MOORE — When Southmoore football coach Jeff Brickman first set up the donation website, he had a pretty good idea people would reach out and help. His Southmoore football team had been hit pretty hard by the May 20 tornado and he was pretty sure Oklahomans would lend a hand.
What Brickman wasn’t prepared for was the outpouring of volunteers showing up at Southmoore’s doors, looking to help in any way possible.
“I thought that the money would be about where it is,” Brickman said. “I didn’t expect people to drive from Kansas.”
That is what the members of the Olathe North West High football team did last weekend. After collecting food, clothing, water and money Saturday, they drove five hours Sunday to hand deliver a truckload of items to the SaberCats.
When the Ravens showed up in Moore, it was a surprise. It was an even bigger surprise when the SaberCats saw what they brought with them.
“They came down and gave us $4,000 and made these T-shirts for us,” Brickman said. “On the back it says ‘From One Brother to Another.’ They gave us 300 of these. We are going to give all our kids a shirt, take a picture of it on them, frame it and send it to them.”
The effort was spearheaded by the Olathe Northwest Quarterback Club. The group didn’t know exactly what to bring, so they asked Southmoore officials.
In all, 22 SaberCats and their families lost their homes and many of their possessions in the tornado.
“I asked, ‘Hey, I know this sounds like a crazy question, can you think of anything (you need) in particular?’,” Colleen Psihountas, a member of the Olathe Northwest Quarterback Club, told Kansas City’s Fox 4. “And their exact answer was, ‘Pretend you lost everything and then what would you need?’”
After making deliveries, the Ravens hosted a cookout for Southmoore. It was supposed to be in the parking lot at First Baptist Church of Moore, but the church was still without power as a result of the storms.
“So they went all the way out by MacArthur, out by the airport, to this little trailer park that got hit by the other tornadoes,” Brickman said. “It was unbelievable.”
Southmoore has even received calls from businesses outside the sports world offering to help. That included a Texas man named Billy Madison, who told Brickman he owned a clothing store and wanted to give the 22 SaberCats who lost their home clothes to wear. Monday morning, several boxes showed up to the football offices full of country and western gear.
“What we will probably do is let our kids go through them,” Brickman said. “Some of the shirts the kids don’t pick up, we’ll give to the school.”
It’s also teams and coaches from around the state that have offered help. That includes 33 members of the Ft. Gibson Tigers, who were at Southmoore early Monday morning picking up glass and loose debris from the Cats’ practice field.
“I think our kids were kind of envisioning moving houses and things like that,” Ft. Gibson coach James Singleton said. “But I tried to explain to those guys that, in our minds, this is equally important.
“It’s getting their student athletes back to a little bit of normalcy. Being able to get back on a surface they can play on. Once we sold them on that, they were a little more anxious about picking up glass out here.”
Singleton has been coaching in Oklahoma for 16 years. That includes an assistant’s stint at Norman North in 1999, when Moore was also thrashed by a tornado. He remembers how bad times were back then and wanted to do something this time around.
Singleton went to high school with Moore athletic director Chad Mashburn. Mashburn told Singleton to the bring the supplies his team had collected to Southmoore and put him in touch with Brickman.
“Our last day of school was last Thursday,” Singleton said. “We called all our athletes in for fifth hour and I told them we have one more challenge for you. We want to gather as many items as we can and help these guys out. The next day, our weight room was full of water and Gatorade and shovels and trash bags and gloves.”
Much like the Raven’s motto ‘From One Brother to Another,’ Singleton believes coaches around the state are one big family. When they’re not trying to beat each other, they’re helping and supporting each other.
“The coaching fraternity, whether you know a coach or not, it’s a pretty tight-knit group,” Singleton said. “In my mind, if something like that would have happened to us, we would have had coaches from around the state helping us, too. We just felt like we were doing our part coming in and helping out.”
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