The human spirit is alive.
Hurricane Harvey’s force is being felt all over the country, but the brunt of the devastation in the southern Texas and Louisiana region left Americans with heavy hearts as they watched news coverage of water rescues from the flooded areas.
With the rescue missions nearly finished, Americans are turning their attention to helping the unfortunate who lost their homes, clothing and belongings to the flood.
Ottawa University is doing its part to lend assistance.
The nation’s college athletic programs, along with professional teams, responded in a big way to a challenge put forth by University of Houston men’s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, who tweeted Monday asking them to donate T-shirts and shoes to the relief effort.
The tweet read, “I have had so many of my friends in the coaching profession text and call offering prayers and thoughts for all Houstonians. They all ask what can we do to help. Well I came up with something I think coaches at all levels can help with... both men’s and women’s, high school, junior college, every level of college DI, D2, D3 and NAIA...if you can please send 20 of your school’s T-shirts and 10 pairs of shoes.”
Ottawa University coaches reacted at the same time to the tweet and began making plans for donations.
“We did not talk to each other,” Aaron Siebenthall, men’s basketball coach, said. “We responded to Kelvin Sampson’s tweet. Once we saw everybody else was doing it, we said, ‘Let’s coordinate and send [it together].’”
Jay Kahnt, softball coach, said Jenna Stigge, a 2017 senior softball player, brought it to his attention with a tweet of her own.
“Coaches in general are in the same frat. When one asks for help — even if it is not in the same sport — we are all in this together,” he said. “When Sampson tweeted it out, there is a coach in need, and we are going to help. You are seeing that all across the country.”
Bruce Tate, women’s basketball coach, said he talked with Siebenthall about the tweet and, at the same time, they received an email from Kahnt asking the Ottawa coaches to participate.
“It was boom, boom, boom, the next morning after we saw the same tweet,” he said. “It is nice to be on the same page.”
Kahnt said baseball coach Blaine immediately brought a stack of shirts to the softball office within minutes of his email.
Sampson was overwhelmed by the response of his coaching brethren.
“Coaches are great people,” Sampson said in an interview with NCAA.com. “They have big hearts, they care and I know they would all like to do something. They just needed an avenue.”
The Ottawa coaches drove right down the middle of that avenue.
“One thing that most basketball programs have are T-shirts and shoes,” Siebenthall said. “We can do our part. We have these things that we have earmarked for other things, but obviously this is more important. We are all happy to help. I am friends with basketball coaches at different levels. I can’t think of one level that one of my coaching friends has not responded. Everybody is chipping in somehow.”
The Ottawa coaches said this situation is personal — several former and current Braves athletes have connections to the Houston area.
“They are being taken out of their daily routine, and we are here living our lives,” Tate said. “What coach [Sampson] is doing down there is the least we can do.”
Kahnt said giving back hits home.
“We have seen tornadoes in Kansas,” Kahnt said. “We had support coming outside of the Midwest for that. Anything you can give back in these kind of disasters [is appreciated]. You never know when it can be you and you will need their help.”
Siebenthall said people he will never meet, and those who have possibly never heard of Ottawa University, will be wearing Braves attire.
“That is pretty cool to me,” he said. “Maybe we will end up with somebody that says, ‘Hey, I will check out what Kansas has got going on with Ottawa University.’ There is a lot of goodwill going on. I’m happy we can be a small part of it.”
Siebenthall said the big picture of humanity is a lesson being taught.
“For me, after all the protesting in Charlottesville [Virginia], and seeing our country divided, things like Hurricane Harvey show what we can be as a country,” Siebenthall said. “You have seen the good and the bad in our country the last couple of weeks.”