Photo by Jeff Stoffer

Tailgating for the troops

Dan Cole, a U.S. Army veteran and Legionnaire from Madison, Ind., celebrates his devotion to Indianapolis Colts football every Sunday there's a home game. He and his fellow members of "The Blue Crew" fan club swarm into a parking lot not far from Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. They come in vans, pickups and RVs. They eat, drink, play games and watch NFL football on TVs wired to car batteries.

Behind all the fun and festivity, there is often a cause bigger than what happens on the field. The group, which has raised awareness and funds for various charities during the season, dedicated its Nov. 28 gathering to National Guard troops stationed in Afghanistan. A silent auction and a cornhole (bean-bag toss) tournament netted approximately $1,000 to purchase Internet service for the Guardsmen so they can communicate with their families over the holidays.

"Speaking as a veteran, this is important," Cole says. "Those who are serving are giving their all for us so we can be here tailgating and having fun. It's the least we can do."

Cole, who in the past has raised money to purchase gift items for deployed soldiers, learned that Internet service is extremely difficult to obtain for those serving in the Middle East. The Blue Crew adopted a platoon out of Camp Atterbury, Ind., and set a goal of raising enough money to purchase services for the holidays.

Blue Crew member Nate Tilse of Clayton, Ind., says the fan club regularly raises funds for causes. "We do it through our golf outing, silent auctions, cook-offs... Whatever we do we do for charity. We really want the locals to get out and support our troops. We'll do whatever it takes."