Thunder Joins Relief Efforts

All across the Heartland, people are finding ways to make life just a little bit easier for those who suffered from the May 19th and 20th tornadoes.

On Thursday, Thunder basketball operations and business staffers teamed up with Habitat for Humanity in Moore to remove debris from a number of homes that were leveled by the storms. All across the devastated neighborhoods, volunteers and clean-up crews could be seen making a difference to help Moore residents get back on their feet just a bit quicker. There is plenty of work still to be done, but the Thunder as an organization was glad to feel the same civic pride that Oklahomans have over the past two weeks as everyone has pitched in to help their neighbors recover.

“It makes me feel proud to be able to be out here and help the community in this way,” Thunder assistant coach Rex Kalamian said. “It’s amazing how many volunteers have also shown up. When you look around you see all the people that are putting their lives on halt to come out here and clean and help and feed and just help out in any way they can. It’s an amazing effort by a great community.”

As most Oklahomans know, some houses are in better shape than others, but there was plenty to tidy up in every part of the affected area. Some staff removed debris and bringing it to the curb to get it ready to be hauled away by city removal crews, while others cleared lots to separate debris from belongings that can be salvaged. Throughout the day, regardless of the task, the Thunder was able to continue the marathon effort that is helping Moore, Shawnee and other Oklahoma communities get back on their feet. Rick Lorg, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity, was impressed by the effort of the Thunder and the thousands of others over the past two weeks to make an impact.

“The cool thing about working with volunteers is that these are the type of people that have an attitude of self-sacrifice,” Lorg said. “They have other things they could be doing with their time. It’s cool to surround yourselves with that type of people.”

“I always say that volunteering is selfishness leaving the body,” Lorg continued. “You can’t be selfish out here, you have to deny yourself and go and give to somebody else that you don’t know or that you have no connection to, but you just have a feeling that you want to help.”

All of those sentiments that Lorg explained are ones the Thunder wants to embody on a daily basis- inspired by the community-first, neighbor-helping-neighbor mentality it has seen out of Oklahomans over the past five years. All last week, Thunder players and coaches were impressed by the tireless effort, selfless donations and the endless support that Oklahomans gave to one another in the aftermath of the tornadoes.

With a full-organization volunteer effort on Thursday to augment the team’s immediate response last week and continued work this week, the Thunder has and will do all that it can to give back to the residents who love and care about the team. Just like every Oklahoma City organization, the Thunder has personal ties to the tornado that hit Moore. Thunder Event Presentation Coordinator Kaila McWilliams’ in-laws were deeply affected by the storms and she has seen first-hand how those in the community and at the Thunder have come out in droves to help.

“It’s pretty amazing,” McWilliams said. “The calls, the e-mails, the messages from my co-workers and them coming out and helping my husband’s family re-build, clean out the garage or move belongings has been really amazing. People are willing to step up in this time of need and just completely drop whatever they have on their schedule to come help.”

The spirit of giving has been contagious at the Thunder just as it has throughout the Oklahoma City area. All of that effort, energy and selflessness has been stimulated by the outpouring of support Oklahomans have given one another. It has also motivated by the strength, courage and resiliency the residents of Moore, Shawnee and others have shown over the past two weeks.

Possessions may be lost, but Oklahomans have left the Thunder’s players, coaches and staff in awe by their ability to deal with it all, be thankful and move on. With faith and toughness, Oklahomans are making the Thunder proud to be a part of this community.

“I think it really hits you when you’re out here and cleaning up things, belongings that were in their house and their personal belongings,” Kalamian said. “The people in this community really know now what is important- that’s family and health. All these things can be replaced, but being safe and having a tight-knit community is what really matters.”