Long after the boys and girls who run cross country at Fort Osage High School forget their times and places at the Cowboy Jamboree Cross Country Meet at Oklahoma State University, they will remember the good will they shared and the lives they changed of victims of the tornado that destroyed Moore, Okla.
With the meet set for Saturday, Sept. 28, coaches Chris Earley and Andy Zuber took the boys and girls teams to Oklahoma City on Thursday, where they stayed at the Church of Harvest facility.
On Friday, the Indian runners, some parents and coaches participated in two service projects that left an indelible mark on all involved.
One group visited what was once a trailer park. They helped with organizing donations and built shelves to hold those donations at the new facility. They also filled trenches to help with water flow around some of the trailers and also dug trenches to help rid the area of excess water.
Members of the team who participated in that project were Sam Farmer, Cody Hanes, Tyler Highland, Hunter Molzahn, Devon Schrier and Xavier Smith. Adults who participated are George Kirland, Phillip Hanes, Chris Farmer and Zuber.
“When we went to Oklahoma, it wasn’t about the race, it was all about helping people,” Cody Hanes said. “They needed help. You can’t even imagine what something like that looks like, unless you see it in person. We got down there, didn’t waste any time, we were there to help and I think we really did help a lot of people that day.”
Hanes paused for a moment and laughed as he said, “We had two buses going to two areas and I got on the bus that wound up digging the trenches and doing some hard labor. I wasn’t expecting that, but it made me appreciate how much those people need our help.”
The second group went to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma where they bagged and boxed items for the “Food for Kids” program. They boxed up 676 cases of food for the kids of Oklahoma. That equaled 13,898 pounds of food and 11,581 meals to feed 4,056 kids.
Members of that group were Katie Baldus, Rebecca Baumler, Coby Berg, Noah Bernard, Caleb Colyer, Eli Copeland, Kayla Daugherty, Hanna Gregory, Jamie Guillaume, Shane Hackett, Brendan Hackley, Dalton Hall, Tiffany Hibbs, Brandon Lindahl, Taylor Lloyd, Josh Merithew, Trent Moore, Steve Naudet, Ethan Nelson, Morgan Parsons, Ashley Pereira, Tristan Puckett, Natalie Randolph, Jeremiah Reynolds, Kelsey Robertson, Kirsten Robertson, John Schweer, Allison Shewmaker, Abbey Simon, Kevin Smith, Seth Steele, Dalton Testerman and Jayden Vosika. Adults who participated include Shauna Clark, Charlotte Robertson, Lois Ryan, Leslie Lloyd, Phyllis Gregory, Ben Merithew and Earley.
“We worked on something like an assembly line giving out the food,” Katie Baldus said, with a touch of pride in her voice, “and my assembly line got the most work done and handed out the most food. When you realize that all the food was going to kids who had lost everything, it really motivated us to work hard.”
When he saw the devastation the people of Oklahoma faced, it changed the whole theme of the trip for Caleb Colyer.
“At first, I went to compete, and that’s all I thought about. Then, when we got down there, I just wanted to help. I wanted to stay and help, because those people need so much. Seeing the shelves of the food pantry get full of the food we were getting made me feel so good. After that, the race didn’t matter as much.”
Those were the types of comments Earley and Zuber hoped to hear following the one-day volunteer session.
“One of our parents helped us find the church to stay at, but Coach Zuber and I had been talking about a service project,” Earley said, “so we got to go compete in a great meet at OSU and help the day before. The comments we overheard from our runners let us know the trip was a big success.
“Helping the tornado victims really had an affect on our runners.”
Zuber was quick to add, “We see these kids in the classroom and on the track, and it was interesting to see how they reacted to something like helping the tornado victims. It all kind of goes with the motto at Fort Osage, which is ‘We Do Things a Little Better at Fort Osage,’ and I think we do. Volunteering had a big impact on all of us, and it was great to see the kids work so hard and care so much about the tornado victims.”