Peyton's legacy continues in Indianapolis

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Peyton Manning's contribution to Indianapolis goes far beyond the football field. The Peyton Manning Children's Hospital is probably the most visible example of his generosity, and he continues to touch the lives of young patients.

Manning's picture may not be on the stadium downtown, but his name is on the hospital building and in the hearts of many if its inhabitants.

What is in a number? 16 is an important milestone and 18 is a big deal, too. But here, 20 is the number you want.  

"I heard that 20 was a good room," Maddy Helpling observed.  She is spending 29 weeks in her hospital room battling bone cancer.

"Time passes so slow when you don't feel well, when I don't feel good but looking up there and seeing Peyton it makes it all a little easier," she said, observing the Manning memorabilia surrounding her on the walls. She is not all caught up in the red hot debate over rings or the ride debate.  This 19-year-old from Elwood is all blue.

"I will root for Peyton before the game starts and a lot of people say that but as soon as there is that first snap, it's all Colts," she stated.

And who can blame her?  After all, Matt Overton and Pat McAfee accompanied her when, as reigning homecoming queen, she returned to Elwood to crown her successor.  In fact, Overton, the Colts long snapper, signed his jersey for her.  She was wearing it when we spoke to her.

Maddy also got an interesting phone call recently.

"I almost didn't answer it.  It was a blocked call.  It was 7:00 pm and I just finished watching the Book of Manning on television.  It was ironic and I answered it and he said, 'Is this Madelyn?'  I said yes and he said, 'Hi Maddy, this is Peyton Manning.'  I was like, 'Hi, Peyton," she swooned.

She says the two did not talk football, or Super Bowls or passing records.

"I was in shock.  I didn't know what to say.  He kept talking and said he was praying for me and my family and wanted me to know he was thinking of us.  It was so sweet.  It lifted my spirits.  It really did," sitting on her bed in the Peyton Manning room at the Peyton Manning Hospital for Children. 

Speaking at a news conference in Denver on Wednesday, Peyton mentioned he still has ties here in Indianapolis.

"Call a child in the hospital; I still have a strong association with the Children's Hospital there," Peyton said.

Number 18 may have changed jersey colors, but his true colors are still shining through.

Maddy says it is very clear that even though Peyton is playing in Denver, he has made a commitment to stay connected with oncology patients here in Indianapolis.  That is one point that needs to no clarification or debate.