Heidi Wright tackles everything she does with enthusiasm.
For three years, the 35-year-old Huntington-born social worker has moonlighted as a member of the Fort Wayne Flash, a women's full-contact football team.
After playing an exhibition season in 2006, the Flash officially became members of the National Women's Football Association the next year. As a nonprofit, no one is paid and the 36 members of the team cover the $40,000 budget through fundraisers, a portion of which goes back to the community.
Her hobby is not something her family fully grasps, said Wright, whose mother refused to let her play football as a kid out of fear she would get hurt. “They think I am crazy. They continually ask me when I am going to grow up,” she said.
Her days as an athlete started with softball and basketball in fourth grade. Eventually, she helped Huntington North High School win its first state basketball title. She played college basketball at the University of Saint Francis and what was then Huntington College, where she graduated with a degree in recreation management.
Wright worked as a recreational therapist at Crossroads before becoming a social worker at Regency Place of Fort Wayne. “I like helping people. It's fun,” she said.
Still sports, specifically football, appealed to Wright, who missed the competition and camaraderie of her days as an athlete. She considered joining the team in Indianapolis but did not want to make the drive. Hearing a team was coming to Fort Wayne, she jumped at the opportunity.
“She's very motivated,” said Monique Hartle, a player and team doctor for the Flash. Wright never missed a team fundraiser or charity event, recently participating in a “Polar Plunge.” The team, even the mascot, jumped into freezing water to raise $600 for the Special Olympics.
“A lot of the other players look up to her for her optimism,” said Hartle.
Wright said she loves watching people from divergent walks of life come together for one goal. Those differences parallel her own life. “People make fun of me because I play football and crochet,” Wright said.
The Flash are like family to her, especially in one case: A tight end and defensive lineman - er, linewoman - she married the Flash's offensive line coach, Samuel Beachy, on July 7. (They met prior to joining the Flash.)
The 2008 season opens in Dayton on Saturday when the Flash play the Dayton Diamonds. For Wright, it can't come soon enough.
“We are so ready to hit someone other than ourselves,” she said.