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Kids at Children’s Hosptial in Indianapolis mean everything to Peyton Manning

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Peyton Manning is getting ready for a showdown against his former team, the Indianapolis Colts.

But the future Hall of Fame quarterback says one of his greatest accomplishments in life has nothing to do with football.

FOX31 Denver Sports Director Nick Griffith is already reporting from Indianapolis, and Thursday he visited the place that is home for Manning's mission for kids.

He spent 14 years playing football in Indianapolis. But it's a children's hospital in that city that still sits closest to his heart.

In 2007 St. Vincent Children's Hospital became Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent.

Since then, and even in the years before, Peyton Manning's face was a constant in Indianapolis. And even though he's playing in Denver now, he remains highly involved in Indy.

"I'll call a child in the hospital. I still have a very strong association with Children's Hospital there," he told the Denver media recently.

He does make the rounds at the hospital via telephone. He calls many patients at the hospital, including Madeline Helpling who is recovering from cancer.

"I answered it and he said, 'Is this Madeline?' And I said 'yeah.' He said, 'Hi Madeline, this is Peyton Manning,' and I was just like 'hi Peyton!" she says as her face brightens up.

Through the patients and in pictures on the wall in the facility, Peyton's presence is everywhere.

"He just wanted me to know he was praying for me and my family and that we were in his thoughts," Madeline says.

Just because he's wearing orange and blue now instead of blue and white, doesn't mean his message and support don't still play on.

"He was pretty emphatic. He said, 'I got traded by the Colts. I didn't get traded by St. V's'," says Vince Caponi, CEO of the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital. Capone was instrumental in recruiting Manning to the Hospital.

"In typical Peyton Manning fashion he wanted to know all the details, he wanted to know what he would be responsible for," Caponi says.

They worked together to develop the concept and the construction of what is now considered one of the best children's hospitals in the nation.

"I don't think football was mentioned once," Madeline says. "He just wanted to make sure that my treatment was going well. It was all about me, you know. It was awesome."

But Sunday there are tough choices to be made. Griffith asked Madeline who she would root for. "I'll root for Peyton before the game starts, but after the game starts I'll root for the Colts," she says.

After the game is over, she says she'll root for Peyton again.

Griffith says he's found a lot of that around Indianapolis. There are a lot of fans who are struggling with whether to root for Peyton or root for the Colts.