By Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — In the wake of a violent central Oklahoma spring that killed 48 and left many injured, homeless or desperate, Oklahoma artists are uniting to restore hope.
Despite the scars that still dot the state’s landscape, these artists are using their various mediums to help tornado victims put the pieces back together emotionally, financially and physically.
Star-studded benefit concerts
For country star Toby Keith the May 20 Moore tornado struck a little too close to home. The Norman resident and Moore native didn’t hesitate in assembling some of his most talented peers to host a relief concert.
“I know these folks and they’re resilient, but we’re going to keep helping them any way we can,” he said. “I’m proud to get together with some others from around here who are just as committed as I am to supporting these communities.”
Tickets went on sale June 21 for Keith’s Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert scheduled for 3 p.m. July 6 at the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman. And with a lineup including Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Sammy Hagar, Ronnie Dunn, Krystal Keith, Mel Tillis and John Anderson as well as Carrie Underwood via satellite from the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, it’s no wonder the concert sold out within the hour.
It wasn’t long after Brooks heard news of a tornado hitting Keith’s hometown that he and his wife, Yearwood, volunteered their talents.
“I am amazed at the human spirit the tornado victims have shown,” Brooks said. “I am humbled by the giving of the volunteers. It is an honor to get to be a part of this healing process.”
Hagar said joining the lineup for the concert was a no-brainer.
“He’s put together a hell of a concert lineup to help raise funds for the brave and resilient people of Oklahoma,” Hagar said. “My job is going to be to help them take their minds off their problems and have some much needed, good old-fashioned fun.”
Ford Trucks, Verizon Wireless, Academy of Country Music Lifting Lives and Walmart are on board as sponsors. Sponsorship donations and underwriting of the concert, and donated services from suppliers and vendors from all over the country, will allow the net proceeds of tickets (after tax and credit card fees) to benefit the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund to aid recovery efforts.
More artists may be added to the lineup. For updates on the event visit tobykeith.com.
Country stars aren’t the only ones joining the cause. The Flaming Lips, Oklahoma psychedelic alternative rock band, are teaming up with fellow Oklahoma rockers Kings of Leon, Jackson Browne, Built to Spill and other special guests during Rock for Oklahoma, a benefit concert for Oklahoma tornado victims.
Proceeds from the 6:30 p.m. July 23 show at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City are also going towards the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund.
Tickets, on sale now, start at $42 and can be purchased at ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000.
“Shakespeare said ‘It is not enough to help the needy up, but to support them after,’ and in our small way we are trying to not just be here at the moment of immediate need, but to stay and help with the rebuilding,” said Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips frontman. “After all, this is our home and they are us and we are them.”
Jared Followill, Kings of Leon bassist, said performing in the concert was the least his band could do.
“We couldn’t be more proud to lend a hand to our home state,” Followill said. “We were all devastated by what happened there.”
Donations are currently being accepted for the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund. Give by credit card at unitedwayokc.org or by calling 405-523-3598, 405-523-3597, or the United Way of Central Oklahoma’s main number at 405-236-8441. Checks may be mailed to the United Way of Central Oklahoma, P.O. Box 837, Oklahoma City, OK, 73101, with notation for May Tornadoes Relief.
Verizon Wireless is offering a text-to-donate capability before, during and after Toby Keith’s Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert. Currently, customers of any wireless carrier may donate by texting the keyword “REBUILD” to 52000, which will give an automatic $10 donation to the United Way of Central Oklahoma’s May Tornadoes Relief Fund. Verizon Wireless customers will be limited to five text donations.
Fund dollars will be distributed without administrative fees to United Way Partner Agencies working on the tornado relief efforts. Agencies must clearly prove services provided and demonstrate need for financial support. Organizations that receive United Way disaster fund assistance will be evaluated and held strictly accountable. The May Tornado Relief Fund will serve not only immediate needs, but intermediate, and long-term care for years to come.
Debby Hampton, United Way of Central Oklahoma President and CEO, said the United Way has been overwhelmed with generosity from artists and the public alike.
“I’m not surprised because that’s what Oklahoma does,” she said. “We have received contributions from all over the world and letters from children. It’s amazing how this disaster has impacted the world and they have really come through on all levels.”
Student actors pay it forward
Sooner Theatre’s cast and staff for “Seussical the Musical” couldn’t act out the whimsical story of Horton the Elephant selflessly protecting his friends without being inspired themselves.
The cast of 63 third to seventh grade students began collecting books during rehearsals to later donate to Moore Books for Moore Kids, a group collecting new and gently used books to rebuild the libraries of Moore elementary schools, Plaza Towers and Briarwood, destroyed in the May 20 tornado.
Melany Pattison, co-director of “Seussical the Musical,” said the drive was the perfect way to teach her students about service.
“That’s one of the things that I’m so passionate about in my school teaching and here: It’s not just to make these kids good singers and dancers, it’s to make them good citizens,” she said. “I know they’re not all going to go on to be on Broadway...but being a good citizen and taking care of everybody else, you’ve got to learn by example.”
Students were able to fill bins with books several times over before inviting audience members to donate books at performances. Audience members were invited to hand books to the Cat in the Hat during the intermission of each show.
For more information on donating books or money to Moore Books for Moore Kids visit gofundme.com/MooreBooksforMooreKids.
Healing through creating
As a singer-songwriter Maggie McClure naturally expresses herself through music. After hearing about the tornadoes that hit her home state, this former Norman resident took up her pencil.
McClure created the song “Carry Me, Carry On,” in partnership with her husband and fellow Okie musician, Shane Henry.
“We're both from Oklahoma. It's truly home and we don't know what else to do besides write a song and try to be ambassadors for our state and try to raise awareness,” McClure said. “Because we're independent musicians we can’t donate tons of money ourselves.”
Lyrics include, “Lord, it’s going to take some time/ To put the pieces back together/ And try to move on with our lives/ Those things have changed forever/ God has always been on our side./ Carry me, carry on./ See the light of the morning sun./ Carry me, carry on./ There’ll be grace at the break of dawn./ Carry me, carry on.”
Henry said he hopes their song brings healing to those effected by the tornadoes.
“A lot of times where words fail a song can speak to someone,” he said. “We hope this song can bring some peace and healing to people who are in the trenches out there and going through it. We were out there and saw it — it’s unbelievable. But it's not going away for those people. It's going to last for a long time. We just hope that this song can help some of those people who are dealing with some of the struggles.”
The couple is working on recording the song to place on iTunes with the ultimate goal of proceeds going to Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma. For more information visit maggiemcclure.com or shanehenry.com.
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When Mitchell’s Jewelry owner Gina Mitchell’s 12-year-old daughter, Cloie, heard about the devastation from the tornadoes she immediately began creating an image with a rainbow and the text “Pray for Oklahoma.”
Soon after Gina said they were using Cloie’s image as an inspiration for a piece of jewelry. The finished product is the shape of Oklahoma with Cloie’s original concept of a rainbow and text.
Mitchell’s Jewelry is selling the piece for $50 as a necklace, charm or lapel pin with all proceeds donated to United Way to distribute locally toward tornado recovery efforts.
Gina said creating the jewelry was a way for her family to process what had happened as well as a way to give back to the community. She hopes the jewelry serves as a memento for those who purchase it.
“We have all been touched and heart-broken because there’s so many that have been effected by the tornadoes and we’re just hoping to give a little bit back towards the healing of our state,” Gina said.
Brockhaus Jewelry has also created a pendant to help commemorate the May 2013 storms. The stamped, silver pendants feature the shape of Oklahoma on a round disc with either a stamped heart inside the state shape or a raised, pink gold heart. The back will of the pendant will include the text “Remember May 2013.”
Katherine Brockhaus, Brockhaus Jewelry co-owner, said the pieces are made to order and designed by Heather Moore Jewelry, with 100 percent of proceeds benefiting storm victims. Pendants can be created into a necklace, bracelet or ring, with prices starting at $225. The made-to-order pieces are being sold through December.
Brockhaus said jewelry has always had significant sentimental meaning for people — like wedding rings representing a couple’s love — and she hopes this pendant serves the same purpose.
“People all over Oklahoma love their state so this gives them an opportunity to have a very nice piece of jewelry that will be something they can touch, feel, see, to help express that,” she said.
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As Laura Reese, Norman printmaker, listened to radio coverage of the May 20 storm destruction during her drive home from work that day, she knew she needed to do something to get involved.
Reese created a 4 inch by 6 inch postcard featuring the state of Oklahoma in red, with letterpressed text "home, plenty of heart, plenty of hope" in brown. The back has Reese’s contact information as well as information on how to donate to the American Red Cross.
“Letterpress is a very physical and textural media. It feels good to have a little token reminder in your hand that you have helped,” she said. “I thought it might encourage people to help out.”
Reese said she is selling the postcards until they run out. To purchase, email Reese at email@example.com. Customers can either show proof of donation to the American Red Cross, or pay Reese directly and she will donate all proceeds.