By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Brian McCrae is not used to being laid up. The Bishop Snyder football coach in Jacksonville, Fla., like most coaches, likes to be moving around and getting things done.
However, after having back surgery, McCrae admitted he had been laying in his hospital bed feeling sorry for himself.
That all changed May 20. On that day, as he watched his hospital television, he saw a tornado rip through Moore and was transfixed on what he was seeing.
Even though it took place more than 1,150 miles from where he laid in his hospital bed, McCrae knew exactly what the people of Moore were going through. He also knew exactly what needed to be done.
“I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself,” McCrae said. “I looked up at the TV and saw all the devastation in Oklahoma on the news. I said I guess I don’t have it that bad after all. It hearkened me back to when I was in Central Florida and had two hurricanes back to back. Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Frances. It absolutely devastated our state and that was during football season. It was just such a gut-wrenching time.
“I knew that is what was exactly going on at that time in Oklahoma.”
McCrae said despite the hardships the hurricanes had done to his towns, the one thing that everyone was able to galvanize around was football. With Hurricane Charley taking place during the middle of the season, fans and townspeople still came out on Friday night to watch his team play.
McCrae wants to make sure the schools in Moore are able to be the same type of inspiration. He also doesn’t want them to have to ever worry about needing to replace athletic equipment for a long time.
“I tell my kids all the time, you either do something then you get better,” McCrae said, “or you do nothing and you get worse. Those are the two choices you always have. I said to myself, ‘are you going to do something or are you going to do nothing.’”
McCrae came up with the idea of Sooner Equipped. It’s a simple plan to fill a 53-foot semi-trailer with athletic gear and drive it across the country to Moore.
“We want to make sure that those kids have Friday nights in Oklahoma,” McCrae said. “It’s a time they can get away from everything else. Football is great first aid. I just made a few phone calls, talking to coaches to see what we could do and before you know, it took off like lighting.”
Since McCrae is still laid up in his hospital bed, he has had to leave it to others to do the grunt work. But it’s been his calls to coaches, the media and other sources that have helped get the word out about Sooner Equipped. He even got Bob Vetzel of Hills Van Service to donate the trailer being used and to pay for it to be driven to Oklahoma.
Now, McCrae and his people just have to fill it. But he doesn’t want to give the people of Moore equipment they will never use or don’t need. That’s why he’s calling on all coaches from the Moore schools who lost anything in the tornado to send him a list of what they need. From the high schools on down to the youth leagues, he wants to be Santa Claus.
Along with the coaches McCrae has already called and e-mailed in Florida seeking donations for Sooner Equipped, he is getting help from other places. According to McCrae, he got a call from Max Preps, who offered to send the lists of needs to the more than 100,000 coaches in their database. They expect to fill the semi trailer with enough sports equipment that if another tornado strikes the area again, they will not have to worry about trying to replace what was lost because the reservoir will still be full.
McCrae doesn’t want to coaches or school officials be humble or bashful in making out their lists. Even if something only got scratched, he said consider it damaged and ask for two more to replace it.
The same goes for individual kids who may have lost their own personal equipment at home.
“There is another tornado coming, unfortunately,” McCrae said. “So what I want to happen is for it to all trickle down to all the little leagues who don’t have contact information. The high schools and middle schools will be the drop-off point. But then it’s going to be whoever needs this stuff, come and get it. You shouldn’t have anything less than you had last year just because Mother Nature decided to pick on you.”
McCrae was worried about stepping on people’s toes when he came up with this idea. But as parents worry about replacing homes, cars and other things, he wanted to eliminate at least one small worry.
As soon as the trailer is loaded with donations, it will make its way from Jacksonville to Moore. Only then will McCrae believe his job is done.
“I never thought this thing would get off the ground in a million years,” McCrae said. “I don’t know the first thing about running charities or logistics. Or anything like that. But the human spirit is a great thing. That’s what’s driving this whole thing. It’s really a marvelous thing to be part of now.”
Coaches in Moore or school district officials can e-mail their list of needed sports equipment to Brian McCrae at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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