Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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October 4, 2012

Wilfong to be honored by Colts

GHS teacher, volunteer firefighter will be featured during game on Sunday.

GOSHEN — Shelly Wilfong has fought fires and taught Social Studies for about the same amount of time — the past 19 years.

In fact, she didn’t know what career she would go into full-time after college — firefighting or teaching. Luckily, the 1990 Goshen High School graduate came back to her hometown and found a full-time job at GHS and a volunteer position at Elkhart Township Fire Department.

And she will be honored for her work with an “Anthem Angel” recognition at Sunday’s Indianapolis Colts home football game against the Green Bay Packers, according to a press release from the Colts.

“There are thousands of volunteer firefighters in Indiana,” Wilfong said Wednesday. “It feels strange that they picked me. It’s neat. I’m very honored by it, but I know that I’m one of many.”

The “Anthem Angels” program is presented by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which honors one person every home game for outstanding contributions to a community, according to the release, focusing on honoring “First Respondents” who may normally get little to no recognition for their daily efforts in human service-related professions. Each honoree receives four VIP tickets for the game, as well as a feature story in the Colts gameday magazine and on-field recognition during the game.

Roberta Wilfong, Shelly’s mother, nominated her daughter for the award. She said she saw a man being honored at an earlier Colts game and wondered about the program.

“I looked into it and thought, ‘Shelly fits all of that requirements,’” Roberta said. “She’s very civic-minded.”

For the past several years Shelly has been the director of Goshen High School’s highly regarded International Baccalaureate program.

As for firefighting, Shelly said it’s in her blood; both her father and uncle are firefighters with the Elkhart Township Fire Department, and she loved the “fun and exciting” nature of the work.

“It’s important when I’m talking to students about community service that I practice what I preach,” she said. “Boy, I really love it.”

Shelly, who also has season tickets for the Colts, has been with the same department for 19 years, serving as a captain and now as a lieutenant. She said she gets to “boss her dad around” because she’s an officer.

“I enjoy being able to help people,” she said about her time at the fire department. “Firefighters get called in the most terrible situations and they see people in the most terrible moments of their lives. We’re there to help. If we can help comfort them and make it easier, in any way, that means a lot to me.”

Beyond her volunteerism through the Elkhart Township Fire Department, Shelly also donates eight Colts tickets for patients and family members at Indiana University Proton Radiology in Bloomington, according to Roberta. She’s done this ever since her niece was a patient at the radiology center for treatment for a brain tumor.

“Someone donated tickets to her niece and mom for IU basketball,” Roberta Wilfong said. “That was such a nice gesture, and Shelly donates because it gives them something to do, something that they might not get to do otherwise.”

Roberta Wilfong said she’s very happy Shelly won the award, especially considering all she’s done for others.

“I’m just proud as a peacock,” she said. “Both of my daughters are very successful, and Shelly values her family so much — and she means so much to us.”

Roberta also said that, with this in mind, she wants people to keep Chuck Pagano, the Colts football coach, in mind and prayers. Pagano was recently diagnosed and hospitalized with leukemia.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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