Nearly seven months after the devastating tornadoes and one of the most horrific days in the state of Alabama history, we are around the corner from what will be a very difficult time for a lot of our residents. The holidays are supposed to bring good tidings and cheer, but for some there will be a lot of reminiscing and tears. On April 27th, life changed for a lot of our Alabama families and it’s not surprising that the south has used their southern charm and infamous hospitality to come together and put life’s pieces back together. What might surprise you though, is all of the other folks who have stepped in to help. From Athletes to celebrities, politicians and musicians, there were a lot of volunteers and compassion shown from people you’d never even realize.
Putting the Auburn-Alabama rivalry aside, Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa is similar to the Tide for Toomer’s Facebook effort that raised almost $50,000 after Auburn’s famous oak trees were poisoned. Two bus loads of players, coaches and administrative personnel were bused to Cullman and Pleasant Grove that next week to help with the cleanup of those two cities. Coach Chizik wanted to keep the trips off the publicity circuit, but word slipped out.
Just last week, for 24 student-athletes and four administrators at the University of Notre Dame, fall break was a chance to come to Tuscaloosa to help with tornado relief and cleanup as part of their Fight for Tide service trip. The student-athletes were mainly working in Alberta last week, helping clear out residential areas so that homes and lives can start to be rebuilt. The Fight for Tide service trip is being done in collaboration with Project Team Up, a redevelopment initiative of Nick’s Kids and University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and his wife, Terry. Project Team Up was created after the April 27 storms with the goal of leading the way in the redevelopment of some of Alabama’s hardest hit communities. The Saban’s both are Kent State graduates, and earlier this football season, the Kent State University football team came to help with clean up in Tuscaloosa also.
Not just athletes, but Hollywood stepped in to help. Actor David Spade donated $200,000 for relief efforts to the American Red Cross. “I hope this will help to shine the spotlight on the people of the United States who are in desperate need right now and that others will join me in donating what they can to support the American Red Cross’ huge disaster relief effort,” the 46-year-old actor said in a statement.
And yes, the tornados might have produced major loss, but we were sure winning when Charlie Sheen showed up to “help”.
As he traveled throughout Alabama with one of his goddesses and Todd Zeile, a former baseball player, Sheen tweeted: “I’m in Tuscaloosa. It’s beyond words. Info coming soon on how you can all help.”
Sheen made appearances at Holt High School, where many evacuees are staying, and talked to the tornado victims then spoke with FEMA workers and police in Alberta City, as well as Tuscaloosa Mayer Walt Maddox. He said in an interview that he wanted to use “his celebrity status for positive results. I’m hopeful that I can do whatever I can to provide some compassion, hope,” he said.
As you can imagine, not all Alabama residents bought it.
“Why, on God’s green earth, would anybody want Charlie Sheen to come? What can he possibly bring to contribute to the effort... now is NOT the time for a celebrity spectator. Tuscaloosa has enough to deal with just trying to find the missing people and cleaning up the city. If he is coming to pick up a chainsaw and work HARD for a week or so doing WHATEVER he’s told with no cameras around then the rehab might be good for him. Otherwise, he’s just going to be in the way,” commented one person.
Besides Hollywood, the White House and the radio air waves came to help the residents.
Pratt City native, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, golfers Hale Irwin and Tom Watson and radio personalities Tom Joyner and Rickey Smiley united on the Red Cross Disaster Relief Center at Scott School in Pratt City a few weeks after to encourage continued care for the victims of the April 27th tornados. Rice offered prayers, condolences and support. “I am obviously here, and we are here, to let people know that we are deeply moved by the tragedy that has struck this great state,” Rice said.
On May 12, country music swept down and helped sing our way to recovery. Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and other country superstars performed at CMT’s benefit concert in Nashville to raise money for victims. Hank Williams Jr., who performed, told the Associated Press, “I want to raise a lot of money. And I want people who are motivated to be part of it as we try to help these devastated folks.”
As much as we all appreciate the outside help, Love and compassions, this fight is not over. We’ve got a lot of work to do on our roll to recovery. Whether it’s the first time during the holidays without the loved one they’ve lost in one of the tornados, or the financial strain it’s brought on for a lot of parents to provide Christmas for their children, the next few months will be difficult for many of our Alabama neighbors. This is when their hometown steps in and gets involved. There are so many opportunities to help in the next few months and we will be highlighting those opportunities for you to be aware of and take advantage of so you can be involved in the road back to recovery. Stay tuned for all the different opportunities to be involved this holiday season. If you have an event or community outreach helping others this holiday season, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.