By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Clack went the pins loudly as they fell over in one lane and then another. A full-house, bowling teams had a great time no matter if it was strikes or gutters at the Norman Emergency Management fundraiser on Saturday. Organizations sponsored teams to raise funds for the purchase of up to 200 NOAA weather radios for families in Norman and rural Cleveland County who can’t afford them on their own. Sooner Bowling Center looked a little different than it usually does with booths strewn with flyers and handouts from various organizations set-up to educate fundraiser attendees about storm preparedness making the event a perfect fit during Severe Weather Awareness Week in Norman.
David Grizzle, Norman Emergency Management coordinator, said fifteen lanes were full of bowling teams and that he expected to hit the fundraiser’s goal.
“Besides the sponsored bowling teams, we’ve had an outpour of promised donations,” Grizzle said. “We won’t know the total funds raised for a few days, but with all the support we’ve received we hope to hit our goal.”
As residents know, Oklahoma is conducive to the development of natural disasters. Since 2007 the state has received 32 presidential disaster declarations representing more than $486 million in infrastructure damage delivered by ice and snow storms, tornados, flooding and other severe weather. Severe Weather Awareness Week’s goal was to increase public awareness about the importance of being prepared for emergencies.
Shannon Reed, Red Cross community recovery and resiliency staff specialist, who is part of the Red Cross Long Term Recovery Project said her team was happy to support Norman Emergency Management and used a game to educate attendees who stopped by their booth. By answering a trivia question about preparedness or disasters, attendees could win items, such as a small first-aid kit, to jump start emergency disaster kits and plans.
“We want people to know, who were affected by the storms, that help may still be available with the assistance of the Oklahoma Disaster Relief Project,” Reed said. “A lot of people think it may be too late. It isn’t.”
Unmet, disaster-related needs may include housing repairs and materials, relocation costs, furniture and appliances, medical, spiritual and mental health, transportation and more. For more information about available assistance, call 866-477-7276.
Survivors of the May 2013 tornados, Shalan Pearson-Despain and her family, her two sons Trevor Pearson and TJ Despain, were in attendance at the weather radio fundraiser. Pearson-Despain said she was in her storm shelter with her family and neighbors when her home in Newalla was completely destroyed.
“When we came out of the shelter, my husband said, ‘It’s gone.’ I was in shock,” she recalled.
Pearson-Despain was given a storm preparedness backpack at the fundraiser after Jimmy McMartin, sponsored by Storm Products, Inc., hit a strike and won the backpack for her. Pearson-Despain said she already had a weather radio, but was very grateful for the whole kit and that she looked forward to giving the weather radio to some of her elderly relatives.
“We’re okay. We’re in a mobile home now,” Pearson-Despain said with a smile on her face. “I turned my life over to God after the tornados and I feel more at peace. Getting the backpack and having the support of the community makes me feel more prepared for the future.”
Other fundraiser bowlers also were effected by the May tornados. Colt McConnell and Wes Mclain, who were sponsored by United Way, said their property was severely damaged and that their two bowling teammates, Justin Braziel and Brian O’Leary, were friends who volunteered and helped them during the height of disaster relief.
“We’re here because we were all effected and want to continue to help,” McConnell said.
The fundraiser also hosted a silent auction with items such as an OU basketball signed by Sherri Coale and team, Storm polo, a day with Norman Fire Chief James Fullingim, Downtown Fitness membership, gift certificates, party packages and much more. Raffle items were also up for grabs at $1 per ticket.
Some of the raffle prizes were safety related like smoke detectors and a weather radio while others were more of the guilty-pleasure type with plates of cookies. Rhlonda Carey, Norman Emergency Management volunteer, said all of the raffle and auction items were donated to the cause.
For more information about Norman Emergency Management, contact Grizzle at 292-9780.
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