Lilly’s real-life friends since grade school — stopped by the offices of Evansville Living to tell us about the real Lilly King.
• To get ready for a race, she gets pumped up to music. Currently it’s Christina Aguilera; she also has loved No Doubt and Miley Cyrus. They call her music taste “diverse.”
• Lilly jokes that her tear ducts are broken. The only time she would ever cry was when watching Olympics. “We thought she would hear the National Anthem and lose it on the podium.” (Jessica)
• Lilly was most excited to meet Michael Phelps in Rio. She told the girls, “We’re friends now.” She also liked meeting Nathan Adrian and Missy Franklin.
• Lilly doesn’t get nervous before meets — she has more of an excited energy.
• Lilly maintained a 4.0 GPA in high school despite being out of school often for meets out of the state or country.
• Costumes, especially making them (loves trick-or-treating too). Low-down on the red costume seen in the swimming karaoke video: “She’s always wanted a fat suit. When she saw one for $15 in high school, she convinced her mom she needed it. She would bring it to swim practices to make us laugh.” (Katie) “It’s had its fair share of use.” (Jessica)
• Kentucky Derby: In 7th grade, Lilly threw a giant party where she had a craft station to make hats and also did a “horse race.” She froze horse-shaped toothpicks inside ice cubes and then had a race where kids blew the piece of ice across the table to determine a winner.
• Dogs, especially beagles. Lilly’s friends recall a trip to the mall in Bloomington where they spent two days, hours at a time, playing with the puppies at Anthony’s Pets.
• Cincinnati Reds • Lip sync battles • Target • Gilmore Girls and Friends • The Slice and El Charro in Evansville
No Vegetables, Please
Lilly loves food. From Twinkies to Donut Bank and McDonald’s, her diet is “anything but healthy,” say Lilly’s friends. Naturally, she considers Evansville’s annual West Side Nut Club Fall Festival her “favorite holiday.” Catch Lilly as the Grand Marshal of the Fall Festival Main Parade on Oct. 8.
Farms, Factories, and Faces
Born and raised in the Midwest, Kelsey Timmerman understands manufacturing and farming, which he examines internationally in his books “Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes” and “Where Am I Eating? An Adventure Through the Global Food Economy.” The latter is Evansville’s 2016 One Book, One Community selection. Evansville Living caught up with the author, who will speak at 7 p.m., Sept. 21 at the Old National Events Plaza.
How did your upbringing shape who you are today and the work you do?
Technically I was born a Hoosier, raised a Buckeye, and have lived in Muncie, Indiana, since 2007. I grew up surrounded by farmers and fields. Homeruns landed in cornfields. The high school I went to had a drive your tractor to school day. My dad grew up helping his father on the family farm. In many ways I was raised by farmers and those who do manual labor. These are individuals the economy might not always value, but I learned from their work ethic, wisdom, and dignity. I learned early on to appreciate what they did and how they did it. I think my upbringing really shaped what I’ve focused much of my work on — putting a face and giving voice to those who produce many of the things in our lives that we take for granted.
What do you plan to talk about in September?
Whether in my books, on stage, or with the nonprofit I cofounded, The Facing Project, my mission is always the same: connect people through stories to strengthen community. I’ll share how I got into this traipsing around the world thing, and then stories of farmers near and far, and how we are connected to them. Once I make this connection, I’ll talk about how I’ve sought to act as a responsible consumer, global, and local citizen. Every single issue I write about — poverty, hunger, slavery — takes place on some level in our own communities. I’ll point the audience to ways they can get involved in the Evansville community to combat these issues.
Almost lost behind the stacks of projects covering her desk, Christina Hager shoulders an enormous responsibility. As the executive director of the Evansville Civic Theatre, she must act as a sort of curator for its treasured legacy while propelling it full-force into contemporary performance and on into the future.
She doesn’t look worried. She looks confident and excited.
Now located at the corner of Fulton and Columbia, ECT has been at the cultural heart of the city since it was founded as the People’s Players back in 1925. Its popularity swelled and shrank a few times over the years, then enjoyed resurgence in the decades leading to the millennium while it was in the capable hands of acclaimed director Dick Engbers. Although it continued to offer high-quality entertainment, the theater faltered a bit after his retirement; ticket sales began to slow, the facility showed its age, patrons drifted away, and the vibrancy began to dim.
Enter Hager, stage left.
In the year since she came on board, attendance has increased, there have been improvements to the physical structure, and the offerings have expanded in scope. In June, after several years relying on guest directors, the organization announced it had hired a new artistic director, Kevin Roach.
In addition to its Main Stage productions, ECT partners with the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana to offer experimental “Black Box” theater in its Underground series. Its NEXTWAVE program provides theater classes for children, teens, and adults, and the hands-on experience of participating in a live production.
This season’s offerings include “Peter and the Star Catcher,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and“Crimes of the Heart,” on the Main Stage. The Underground includes “The Conversation About the Keys,” and “The Nether.”
Why did you decide to join ECT, and what was your prior experience?
I started as a grant writer with the Girl Scouts and became development director. Then I worked several years with Tales and Scales, a non-profit group promoting “music telling” and conducting programs for kids. We received Kennedy Center honors, but funding was an ongoing issue and it was difficult for the organization to operate on its own. I helped to transition it into a program at the Evansville Philharmonic.
The experience at Tales and Scales was a little bit similar to the situation ECT was facing, and when I first learned they were seeking an executive director, I did not apply. I said I’d have to be crazy to do that again. But the board members were passionate and determined, and that convinced me. If you’ve got a good board of directors, you’ve got something to work with.
What are some of the physical challenges, and what improvements are in the works?
We have a four-phase renovation project underway. We’re currently making structural repairs to the south side of the building and repainting. We’ll tackle the east side next; work there will include replacing doors and repainting that wall.
We were fortunate that we got our box office remodeled thanks to a Boy Scout who handled it for his Eagle Scout project. Another item high on the to-do list is the ladies restroom. It’s upstairs and there is no elevator, making it inaccessible for some people. So come hell or high water, we’re going to address that.
We’ve had the opportunity to make an offer on the property next door, so in the near future we should be able to expand and offer more parking. There is long-range talk of a whole new facility and we’ll continue that discussion, but in my mind it makes no sense to allow this place to fall down around our ears while we’re talking.
What’s the advantage of having both an artistic director and an executive director?
Dick Engbers was able to handle both areas. He was probably the most influential person in the history of ECT next to its founder Frances Golden. But it is the rare individual who can do that.
If you have to be concerned with things like fundraising, ticket sales, and the cost of repairs, it starts to affect your ability to be creative. If an executive director handles the administrative aspects, the artistic director is free to concentrate on production. He doesn’t have to worry about how to pay the light bill; he just thinks of how to make the magic on stage.
We’re really excited to have Kevin Roach come in as artistic director; he’s been a guest director in the past. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. He seems to be the perfect complement to the other staff.
How would you describe the Main Stage and the Underground?
The Main Stage productions are more traditional theater and are the most popular. Plays on the Main Stage run for six performances, and musicals run for eight performances. The Underground features are lesser-known, more edgy plays that generally run for just four performances. Sometimes the audience is sparse.
We did a lot of promotion of the Underground last season and the series really started building some momentum. “Bug” got a phenomenal response; that show was standing room only all four performances. We plan to build on that.
For tickets and more information about the Evansville Civic Theatre, call 812-425-2800 or visit evansvillecivictheatre.org.
For Newt Crenshaw, vice president of oncology at Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis, helping people has been the passion driving his career.
The Newburgh, Indiana, native and Castle High School graduate studied economics and mathematics at DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, before he was hired in at Eli Lilly. It was his work as an intern for the pharmaceutical giant, he says, that opened the door to start his 31-year career with Lilly, where he’s served in various roles.
“I knew I wanted to go into business,” says Crenshaw. “The good thing about sales is you are able to understand your customers and what their needs are. I think that’s very important.”
During his years at Eli Lilly, Crenshaw has filled a variety of roles for the company, including running two of Lilly’s largest business units in the U.S. and serving five years as the president and general manager for Eli Lilly’s Japan operations.
“Probably the most unique and memorable experience (at Eli Lilly was) spending five years in Japan … and where I had responsibility for all of our sales marketing, medical, manufacturing, and our research and development,” he says. “That was quite an interesting cross-culture experience as well as business experience.”
Now, Crenshaw and his wife Susan are planning to start a new venture. In April he accepted the position of president with Young Life, a Christian ministry that reaches out to middle and high school, and college-aged students in the U.S. and more than 100 countries around the world. It’s an organization Crenshaw has been familiar with since his youth.
“I’ve been involved with Young Life for longer than I’ve been with Lilly,” he says. “As I graduated Castle High School in the summer of 1981, my mom and dad began to explore getting Young Life started in Newburgh.”
The Crenshaw family has a “real heritage and legacy” with the ministry, he adds. Following the work of his parents, Crenshaw and his wife have served as volunteer leaders, were the founding committee chairs for Young Life in Zionsville, Indiana, and started a Young Life ministry in the Kansai region of Japan during their time living there.
“I’m excited about serving the Young Life staff as the leader of the organization, as they are out there caring for kids and loving them by sharing the gospel. That for me is a real high calling,” says Crenshaw.
For more information about local Young Life ministries in the Tri-State, visit younglife.org.
As a female working in the manufacturing industry, Janette Hostettler admits early in her career at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana in Princeton, Indiana, she struggled with anxiety over what her team members would think about what she had to say.
“I was my worst enemy and I would worry about what to say at the meeting and what people would think of me,” says Hostettler, who serves as the general manager of Paint, Plastics, and Plant Engineering at Toyota. “Then someone would say what I was thinking and I missed my opportunity.”
Hostettler says she learned to acknowledge and use her strengths and quickly she climbed the ladder from a team member in the quality engineering group in 2000 to her current position where she is responsible for 1,000 team members, managers, engineers, leaders, and more. The 46-year-old recently was honored as one of 130 women around the nation who work in manufacturing at the 2016 STEP Ahead Awards in Washington, D.C.
Women make up about 47 percent of the labor force, but only 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce.
“This award means I have an obligation to give back to the other women and encourage them to face their fears so we can turn things around,” says Hostettler, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Purdue University.
Hostettler credits shadowing her father, who worked as an anesthesiologist in Cleveland after emigrating from the Philippines to the U.S. with her mother and five daughters at the time, with what ignited her passion to be a leader in manufacturing. She began her career as a chemist at Red Spot Paint and Varnish Co. in Evansville.
Hostettler has raised three children with her husband Robert while working at Toyota. She says the Japan-based company allows her to balance work and home life and has daycare facilities and lactation stations as well.
Toyota is celebrating its 20th anniversary since breaking ground on its production facility in May 1996 in Princeton. The company has invested $4.3 billion into its Princeton operations and created more than 5,300 Indiana jobs.
“Going through the economic downturn you could hear a pin drop in the factory,” says Hostettler. “We went through the tsunami and some winter storms and had come up with creative ways to keep things running. Toyota has the capacity and capabilities to get through anything.”
For more information about Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, call 812-387-2266 or visit tourtoyotaindiana.com.
Basketball was a game changer in Mike Blake’s life. In high school, the Munster, Indiana, native played the sport, though he admits he saw more time on the bench than on the floor. When his career in news broadcasting began, it would be in the Evansville high school sports scene, including basketball, where he would make his name. Now his work covering local athletics has earned him a spot in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame with the Indiana Pacers Silver Medal award.
Each year, the Hall of Fame committee selects an individual who has contributed significantly to Indiana basketball in some way other than being a player or a coach. The honor was established in 1962 and past winners include former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight, University of Evansville Hall of Famer Arad McCutchan, and former Evansville Courier and Press writer Dan Scism.
“I think for anyone who grows up in Indiana … basketball is, I don’t know if you’d call it a religion, but it’s more than just another game,” says Blake, who is a graduate of Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa, and the University of Iowa, Iowa City
Blake made his start at 14 WFIE-TV in 1970 as a nightly weatherman and in 1971 began his duties as sports director at the station. Over the 41 years he had covered sports — Blake’s 46-year-plus career still continues at WFIE — he has covered numerous sporting events in the Tri-State, including the tragedy of the UE men’s basketball team plane crash in December 1977. It has been a career that surprises even Blake.
“Ironically, shortly after my wife Jenny and I got married, I said, ‘Honey, we’re probably going to have to leave Evansville.’ Career-wise I wanted to get to Chicago or New York,” he says. “Fortunately that never happened because if it had, I would have never had the opportunity and privilege to cover so many wonderful athletes, coaches, school officials, athletic directors, referees, fans, and parents. All the people that make up this basketball-crazy state.”
Blake and his wife traveled to Indianapolis March 23 to accept his award in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,150. It was a truly wonderful, overwhelming, and humbling day, says Blake, but one he was honored to be a part of. In his three-minute acceptance speech — keeping to three minutes was the challenge Blake says with a laugh — he thanked his family and his co-workers at WFIE through the years.
“I had said, ‘They never made a movie about high school basketball in North Carolina or Kentucky. But they did about Indiana, because Indiana basketball is special.’ Hoosiers are special,” says Blake. “This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime honor and I’m so grateful to have been recognized for it.”
For more information about the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, call 765-529-1891 or visit hoopshall.com.
Hometown: Campbelltown, Indiana
Job: Director of Corporate Communications, Vectren
Resume: Senior Biological Products Specialist,Sanofi Pasteur, 2004-2010
Family: Husband Chuck, son Clark, 3, and daughter Haven, 2
Working in the field of communications wasn’t something Natalie Hedde had planned while attending the University of Evansville. Her original idea had been to pursue education, but a talk with her academic advisor changed that.
“During a conversation with her, I shared my plans and she sort of laughed and said, ‘How about communications?’” says Hedde. “It’s as if she knew something I didn’t. I look back now and realize how influential that conversation was.”
For the last six years, Hedde has found a home at Vectren, and most recently as the director of corporate communications. It’s a company and job she truly finds rewarding.
“When you work for Vectren, you work on a team. You work for an organization that will work as hard for you as you choose to work for the company,” she says.
What do you enjoy the most about working in the energy industry?
What I enjoy most, including that of the areas we serve, is that energy is evolving. We challenge ourselves with anticipating what our customers are going to demand of us in an evolving energy market. As we learn from our customers, we too will continue to evolve and do our best to communicate to our customers the value and quality of the service they receive for the price they pay.
What is the most challenging aspect about your job?
The unforeseen. I think that pretty much sums it up.
What other organizations are you involved with in the Tri-State?
I recently finished serving six years on the board of Gilda’s Club Evansville. It is a tremendous organization doing a multitude of good things for our community. I also have given time to March of Dimes the past several years and am excited to see their Signature Chefs Auction event become even better. I remain active within the UE Schroeder School of Business. I really enjoy collaborating with my old professors to bring work to the classroom in a way that hopefully better prepares current students for the challenges of a career.
What is something you enjoy doing off the clock?
My husband and I, having both played athletics at UE (Natalie played softball and Chuck played basketball), really enjoy Aces games of just about any sport. We have a lot of fun being able to take the kids, who currently think any team dressed in purple is the Evansville Aces. We’re working on that. They love to be ‘announced’ out of the locker room and come running down the hallway at home like it’s the tunnel leading to the game floor. They each are co-captains on Team Hedde.
When I take the time, I also enjoy cooking. I’m not certain that it’s the food that I enjoy as much as what sitting around a table and sharing a meal with people you care about means to me. I grew up in a home where we ate dinner together; my husband did as well. We still get together with our parents very regularly and dine together. The sound of laughter that erupts during these times is a sound I will cherish and remember the rest of my life.
How do you balance your home-life with your career?
For all women, moms who pursue a career and to those who work full time for their families at home, cheers to all in their effort to strike a balance. It isn’t easy but there is a great deal to learn from one another and for that, I’m grateful.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to jump into communications?
Be nimble and practice patience. There are so many facets to communications, a person can work broadly or find a niche within this area of practice. It is a great platform from which to grow.
For more information about Vectren, call 812-491-4000 or visit vectren.com.
Walk This Way
Tate Fritchley never considered herself a pageant girl.
She could speak in front of a group, sure. Carrying on a conversation, the bubbly 18-year-old says, had never been
But the walking — it was always the walking that tripped her up.
“Growing up in 4-H, I always looked at the older girls and thought, ‘Man, I want to be like them!’” Fritchley says excitedly. “But I just never thought I could do it. I mean, being on stage, giving a 3-minute speech, the interview, the walking. I always thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t do all that!’
“And then during my first pageant, I messed up. I messed up so much,” she said offering an infectious giggle. “But I still got fourth-runner up. I was so excited I figured I’d give it another try.”
The next year, in the summer of 2015, Fritchley, a senior and three-sport athlete at North High School, once again traded in her cowboy boots for a pair of strappy sandals and shocked herself by being crowned Miss Vanderburgh County.
In January, she represented Vanderburgh County in the Miss Indiana State Fair pageant in Indianapolis, and the girl who couldn’t walk — the girl who never thought of herself as the queen type at all — walked away with the coveted crown once again.
“I mean, there were 87 other queens,” says Fritchley. “I didn’t think I had a chance, not at all. I thought, ‘What’s the point? These girls are so much older.’ But I knew I needed to be positive. I went into it thinking, ‘Whatever happens, God has a plan for me.’
“And when they called my name, that moment was crazy. Oh my goodness, was it crazy! I could hear my little sister screaming from the audience.”
Fritchley, the daughter of Paul and Jane Fritchley, joined 4-H 10 years ago, an active member in the Horse and Pony Club. She and her horse, Champ, have competed in a variety of events, including barrel and pole racing as well as western pleasure and trail class competitions.
She also is a member of the 4-H Color Guard and Drill Team, one of 12 horse-backed girls who post the American flag each night of the county fair before grandstand events.
She is the captain of North’s cheerleading squad, plays soccer and tennis, is a member of the National Honor Society, a senior member of an organization aimed solely at making freshmen students feel welcome, and also has a part-time job at Graceful Lady Glam, a formal dress store in Fort Branch, Indiana.
But this summer, she will embark on possibly her most thrilling adventure yet. She will begin her responsibilities as Miss Indiana State Fair in June, visiting as many as 50 county fairs before spending 17 days at the state fair in Indianapolis Aug. 5-21.
“I’ll be the face of the state fair,” she says, her voice filled with child-like excitement. “I’ll get to promote Indiana’s bicentennial year, meet cool people, talk to little kids, eat fair food, and just have a good time.”
After graduation, Fritchley says she wants to attend the University of Evansville to study physical therapy. Her dream is to work with athletes like herself, being a “positive influence” in their lives.
For more information about the Indiana State Fair Pageant, visit indianastatefair.com.
Where the Wild Things Are
On a chilly February morning, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden Zookeeper Shannon Irmscher stands in the outdoor exhibit of the zoo’s red panda Celeste. As the animal sleeps curled up at the top of a tree, Irmscher stands with her hand outstretched, offering a grape to Celeste, attempting to lure her awake and down the branches.
“She’s got one of the cutest faces you’ll ever see,” says Irmscher fondly. Eventually, Celeste unwinds herself, stretches along the tree limb, and crawls down to investigate Irmscher’s offering.
For the past seven years, Irmscher’s days have been filled with similar encounters at the Evansville zoo. But the Bedford, Indiana, native is quick to point out being a keeper is about more than feeding the animals. As an Indiana University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology and minors in animal behavior and psychology, her work includes keeping the animals healthy, enriching their lives in the zoo, and teaching visitors about the importance of the species that call Mesker home.
“If a member of the public sees me in an exhibit, of course I’m going to do everything I can to educate them on that species and create a more powerful interaction of them with the animal,” she says. “And I look at all of our animals as ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild.”
Irmscher — who has worked at the Indianapolis, Louisville, Kentucky, and Jacksonville, Florida, zoos — begins her day at Mesker with checks of all of her animals before serving breakfast of some kind to most. Once she’s made her rounds — Irmscher works in the Discovery Center and the nocturnal exhibits in the Kley Building with birds, primates, and the smaller cats — she works to clean their holding spaces and on enrichment activities for the animals.
“Basically we try to encourage behaviors they would exhibit in the wild,” she says. “Monkeys spend a lot of their time foraging, so I might hide their food in a pile of hay or put it in a container where they have to work to get it.”
Irmscher also spends time as the species population manager for the Lesser Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec and the Keel Billed Toucan. As one of the species population managers at Mesker, she monitors the genetics of the population for these two species in a software program. Her data then is used every three years in developing breeding and transfer plans for zoos across the nation.
“It’s fun,” says Irmscher. “Zoos can refer to (the data) and then follow the recommendations and make sure we have healthy populations genetically.”
For more information about Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden, call 812-435-6143 or visit meskerparkzoo.com.
Amy Canterbury’s journey from a small town in Kentucky to a corner office of the nonprofit that tops Forbes’ list of 50 largest U.S. charities isn’t so much a Cinderella story as it is a hardworking tale of success.
In December, the United Way of Southwestern Indiana, a division of United Way serving Vanderburgh, Warrick, and Spencer counties, named Canterbury as its new president and CEO. It’s not the first time she’s had the title of CEO, and it’s her past that has prepared her for this new venture.
Whether she was attending church or helping out around the family’s farm, Canterbury grew up surrounded by the idea of taking care of one’s neighbors. After graduating from Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, she spent 25 years in the banking industry – most of which were at Old National, which introduced her to United Way – learning business collaboration and networking before enduring what she calls a “mid-life crisis” and decided to go save the world.
“The things I learned in banking are the principles of what I needed to transition into nonprofit,” says Canterbury. “And then my heart, really the part of who I am, is what allowed me to transition to saving the world.”
Before joining the United Way, she was regional CEO of the American Red Cross, a partner agency. The transition between nonprofits was a smooth one thanks to the staff, which has helped her learn more of the details about the nonprofit and the services they offer the community.
In addition to funding 62 programs and 31 partner agencies, the United Way provides its own programs and services such as helping with FAFSA applications and its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). The VITA Program offers free tax help to low-to-moderate income residents who need assistance preparing their tax returns.
“We’re going to file electronically and we’re not going to charge them for it,” says Canterbury. “That keeps families and individuals from maybe going to get a payday loan advance while they’re waiting on a tax return.”
The organization also offers a 211 service, a statewide collaboration helmed through the Downtown office. The program is a resource for those looking for help with basic needs and social services, such as food, housing, and education. When someone presses 211 on a phone, the call is sent to the United Way office where an operator asks questions to make sure the best resources are being made available to them.
Going forward, Canterbury wants to see the nonprofit become the first place thought of if there needs to be an issue resolved, with the United Way sitting at the table collaborating with those who need to be.
“The community has always really supported the United Way in a huge way,” says Canterbury.
For more information about the United Way of Southwestern Indiana, call 812-422-4100 or visit unitedwayswi.org.