INDIANAPOLIS – Silence said so much in the midst of a four-minute media time out.
Finding such solitude is easy at the cavernous Hinkle Fieldhouse on a lot of days when the building’s unoccupied, with some parts soaked in sun from the windows on its ends or lit from the hanging fixtures above.
It’s finding such a peace with nearly ten-thousand fans in the bleachers that’s a bit difficult. Getting the focus of such a gallery for long enough to stay quiet and produce such an environment would be a rare feat for even the most lauded personality at Butler University.
But that’s exactly what Eric Day had on one chilly yet sun soaked Saturday afternoon on January 25th at the historic basketball venue.
“I was talking with my buddy, my best friend from home Bo Davidson and we were both discussing when I went out there and spoke, we have never heard Hinkle Fieldhouse so quiet,” said the Butler University student, who walked back and forth with a mic steady in his hands.
With a near capacity crowd at his full attention, Day began to talk about his journey over the past few years. His treatment for a brain tumor, arrival at Butler University, and the creation of a slogan that has given him a chance to speak during the Bulldogs’ Big East game with St. John’s on this particular day.
“Just how everybody was so engaged, you could hear a pin drop,” recalled Day of his moment on the during the first media timeout. “Which is one of the neatest experiences I’ve ever witnessed.”
Perhaps the greatest is the growth of the message on his shirt. A Butler-like blue with “G3” on the side and “Stay Positive” in white letters on the front. It’s growth over twelve months has been nearly as impressive to witness.
The “Stay Positive” Game-and his speech-were the ultimate proof of his attitude enlightenment.
Early in 2013, Eric Day was still carrying around a few wrist bands to hand out to random people he might interact with on campus or those who had heard about the fundraiser.
On one particular day at Hinkle Fieldhouse in February of that year, while doing an interview about his story, Day even went up to a few Butler athletes who wandered onto the court.
“Stay Positive,” was his message to the people he gave the bands to. That’s what’s written on the blue accessory which he started handing out in small bunches when he decided to create the wristbands not long before this particular day.
“I had 50 and my only goal was to help out maybe my 50 closest friends,” said Day of the bands. “The motto was to ‘Stay Positive’ and I wasn’t sure what anybody else would think, if it would help anybody else.”
At its root, Day’s goal for creating the wristbands was two-fold. First to try to pass along the need for people to be positive in difficult times, as he tried to be during his own treatments with a brain tumor before arriving at Butler. A fellow cancer patient-seven-year old Allison-would prove the inspiration for using the “Stay Positive” motto because of the example she set for Day as the treatments continued.
“Just want to give her all the credit because with her going through radiation morning with me, she was also going through chemotherapy at night by herself,” said Day. “She was more positive than anyone I’ve ever been around.”
So that brings along the second goal of the bands: Raising money for Jill’s House. An organization that helps children with cancer, which has an office in Bloomington, was a place that offered support to both Day and Allison during their treatment. So the bands began selling for one dollar around campus, with the proceeds going directly to Jill’s House.
“We’re all faced with our own issues and adversity. It’s how we respond. At the end of the day we still have the problem but the one thing that we can control is our attitude,” said Day as a mission statement for the “Stay Positive” campaign.
He would have to repeat it a lot more over the next year.
In the early days of the campaign by Day, the bands had the same message but were a different color. Alex Barlow should know, he still has one.
“It was a green band,” said Barlow of the “Stay Positive” bracelet he first received, but the ones he sees on TV are a little bit different now.
Yes, TV-as in major networks.
“Watched Coach (Brad) Stevens on ESPN, put his hand up to make a call and you could see the ‘Stay Positive’ band,” said the Butler junior guard of the former Bulldogs’ leader, who is now the head coach of the Boston Celtics.
Not long afterwards, Barlow saw the band on the big stage again in another sport.
“I was watching Notre Dame-Arizona State saw that (Irish linebacker) Prince Shembo had one on after a sack,” said Barlow of the game on NBC Sports.
Erik Fromm knows the feeling. Like Barlow he received his “Stay Positive” band early when his father Leonard was undergoing cancer treatments. He took on a bigger role with passing out the bands and the entire effort following his father’s death early in 2013.
“Coach (Chuck) Pagano,” said Fromm when asked of a big name that he’d seen with the band.
Indeed the Colts’ coach was one of those who wore a band on the big stage, sporting it for most of the 2013 season-including a pair of nationally televised NFL playoff games. Punter Pat McAfee also sports the accessory which, like others, was given to him by Day personally.
“We all kind of put the major league athletes on a different pedestal,” said Day. “We all think they are maybe not as human or they’re greater than us. When they wear it, it makes you realize that we’re all even, we’re all equal and it can affect everybody.”
Others of note who are sporting “Stay Positive” bands include Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, the father of Butler freshman guard Elijah Brown. Zach McAlister of the Cleveland Indians also had a band of his own and more recently Day presented one to Pacers forward David West.
“It’s just a simple message that’s affected by everyone,” said Day-and that’s more true by the minute.
The creator of the bands says he’s distributed the bands to 42 different states and three countries. The efforts, which also included “Stay Positive” T-Shirts, have raised around $20,000 for charity-with Day estimating that at least 10,000 of the bands have been distributed.
“In one of my classes-there are about 23 of us-and all 23 of use wear a Stay Positive band,” said Day. “So no matter where I go, I see a blue band somewhere”
So why the popularity? Barlow gives all the credit to Day and his ability to deliver his story of overcoming cancer and it’s treatments through the proper state of mind.
“I am at times and other times I’m not just because of Eric’s ambition and determination to get this thing to spread and to get his message spread,” said Barlow when asked if he was surprised at how quickly the bands have grown in popularity and proximity. “Eric’s done a great job of spreading his message, really reaching out to people, going to schools, trying to get more people with the Stay Positive message and the Stay Positive band.”
His efforts are working. Not just on a national level, but according to Fromm, in random places in Indianapolis that one would think the message wouldn’t have spread.
“I’ve saw a band or at least interacted with someone that knew about it was at the Marsh in Broad Ripple. So old woman as I was checking out, she asked where she could buy one because she heard about them,” said Fromm.
“So I gave her mine.”
A year earlier, Day had to do all the legwork himself when it came to selling the bands around Butler’s campus.
On January 25th, he had people to do that for him.
“Would you like to learn more about ‘Stay Positive’,” said one of the members of the Stay Positive organization to people as the filed in through the hallways of Hinkle Fieldhouse.
She was wearing one of the blue “Stay Positive” shirts that were being sold at the table with the bands, laid out on the table in front of potential customers with more of each not far away.
“I wanted to do an event that everyone could help out with,” said Day, who was hoping for the same success he had with an event in April of 2013 to spread the message.
Like the initial distribution of the bands, the basketball team at Butler played a major role. This time it was a newly banded member of the coaching staff.
“I actually saw Erik (Fromm) wearing the band and I asked Erik when I first got here ‘Hey, what does the band mean? Why are you wearing the band?’,” said new Butler head coach Brandon Miller. “Then he told me the story. He told me what it meant to him and Erik was the first person to share the Stay Positive story with me.
“As soon as I heard the story, I loved the idea and I put the band on and wore it from day one.”
So after a few months, Miller was the one who came up with the thought of a “Stay Positive Game” to be held during the team’s 2013-2014 season.
“He’s like ‘Why don’t we do a basketball game’ and we just decided, you know what, we can get everyone involved and let’s do a basketball game,” said Day and after jumping through a few hoops with the NCAA and university, the event was on.
Fans showed up with many signs of support for the event beyond the bands, including the “Dawg Pound” cheering section which made special shirts with a picture of a band in the middle. The school’s mascot Butler Blue III wore a sweater with “Stay Positive” stitched in the back.
“It was moving,” said Miller of the afternoon. “To see the ‘Stay Positive’ shirts, to see the bands being worn, to hear Eric talk, obviously a very moving message and couldn’t be happier that it’s here on Butler’s campus and that we got to be apart of it.”
Day was at the front and center not once but twice. His first time out there was to share his story to a tuned-in audience that sat in silence. It was a little different the second time around, when Day returned to the court in the second half with a check for Jill’s House and a special guest.
“Little Allison, whose been an inspiration to all us,” said Barlow of his highlight of the Stay Positive night, as she walked the check out to center court for the presentation. “They have been through a lot and I think them having a positive attitude through the whole process is something that everyone can learn from because they’ve been through a lot tougher times than we probably have.
“If they can always stay positive than I think we can stay positive.”
As you might imagine, the silence of the previous appearance of Day on the court was drowned away this time by loud applause and a number of fans who rose to their feet in appreciation. Day said it’s not credit that he wants for these bands, that check or these moments but rather that the power of his message hit home to those who see it or wear it.
“I just want people to help, a daily reminder to Stay Positive,” said Day. “We still have the problem but the one thing that we can control is our attitude.”
Sometimes that’s powerful enough to influence that of others. Whether quiet or loud.