Leukemia association, Rolens offer synergy to charity

Photo courtesy of Yourstory Photography
Jasper native Scott Rolen spoke Thursday evening during a 100 Men Who Cook meeting.


JASPER — When sifting through applications to receive benefits from a charity event, Tom Krodel saw one with a familiar name. Right then, he sensed he’d found the perfect match.

He knew the Enis Furley Foundation was led by Jasper natives Scott and Todd Rolen, the former professional baseball star and his older brother who years ago built a foundation that helps ill children and their families. He also knew the Rolens’ mission would fit with the Dubois County Leukemia Association, another charity he had in mind as a beneficiary for the 100 Men Who Cook event planned for late this summer.

To Krodel, who is one of the event’s organizers and the regional president at Old National Bank, endeavors like 100 Men Who Cook is about people helping people.

When those 100 men gather Saturday, Sept. 10, at the Huntingburg Event Center to show off their chef skills in the name of charity, Krodel knows the work — and the money from hungry and helpful guests — will be headed to the right spots. A year ago, 100 Men Who Cook raised more than $114,000 for the Indiana National Guard Relief Fund. This year, the Rolens’ organization and Dubois County Leukemia Association will split the proceeds.

“It became quite apparent that we had a great beneficiary in the Dubois County Leukemia Association,” Krodel said Thursday at a meeting of some of the chefs. “We decided with synergy that can be made with Mike’s group and what Scott and Todd do, it would be great to get two beneficiaries together.”

The Rolens have since changed the name of their group to the E5 Foundation because spelling “Enis Furley,” which was the name of one of Rolen’s dogs, got tiring. In baseball scorebook terms, “E5” signifies an error on the third baseman. Scott won eight Gold Gloves at the position but went with E5 because “that means I’ve been able to gather some successes from making a hell of a lot of errors at third base. And we don’t have to spell it for anybody.”

The mission behind the foundation comes with a more emotional story.

Scott still remembers the day in 1999 when he and two Philadelphia Phillies teammates visited the Temple Children’s Hospital. They’d been on such trips before but this time were handed masks upon arrival. What’s the story, they wondered.

“These children are terminal,” they were told.

Then they visited their first room.

“What do you do? Whisper? Tiptoe? Hug? Cry? This is awful,” Scott recalled. “We put masks on and walked into the first room and it was like a party. We were in uniform. We had the Phillie Phanatic (mascot) behind us. Kids were high-fiving, hugging, pictures, the time of their lives. There is no worse situation in the world for those people and I’m watching first-hand. They’re going to lose a child, and they’re happy.”

On the ride home from the hospital, the group sat in silence and Scott got to thinking.

“I realized what an opportunity I have here,” he said. “I had a jersey, a cape if you will. I could share my time, effort. I made a difference that day. I don’t know if I’d made a difference before, but on that day in those rooms, I made a difference in those families’ lives.”

He called Todd, who was at the time teaching at a high school in Louisville, with an idea and an edict.
Scott wanted to start a children’s foundation and he wanted Todd to run it. He told Todd to quit teaching.

Todd finished teaching that semester, then left one career to start another. Together, the sons of Ed and Linda Rolen formed the Enis Furley Foundation. Scott initially wanted a circus with elephants, lions and clowns. Instead, they acquired about 200 acres near Bloomington and dotted the land with a lodge, animal barn and petting zoo, four cabins, a lake, a disc golf course and a baseball field. The camp is for sick kids and their families who need a break from the hospital, the bills, the suffering — from reality.

Besides the camp, the Rolens also have Hot Corner Kids, a program in which Scott brings families to experience close encounters with athletes; first it was St. Louis and Cincinnati when Rolen played baseball in those cities and now it’s through Indiana University sports teams. There’s also team field trips when all Monroe County sixth-graders spend a day at the camp learning about how they can help others in the community.

Scott said Dubois County families with autistic children have stayed at the camp and he hopes to increase the flow of folks from the area making the trip to the property.

For Todd, two things stand out.

First, he explained why it’s necessary to support an organization run by a man who earned millions of dollars during his baseball career.

“The answer is you’re not supporting a millionaire. You’re supporting children and families who are going through things none of us ever want to go through,” Tods said. “One person can’t do it. If one person tries to do it, it won’t succeed. It has to be supported on every level if it’s going to be a success.”

On a mission for the kids, Todd will never forget one of them.

The boy was named Tyler Frenzel and he was 7 years old when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He was a Hot Corner Kid and one of the first children with whom the Rolens developed a tight bond. By the time Tyler was 9, his health was fading and the end was approaching. At a banquet in Indianapolis to raise money for the foundation, the Rolens presented Tyler with what they called a Hero Award.

Tyler sat the award on his table, pivoted and returned to the stage.

“Tyler reaches up and grabs the microphone,” Todd remembered. “He tells his story about his buddies raising money and he says he’s not responding to treatment. He says it’s his wish to take the rest of the money in his account and donate it to the camp on the condition that we build a tree house.”

Tyler reached in his pocked and pulled out a check for $1,000.

Within minutes, some of the 300 people in the room responded. Tino Martinez, for a time a teammate of Scott’s with the Cardinals, wrote a check for $50,000. Mike Matheny, then a catcher with the Cardinals, purchased the catcher’s gear he had placed in the event’s auction for $20,000 and handed it to Tyler.

“All the sudden,” Scott said, “the whole room fell apart and came together at the same time.”

A day later while serving as an honorary captain for the Indianapolis Colts, Tyler told Peyton Manning about Scott’s tree house promise. Manning contacted the Rolens and they linked with Indianapolis-based radio show hosts Bob and Tom. Within two weeks, the group raised more than $200,000 for the tree house. It’s handicap accessible. Tyler’s parents helped design it. There’s a fire station and a castle.

For Scott, there’s another memory. Jasper baseball coach Terry Gobert and his wife, Caroline, lost their daughter Sarah to cancer in 1998. She was 2 when she died and Rolen was among the first to offer whatever he could — his Rookie of the Year award money in 1997, for instance. He also visited the Goberts the day after the ’97 season ended.

A video Thursday chronicled the story of the Goberts and two other local families who endured the torture of cancer with help from the Dubois County Leukemia Association.

The Rolens are eager to help in the fight.

“We’re looking forward to working with Dubois County families,” Todd said. “We’re looking forward to a partnership.”

An in-depth interview with Scott Rolen can be found here.

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