February 18, 2018
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Box Office Stars

Showplace Cinemas expands legacy with new entertainment center

Paul Stieler loves the movies — and not just because he owns movie theaters. Not only does the 80-year-old Showplace Cinemas owner (who professes being addicted to theater popcorn since he was 10 years old) still make his way to his office at the North location each day, he and his wife Joanne also have a standing date each Sunday to see a movie at the theater — always with plenty of popcorn.

"I was born into the theater business; I’ve been around it all my life. It’s just in my blood,” he says with a smile. “I could write a book on the movie business.”

Paul proudly states movies have been his career his entire life — save for 10 years when he was not a part of the business after his father shut down his neighborhood theater in 1956. The Stieler legacy in the industry goes as far back as the 1920s, when Paul’s grandfather Tom Shields operated a nickelodeon theater at the corner of Walnut and Canal streets. Nickelodeons were the earliest motion-picture theaters, popular in the early 1900s and named after the nickel admission price.

Blockbuster Royalty - Since the 1970s, Paul Stieler, above, has worked to build his company, Showplace Cinemas. However, the Evansville native has been a part of the movie theater industry his entire life, working in the Royal Theater (below, left), which his father owned up until the 1950s.

That theater would expand in the 1930s to become the Royal Theater — Paul’s father Rudolph Stieler would operate the Royal until its closing in 1956. Almost a decade would pass before Paul would find himself again delving into the industry.

“I started working for the former Loews Corporation at the Downtown theaters in 1967 as a part-time manager. Then, they wanted me to take over the Victory and the Majestic (as manager), which I did,” he explains.

▲ Above, second from left, Paul and a friend heralded in the premiere of “Planet of the Apes” in 1968 by driving past movie goers in Downtown Evansville wearing costumes from the film. Above center, moviegoers line up outside Showplace North in the early 1990s to catch films such as “Far and Away,” “Lethal Weapon 3,” and “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Above right, Mick Stieler, center, and the Stielers cut the ribbon on the IMAX theater, connected to Showplace East, in October 2004.

It was the time when movies were making a comeback, says Paul. He remembers opening three movies — “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Wait Until Dark,” and “The Graduate” — and the business the three titles brought in convinced him it was time to jump back into owning theaters. In 1970, Paul partnered with Joe Koewler to purchase the Victory from Loews, launching the Evansville native back into the movie world.

“I tell this story quite often,” he says with a smile. “I started the business with $6,000 and worked hard. I’m proud that I’m self-made and I’m still working.”

The pair would go on to build North Park Cinemas, opening the twin-screen location on Christmas Day 1973 — Showplace North now calls that location home. Business continued to grow until Paul and Koewler split their partnership in 1976, leaving Paul with North Park. Nine years later, he would construct Showplace East on Morgan Avenue, kicking off the building of his cinema business in Evansville and the Tri-State.

Like their father, the Stieler children all have had a hand in the family business through the years. Paul says each of his five kids would begin doing work at the theaters when they were 12 years old.

“When I very first started, it was at the Majestic Theater,” says Dianne Miles, Paul’s daughter and current event coordinator at the new Newburgh Showplace Family Entertainment Center. “I sold tickets and concessions.”

Her older brother Mick — current chief financial officer and chief operating officer for Showplace — also took tickets and helped manage the Victory.

Four of Paul’s five children still are involved with the operations of Showplace — along with Mick and Dianne, son Mark is director of operations and daughter Debbie is manager of Showplace East. (His son David works in pharmaceutical sales.)

“It’s been really great,” says Mick. “Our family has made a living at this. You open a new movie every week so it brings something new to the table. It’s an exciting business.”

“Oh, it’s been so much fun,” adds Dianne. “I used to go up with my friends and watch movies in the balcony at the Victory Theatre. I think I saw ‘Love Story’ 15 times.”

Where some families may find working together difficult, the Stielers say the closeness of their family allows them to succeed in their business.

“None of us are really strong, egotistical types of people,” adds Mick. “We’re down to earth. We try to work with each other. We bring stuff up and we all discuss it. We make all our decisions locally and quickly.”

“I always say there’s three things I’ve got going for me,” says Paul. “One, common sense. Two, I’m not afraid to work. And three, I’m a gambler.”

Showplace’s new Family Entertainment Center, opened in October and connected to the Newburgh theater along Bell Oaks Drive, definitely was a gamble for Paul and his family. Though the project came together over a two-year period, Paul says it’s actually been an idea of his for longer than that.

“I thought about doing this eight years ago, when my oldest son Mick and I went out to Los Angeles to check out bowling lanes there,” he says. “We came back and somehow the project got put on the backburner. I started building other theater locations.”

The idea for an entertainment center would find life again with the Stielers when brothers Mick and Mark traveled to Dallas, Texas, to visit a seminar held by Brunswick Bowling. There the two were able to gather information about entertainment centers attached to movie theaters, which they brought back to Paul.

It’s All Fun and Games - above left, Showplace Cinemas CFO and COO Mick Stieler has grown up in theaters, just like his father. He left the industry briefly to work at a CPA firm, but that did not last. “After about six months I said, ‘Nope, no way,’ and came back. The movie business is too exciting,” he says. The newest addition to the Stieler’s portfolio of locations is the Family Entertainment Center connected to the Newburgh theater. The space includes bowling lanes, arcade games, a laser tag arena, and a restaurant and bar. The FEC also includes banquet and meeting rooms for rentals. Since its opening, the FEC has played host to the Castle High School bowling team practices (above).

“We realized it was a win-win situation,” says Mick. “It all goes hand-in-hand, since it’s all entertainment. Why have guests just watch a movie for two hours when they could spend five hours with you watching a movie then going bowling or play games?”

Encompassing a 30,000-square-foot space, the FEC features 20 bowling lanes (including an eight-lane boutique bowling area for private parties), a two-story laser tag arena (with a theme based off the movie “Avatar”), a mega arcade featuring the latest state-of-the-art games, and a restaurant and bar as well as banquet and meeting rooms.

While a few companies outside the area were responsible for the design elements, bowling lanes, and laser tag area, the Stielers called upon many local organizations as well to complete the project, from Fibercom Electrical, Custom Signs, GAMI, and Square Yard Carpets to Sonitrol, Jeff Norman Painting, Alstadt Plumbing, J&L Acoustics, and Baylor Heating and Air. Empire Contractors, a company Paul has used to construct his theaters since Showplace East was built in 1985, was the general contractor on the project.

“People I don’t know come up and thank us for doing this. They say ‘We needed this in this area,’” says Mick.

“I’ve seen people come in and they are amazed,” adds Dianne.

For their father, the self-proclaimed gambler, the Family Entertainment Center is another worthwhile investment in his long career in the movie industry — one he believes will continue to grow and pay off.

“I like to put things together. I enjoy putting things together,” says Paul. “And hopefully make them successful.
We think it’ll be very successful.”

▲ Christian Schmitz, Newburgh FEC laser tag specialist.

For more information on Showplace Cinemas, call 812-426-0133 or visit showplacecinemas.com.

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“The Honor is All Mine”

I will just get right down to it. As most of you know, I am a man of few words. Oct. 21, 2017, was one of the most memorable days of my life.

Last August, I was invited over to my father-in-law’s home for a visit. I should have been suspicious as, let’s face it, who is going to invite me over for no reason at all? Instead, I was given the tremendous privilege of being asked to be Robert Carter’s Honor Flight guardian. That is not something to be taken lightly. There was no hesitation; I gave a resounding ‘yes’ and started my acclimation to Evansville’s Honor Flight program.

This actually is a fairly steep learning curve, because I doubt a group of volunteers were ever more organized — this must be where the term “military precision” was coined. They were more precise than a Rob Wathen clothing ensemble. (I bet the editor makes me take this out.)

There were two lengthy and mandatory training sessions and a dinner two nights prior to our departure. You can bet when the Honor Guard came out and the national anthem was played, no one in this crowd was kneeling. And Colin Kaepernick would not have had the cojones to do it either.

Arriving at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C., every passenger in the terminal gave these gentlemen a standing ovation as we walked through. Police escorts all day and the outpouring of appreciation and respect occurred literally everywhere we went.

Returning to Evansville, we were greeted by a crowd of a few thousand wildly cheering kids and adults alike. Many tears were shed throughout the day by those being honored, their guardians, and other Honor Flight EVV7 volunteers. I, of course, was steely and emotionless all day.

I am most thankful and grateful for a day I, and many others, will never forget.

(Read our story “Honorable Admiration” in the June/July 2015 issue of Evansville Business magazine, and look for a story on Honor Flight EVV7 in an upcoming issue of Evansville Living.)

Speaking of honor, Darrell Ragland, featured in the November/December 2012 issue of Evansville Living, passed away on Oct. 21. On Feb. 19, 2002, Darrell was given what amounted to a death sentence when told he had neuroendocrine pancreatic tumors.

“The doctors told me to get my paperwork in order,” he said.

Every time I or anyone would see Darrell, he always had the most infectious smile on his face. Gracious, humble, and just “first class” is how I would sum Darrell up and that does not do him justice. The following quote by Darrell in our story says far more than I ever could.

“The greatest thing ever given to me was being diagnosed with cancer. I started enjoying life more, and my wife and children. I truly believe my footsteps have been ordered by the Lord. I have to give him credit.” 

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. 

Todd A. Tucker
Publisher

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Change of Plans

City Tower at 420 Main is back on the market

Plans for the highly anticipated renovations of the city’s tallest building at 420 Main St. have fallen through. The building, renamed City Tower at 420 Main earlier this year, was put on the market once again at the end of November.

In February, F.C. Tucker Commercial announced the new local company City Tower Group LLC had plans to purchase the building and remodel it for mixed-use development with enhancements like improving the roof, elevator, and HVAC; removing the concrete fins; and adding luxury condominiums. The plan, discussed in the article “Tower of Strength” in the February/March 2017 issue of Evansville Business, was to transform floors 12 through 18 into luxury condominiums and floors one through 11 into mixed-use and restaurant space.

The project fell through when City Tower Group LLC couldn’t obtain the financing for the estimated $25 million plan. The building is listed for $5 million.

“While the option period for the proposed buyer has expired, they are still reviewing their options and meeting with potential financial lender partners to secure a favorable lending package, enabling the rehabilitation of the iconic building to move forward,” says F.C. Tucker Commercial president Ken Newcomb Jr. “The interest in the condominium sales was strong enough to keep that part of the project and promote home ownership in Downtown, as opposed to conversion to apartments or low-income housing, which a number of lenders had considered as a possibility.”

City Tower at 420 Main still is owned by the Baltimore-based Sollers Point Limited Partnership. The company has held the building since it opened in 1970. The location was Old National Bank’s headquarters from 1970 until 2004, and the private Petroleum Club occupied the building’s 17th and 18th floors from 1970 until it disbanded in 2006.

Today, Chapman Injury Lawyers claims offices on the ninth, 12th, and 17th floors of the tower. The firm has been located in the building since opening in 2008. 

For more information on the City Tower at 420 Main, call 812-473-6677 or visit fctuckercommercial.com.

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Get Physical

ProRehab keeps the Tri-State moving
CEO and physical therapist Pat Wempe and COO and physical therapist Andrea Baumann

Pat Wempe, CEO and physical therapist at ProRehab, might struggle at first to remember a person’s name, but he won’t forget their feet.

The company, aside from general physical and occupational therapy services, provides several specialty programs, like foot orthotics made in ProRehab’s on-site lab. Started in 1999, ProRehab has grown over the years to include 13 locations and two home health divisions in Kentucky and Indiana.

“Physical therapy and occupational therapy in general is still somewhat an unknown piece of the healthcare delivery system to most people, not knowing anything about what we do until they come here by way of an injury,” says Wempe.

For many patients who have something that is not moving properly, it often stops moving properly before it becomes symptomatic. While most patients don’t access physical or occupational therapy services until a physician refers them, Wempe says utilizing ProRehab’s services early can save patients time and money down the road.

In order to make sure they can continue offering specialized services to the community, ProRehab has made changes to the organization of the company, ensuring they can stay competitive and grow. Two years ago, ProRehab combined forces with several other physical therapy companies to form one holding company called Confluent Health, based in Louisville, Kentucky, and which allows the individual operating companies to share resources and services like compliance, continuing education, billing, and accounting to keep overhead costs down.

“We, as a viable company, have to keep making changes to position ourselves so we can keep doing business the way we’re doing it,” says Wempe.

Part of ProRehab’s culture that has remained the same over the years is to stay involved in the day-to-day operations and prioritize patient care, which means Wempe and others like owners Bob Tank, Dan Baumann, and Andrea Baumann, COO and physical therapist, make sure to stay in the trenches with their staff.

“It makes a big difference if we can talk the talk and walk the walk as far as being in there seeing the patients and understanding documentation systems and the nuances of schedules,” says Andrea.

“We didn’t get in the business of physical and occupational therapy to get out of patient care,” says Wempe.

For more information about ProRehab, call 812-476-0409 or visit prorehab-pc.com.

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Path of Travel

Driving instructor enjoys teaching laws of the road

Risk taker and thrill seeker — many have asked veteran driving instructor Bob Hawkins if he fits any of these descriptions. The daunting task of teaching first-time drivers surely has afforded him some interesting stories. But to Hawkins, there’s nothing very terrifying about the job.

“Everyone thinks being an instructor is such a scary thing,” he says. “But really, kids are all the same — once they have a little confidence, most of them take right off.”

Hawkins studied to be a physical education teacher at the University of Evansville and, as part of his studies, earned his certification in teaching driver’s education, which he started doing in 1978.

“I’ve coached football all over the place (including Castle South Middle School and Southridge High School) and driver’s education was one of the things I did as my summer employment,” he explains.

Hawkins now is retired and teaches driver’s education part time at Road Star Driving School, 8887 High Pointe Drive, Newburgh, IN, opened 14 years ago by Vickie and Richard Meek. First-time drivers, upon completion of these driver’s education classes, obtain a probationary license three months after their 16th birthday. Road Star also offers courses to adults driving for the first time.

“I start them all as if they don’t know anything and go from there,” says Hawkins. “The first drive is just getting them acclimated to the car. The second drive is like a country drive, and the third is parallel parking and city driving.”

He adds he is fortunate — he doesn’t have many crazy stories to tell.

“I had a student once, he had both hands on the wheel and was doing okay. All of a sudden, his glasses started slipping down,” he says. “He had to take a hand off the wheel to adjust his glasses. As soon as he did that, and he wasn’t paying attention, he jerked us right down into a ditch.”

“Every day is different,” he adds with a smile. “You never know what each drive is going to be like. We get kids at all different levels, but we start them all at the same place.”

For more information on Road Star Driving School, call 812-858-3995 or visit newburgh.roadstardriving.com.

▲ Driver’s education veteran instructor Bob Hawkins has almost 40 years of experience teaching young and adult new drivers the laws of the road.
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Apples to Androids

Get the stats on the tech industry’s hottest gifts
moto z2 force edition (left) and iPhone X (right)

The tech world was taken by storm this fall when Apple unveiled the new iPhone X, and many diehards of the brand hope to find the newest iteration waiting for them this season under the Christmas tree. Andriod phones, however, continue to show they not only keep up with Apple, but might even beat the tech giant. Motorola released its most recent challenger last year — the moto z family. With the ever-growing price of Apple products and the comeback of brands like Motorola, is the iPhone X really worth the hype?

moto z2 force edition
Price: Starting at $720
Storage: 64 gigabytes
Dimensions: 76 by 155.8 by 6.1 millimeters
Weight: 143 grams
Display: 5.5 inches
Battery: all day battery
Water protection: water repellent nano-coating
Camera: dual 12MP rear cameras, 5 MP front camera
Sensors: fingerprint sensor
Colors: super black, fine gold, lunar grey (T-Mobile exclusive)

iPhone X
Price: Starting at $999
Storage: 64 gigabytes or 256 gigabytes
Dimensions: 70.9 by 143.6 by 7.7 millimeters
Weight: 174 grams
Display: 5.8 inches
Battery: wireless charging
Water protection: splash, water, and dust resistant
Camera: dual 12MP rear cameras, 7MP front camera
Sensors: Face ID
Colors: silver, space gray

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Midwest Vibe

Redstitch’s office reflects city’s industrial past

A mix of old and modern greets guests and clients as they enter Redstitch Digital. Nestled in the former Indiana Stove Works building at 104 N. Sixth Ave., Redstitch employees share space in a collaborative environment that blends exposed brick and old barn wood with industrial elements and contemporary décor.

When co-founders Todd Chase and Wes Davis — who both share a passion for baseball, hence the name Redstitch — began planning their new office space, they both knew they wanted to keep the former storage area as original as possible.

“I think both Wes and I just love the rustic, industrial feel,” says Chase. “We wanted to have that warm, homey atmosphere.”

The two founded Redstitch — a business growth marketing company working with clients from all over the country — in 2013 and worked out of a space above Chase’s garage in McCutchanville. A few years later, the company outgrew the set up, prompting Chase and Davis to move into their current office in 2016.

“Whenever we saw this building, it had really good bones for that rustic, industrialized feel we had been looking for,” says Chase. “Also, right at the time … they came out with the new Evansville Master’s Plan and made this area the Maker’s District. That very much fits in line with our agency.”

“From a culture standpoint, we really wanted something different — something very open, collaborative, and a creative space,” adds Davis. “We both had this vision, but seeing what this space was before and seeing it all come alive, it’s been fun.”

Occupying around 3,800 square feet, Redstitch’s front office houses a waiting area for guests and space for its current 10 employees, but allows room to grow. Toward the back sits a lounge and kitchen and on the other side of the office, a former loading dock was converted into an open meeting spot, equipped with leather couch and a tall whiteboard. A back conference room features a large, handmade wooden table and another whiteboard.

Along a small hallway, across from electrical boxes from the building’s original use, sit two huddle rooms named after Chase’s and Davis’ mothers, who both passed away from cancer.

“They are a reminder that life is short and to try to make an impact as much as these ladies did on the people they touched,” says Chase.

For the founders, the entire office reflects the unique mentality of the company, which speaks to their Midwestern values.

“We wear where we have come from on our sleeves,” says Chase. “Looking at our office space, you know we’re going to roll up our sleeves and work hard.”

▲ Redstitch Digital’s Wes Davis, Emily Bridges, Kristin Truelove, Rick Iorio, Scott Wambach, Brian Harding, Jennifer Vaughn, and Todd Chase (and Chase’s dog Mika) utilize the company’s collaborative office space in their work as a growth marketing agency. “The office sets up the tone for the kind of work we do every day,” says Chase.

For more information about Redstitch Digital, call 812-618-3785 or visit redstitchdigital.com.

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From the Forge

Indianapolis hotel showcases urban industrial style

Getting a hotel room in Indianapolis isn’t always easy. When I learned of a new hotel being developed on the city’s north side that featured industrial architecture — the north side’s first boutique hotel — I was eager to check it out. Ironworks Hotel Indy, down the street from the popular Keystone at the Crossing shopping district, is a 100,000-square-foot hotel with 120 guest rooms, a fitness center, and three meeting and conference rooms with a decidedly urban industrial style.

Ironworks Hotel Indy also offers 15,000 square feet of street-level retail space, including Cunningham Restaurant Group’s Rize, a breakfast and lunch restaurant open seven days a week that also offers catering, and Provision, which occupies 5,000 square feet on the second floor and features an outdoor patio for lunch and dinner. (Evansville’s Bru Burger Bar in the former Greyhound Terminal also is a Cunningham Restaurant Group property.) Blue Sushi Sake Grill, Indianapolis’ first location, also is open on the property.

Guest rooms at the Ironworks are unlike any room you’ve stayed in. Unique touches include a high ceiling, 60-inch Ultra HD television, a spa-like bathroom with a luxury shower, a large leather couch, and the fact that, for a fee, rooms can be pet friendly.
Ironworks Hotel Indy is adjacent to the Ironworks at Keystone mixed-use apartment and retail complex, which houses, among other establishments, a Ruth’s Chris Steak House.


For more information about Ironworks Hotel Indy, visit ironworkshotel.com/Indianapolis.

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In a Word: Influence

We asked three community influencers to share their thoughts on one word.

CHARLES COMPTON
When I think of ‘influence,’ I don’t necessarily think of it in grand, sweeping contexts. Not that examples of this type of influence don’t abound, whether from figures in history or those special teachers, coaches, business and community leaders, workplace mentors, friends, and relatives who have had real and lasting impacts in our individual lives and in our community.

To me, influence starts from the simple concept that sometimes gets lost — we influence others and our circumstances all the time, whether we mean to or not. The more we keep this in mind, and the more we try to be positive influences on our family members, our co-workers, friends, and strangers alike in the little things and on a daily basis — when it would otherwise be easy for us to be preoccupied with our own worries or the immediate task at hand — the more effective we can be when we are called upon to be a positive influence when those big issues come around.

Compton is the managing member of the Evansville office of Jackson Kelly PLLC.

JILL CARPENTER
Negative influences seem inescapable these days — nasty politicians, celebrities behaving badly, opioid addiction. Is negative now the norm? Working with nonprofit organizations, I see the effects of negative influences in our communities — a child taken from their home because of physical abuse (or worse); a woman fleeing domestic violence; a homeless drug addict needing help and shelter. We have a responsibility to provide places of positive influence for those who haven’t encountered much positivity or hope before — maybe ever.

Positive influence isn’t just about being a mentor, a successful businessperson, or a visible personality. It’s also about the hard work of reaching people where they are, supporting their needs right now, with a spirit of generosity, respect, humility, and, above all, hope. Fortunately, my work also lets me witness nonprofit organizations serving the most vulnerable in our community day in and day out, making their spaces, programs, resources, and outreach into powerful positive influences for the greater good.

Carpenter is the executive director of the Community Foundation Alliance.

CHARLES HEDDE
The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something — influence. When I think of influence I tend to think of the people and events in my life that have shaped who I am and who I strive to be. There are coaches, teachers, family, friends, and even strangers who all have played a part.

But the greatest impact on my character, on my development, and on my behavior was a gift from my dad. He was an exceptional man, and I was fortunate to have had him in my life. Doing good things for all people in hopes it may make them better was part of his daily routine. He influenced more people than he likely realized, and he certainly displayed influence through behavior and was the most consistent example of the word I have ever known.

Hedde is a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

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Home Run

Mattingly Charities brings athletic programs to underserved kids
Claire Baumgartner and Don Mattingly play during a Highland Challenger League game.

After his long and illustrious career in Major League Baseball, Don Mattingly, now the manager of the Miami Marlins, decided he wanted to give back. When determining how and where to begin his nonprofit organization, Mattingly Charities, Don follow ed Mark Twain’s advice — “Write what you know.”

“We started off just by following our hearts and following places we felt like we wanted to be involved in,” he says. “For me, it was easy to start with sports activities.”

Now in its 10th year, Mattingly Charities began as a way to bring sports equipment to children and leagues that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to play. Since then, it has evolved to provide children with more opportunities to play in leagues and be involved in various programs.

“We have a heart for inner city, underserved kids,” says Don. “Giving kids opportunities to give them the best chance to develop, to have success, and to make good choices so they can move forward and sustain themselves and give themselves an opportunity.”

The nonprofit has held events across the country in New York and Los Angeles, but has always considered Evansville home. As Evansville natives, both Don and his wife Lori knew the organization needed to focus on helping Evansville children and have made it a priority to partner with local organizations like the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana and the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville.

▲ Musician Brad Warren, former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, Lori and Don Mattingly, and musician Brett Warren pose in front of Don’s Gold Glove Award at last year’s fundraising event for Mattingly Charities. The annual event serves to raise funds for the programs and resources the organization provides.

Mattingly Charities provides support to various community programs like the YMCA Summer Learning Program, which aims to keep kids engaged in reading and educational programs during the summer, and the City of Evansville Splash into Summer program, which provides basic necessities like towels, flip-flops, swimwear, and swim diapers for residents to be able to take advantage of the city pools.

“We know this is our home base, and we want to continue to give back,” says Lori. “My mom was a teacher’s aide at Glenwood Academy, and I think I just got to see the kind of children she worked with and the kind of children she actually helped. It’s just important for us to give back to our community.”

For Lori, her biggest accomplishment has been supporting the Highland Challenger Baseball League that provides a safe and fun environment for children with disabilities to be able to play ball.

“One of the things that got us started with the Challenger program was that my mom did work with the same kind of children at Glenwood,” says Lori. “When I went to go see one of those baseball games, it brought back all of those memories. What the Challenger League does for these kids is just remarkable — giving them a chance to feel as normal as they can possibly feel.”

“I can’t tell you how many parents we’ve seen just as we’re out shopping somewhere who come up to us and say, ‘My granddaughter or my child was involved, and you don’t even know how excited they are to be a part of that league and what they do,’” says Don.

For Don, one of the highlights of his work with Mattingly Charities was being invited to send a team of 12 kids and coaches to participate in the MLB’s round-robin tournament during the 88th MLB All-Star Week in Miami over the summer.

▲ A team of 12 boys from the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville were selected to play in the 88th MLB All-Star Week in Miami over the summer. The tournament was part of the Mattingly RBI, a part of the MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) initiative.

“To be able to talk to the kids who were coming from our program, had never been on a plane, and got to come for four or five days playing against other kids from all over the country — that was a great feeling for me,” says Don.

The tournament was part of Mattingly RBI, a program implemented in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville now in its third year and part of the MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) initiative. The program helps underserved kids through athletic participation, social development opportunities, and educational advancement programs.

“It obviously goes a long way to have Don involved,” says Ron Ryan, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville. “You have to do so much in sales now be it popcorn, candy, or magazines to help fund leagues. With the Mattingly RBI program, there are no fees. It’s an opportunity these kids would not have otherwise if it weren’t for Don and Lori.”

The programs supported through Mattingly Charities aren’t only about bringing opportunities for area kids, but also about uniting the community through children’s athletics. When the RBI program first began, there were around 150 kids participating. This year, Mattingly RBI served around 400 kids.

“Just in the last two years we’ve been running our program here, I’ll see parents and aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters coming to watch their kids,” says Ryan. “That hasn’t always happened, so that’s been special.”

While the nonprofit focuses its energy and funds in Evansville, the organization doesn’t have a local office or any paid employees. All of the work is done on a volunteer basis to ensure 100 percent of the organization’s funds can go back into programs and services.

A major way Mattingly Charities raises funds is through its annual event, which this year is entitled A Bronx Reunion: An Evening with Bernie Williams and Don Mattingly presented by United Companies. The event will take place at 6 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2018, at Tropicana Evansville and will feature Yankee legend Bernie Williams, who also is a classically trained guitarist. Leading up to the event, an auction powered by HandBid will be available, which goes live Dec. 1 and closes the day of the event, offering signed memorabilia and unique experiences in support of the organization.

“We’re just really grateful for all the people who have helped us at this point,” says Don. “I grew up in a situation that was really positive. I can’t complain about what’s happened to me in my life and the opportunities I’ve had. I think that’s what pushed me to want to be involved with the kids who may not have those opportunities in front of them. We want to create those opportunities.”

Click here to purchase tickets to A Bronx Reunion: An Evening with Bernie Williams and Don Mattingly Jan. 9 at Tropicana Evansville.