In the wake of the destruction Hurricane Harvey reigned down throughout southeast Texas and Louisiana, Houston Cougars basketball coach Kelvin Sampson thought of a way that athletic departments across the country could help.
On Aug. 28, Sampson sent out a tweet challenging men’s and women’s high school, junior college, NAIA and division 1, 2, and 3 programs to send 20 shirts and 10 pairs of shoes to the University of Houston to help Houstonians affected by the natural disaster. The outpouring of support was so substantial that the university could not effectively handle all the donations they received.
University of Dallas softball coach Beth Krysiak, a native of the Woodlands, Texas, knew she wanted to help as well, and saw Sampson’s challenge as the perfect opportunity.
“I’ve had friends that have lost houses or businesses or cars, and so to give back something since I can’t be there is nice,” Krysiak said.
Krysiak asked all of the other coaches to go into their respective storage facilities to see if they had old practice shirts, shoes or anything else that they could give to help.
“The feeling of wanting to help (and) wanting to do something was definitely there,” she said.
Krysiak was not the only UD coach spurred into action. Men’s basketball coach and assistant athletic director Jarred Samples said that he saw Coach Sampson’s tweet.
“That kind of got the ball rolling for me,” Samples said. “I asked Coach Myers (the baseball coach) if they had some shirts, and it just kind of grew from there with other coaches as well.”
Every team in the athletics department got involved. According to Krysiak, each team has contributed to UD’s donation in some way.
The disaster has affected both the softball and basketball teams in a very personal way. Krysiak says she has a friend that runs a softball training facility in the Houston area, and that two of her players are alumni of the facility. The facility has been completely wiped out by the storm.
Samples said that one of his players lives in the Houston area, and his dad is a high school basketball coach for a small school. The damage has been so bad that the school doesn’t even know if they can have a basketball program this year.
Former UD basketball player Anthony Johnson lives in Texas City and had evacuated to Irving. Ironically, Samples said that Johnson was the one who went into the storage facility with him and helped him get the basketball team’s donation together.
The Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) of which most of UD’s athletic teams are members has gotten in on the action as well. The SCAC has made their own donation to Sampson’s effort, and during the SCAC 8 in 8 tour — an annual tour of the eight member institutions — the conference will be selling t-shirts with all the proceeds going to the Red Cross. The SCAC will be at UD on Friday, Sept. 15th.
While the athletics department planned to ship their donation out on Friday afternoon, the University of Houston on the same day tweeted out that they were unable to effectively distribute any more donations, and encouraged anyone still willing to donate to send their donations to other organizations. Coincidentally, UD alumni Patty Danko contacted Samples on that same day.
Danko is a former Sports Information Director at UD and is in the UD Hall of Fame. She currently works for the City of Irving as the recreation center supervisor at Lively Pointe Center in Irving.
Her recreation center has been converted into a safe house for evacuees. It was the perfect opportunity for the school, and Samples took the donation to Lively Pointe Center on Sunday, Sept. 3.
While the devastation is still being realized in Houston, the abundance of help and support has been heart-warming.
“It’s really cool just to see people come together,” Samples said. “The flip side of that is that you hate to see that it takes something so drastic and bad to come together. My thought would be: why can’t we be this caring all the time?”