Scrimmage Brings Moore Residents Together for Special Day
This community has earned a day reserved for fun and family.
For those in attendance at the annual Thunder Blue & White Scrimmage, held on Sunday at Westmoore High, getting a first glimpse at the 2013-14 Thunder squad provided just such an opportunity, but also gave some pause to consider what they've all been through since that day in May when their community lost so much.
The crowd represented a cross-section of those affected, including teachers, staff and students from Moore Public Schools, first responders, families, and volunteers and staff who have been working for months to help this community recover and rebuild.
"I think most importantly, (this event means) a timeout to come and just put all those worries and that stress aside and to relax and have a great time while they're here," said Janienne Bella, regional CEO for the American Red Cross.
The event began with Thunder Alley, and though the traditional block party was condensed to fit into the plaza in front of Westmoore, it still set the stage for the afternoon with Rumble, the Thunder Girls and Thunder Drummers all part of the show, plus face painting and a sport court.
When the crowd of 2,200 – as many as could fit in the Westmoore gymnasium – filed in, they found blue and white T-shirts on their seats and game-night music playing. The excitement in the air was already thick – and that was even before the team took the court.
Robert Romines, superintendent of Moore Public Schools, could hardly contain his enthusiasm, saying the feeling of being at the event was "overwhelming."
"(The Thunder has) been around ever since day one," he noted. "This right here tells our community they're not far away … It's that surge of energy that this community – every once in a while we need that.
"We've come so very far, but we've got a long way to go, and it's events like this that just really pull us all back together."
Part of what comes next for the Moore community includes rebuilding, not just homes, but also three schools destroyed by the tornado – Briarwood Elementary, Plaza Towers Elementary and Highland East Junior High.
Prior to the start of Sunday's scrimmage, the Thunder committed to help in that process, announcing that the Thunder Cares Foundation would be paying to rebuild the outdoor basketball courts at all three schools.
"When the community lost these schools, they lost more than a place of learning for their children," said Dan Mahoney, vice president of Corporate Communications and Community Relations for the Thunder. "The school facilities, including the basketball courts, served as the heart of these neighborhoods, and we are pleased and proud to be a part of restoring these communities."
Romines said the gift speaks volumes about the team's commitment to its community.
"This basically says, 'We're not going far, and we're still here.' And it's an honor to call them part of our family."
Bella echoed his sentiments, saying that the Thunder has been a constant partner for organizations such as the Red Cross.
When we have a disaster that we're responding to, we can always count on the Thunder to call us and say, 'What do you need?'," she said.
For now, fans such as Jennifer Reeves appreciated a day of the excitement that bringing Thunder Basketball to a high school gymnasium can bring to a community.
"It was awesome, it was exciting," said Reeves, a second-grade teacher at Bryant Elementary in Moore. "This was a chance to be up close and personal with the players, so we were really looking forward to it.
"It was a great event. It helped the community out – a lot."
Reeves added that an event like this "helps rebuild, it helps the community grow stronger and realize that we're OK and we're stronger. … It brings us together, it brings us closer."
Romines agreed, saying that one of the gifts holding the Blue & White Scrimmage in Moore gave to the community was an opportunity to appreciate all that they have – especially each other.
"Sometimes we get into the mindset of rebuilding and moving forward, and we don't focus on family. Our big push this year as a school (district) and a community is, 'We Are Family.' That is our motto this next year, and it's events like this that bring us back together and remind us why we're really here," he concluded.