The IU Athletic Department creed, “The Spirit of Indiana: 24 Sports, One Team,” holds true as Hoosier athletes rally around Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Morris, who is recovering from a C6 spinal cord injury he sustained during a mountain bike accident May 17.
Morris helps Hoosier student-athletes get bigger, faster and stronger for a living.
Some of those he has helped in the past are now stepping up to help him.
“Tom and I have become very close over the past three or four years,” said Caleb Konstanski, a senior on the men’s soccer team. “When this all happened, I wanted to find a way to help him with some money.”
Konstanski presented the idea of printing T-shirts and selling them to raise money for Morris and his family. He contacted IU senior basketball player Jordan Hulls’ mother about getting the T-shirts made.
Bob Costello, owner of the Village Deli at 409 E. Kirkwood Ave. and Hulls’ uncle, is a long-time friend of Morris’. He organized a fundraiser at the restaurant that took place Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
All proceeds from food sales on Wednesday went to Morris and his family for financial help, Costello said. The Village Deli servers also donated all tip money they received that day.
“We peaked at lunch,” Costello said. “We were really busy between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Our goal was $10,000 and a guesstimate is we are close to $7,000, and we sill have six hours left."
Costello said a mix of regulars and newcomers came in, and that some customers came in for breakfast and then came back for lunch with a group.
“Christa (Morris, Tom’s wife) was here on her birthday with some friends to celebrate,” Costello said.
“Today it was about the fundraiser,” Village Deli server and IU junior Ryan Rowe said. “All the servers volunteered to work for minimum wage and no tips today.”
All of it goes towards the same cause.
“We are in the process of setting up a trust for Tom,” Costello said. “They are going to use the money for added medical expenses. For example, they need to purchase a wheelchair and any expenses insurance will not cover.”
Other than food sales, “Tom’s Team” T-shirts and wristbands were sold to raise money.
Sarah Siler, a sophomore fashion design major, manned the T-shirt table in the afternoon. She said the demand for the T-shirts was so high that they are currently sold out of all sizes except XL.
“We ordered more shirts that will definitely be in by the weekend,” Costello said. “People can stop by the deli and buy them.”
Following in Morris’ footsteps, Harrison Petts, a junior on the men’s soccer team, competed in the Hoosierman Triathlon on Sunday at the Fairfax State Recreational Area in Bloomington.
“Me and Tom had been training together for the Hoosierman Triathlon just before his accident,” Petts said. “My goal was to beat him in the race, and then once the accident happened I was trying to think of ways to help.”
Fundraising efforts at the Hoosierman were a little more than $2300, based on Petts’ finish. He completed the course in 59:39, finishing first in his age group and seventh out of 152 overall.
During the swim, his adrenaline took over and caused him to swim at a faster pace than he would have liked, Petts said.
Once on the bike, he settled down. However, his legs felt heavy as he went into the running phase, which he said he ran slower than desired.
“I was a little bit nervous,” Petts said. “I was still happy I did it in under an hour, which was my goal.”
Why we help
Petts described Morris as a “big-brother figure” for the way he pushes him in
Morris taught Petts everything he knows about cycling, Petts said. He even helped Petts pick out the bike he rides now.
“We’re a lot alike; we love working out and doing the fitness stuff,” Petts said. “He became a mentor relationship to me. I really look up to Tom.”
Hulls also wanted to help Morris because of the relationship they have
“We have been able to form a pretty good relationship over the past four years,” Hulls said. “I am just trying to help out in any way I can for Tom.”
Due to NCAA regulations, student-athletes spend just as much time during the offseason, if not more, with a strength and conditioning coach as they do a member of their team’s regular coaching staff, Konstanski said.
“I had been in there almost every day just to see him and to workout,” Konstanski said. “During the summer we are not allowed to be in contact with any of our coaches except him. So for three years straight, you form a relationship with them. I consider Tom as a friend, not just a coach.”
For more information on how to donate toward Morris’ recovery, visit the family’s fundraising website, www.gofundme.com/toms-team.