Seven representatives from the Southern Arkansas University cheerleading squad recently worked two grueling days to help clean the devastation left by the May 20 tornado that tore through Moore, Okla.
When the group first checked in to volunteer on June 17, someone joked that the dolled-up squad must have come to help with administrative duties. Anne Sands, SAU cheer coach, said the girls’ fixed hair, make-up, and matching SAU Cheer tee-shirts with rhinestones somewhat invited the quip.
“I said, ‘Don’t let the rhinestones fool you. We are here to work,’” said Sands.
Being that SAU Athletics has a commitment to community involvement, an initiative that recently earned the Muleriders the NCAA Division II Award of Excellence for Community Engagement, Sands did not hesitate when SAU cheerleader Janae Mosbey texted the idea to go help clean up the ravished city.
“I thought it would be a good, humbling experience for all of us,” said Sands. “It was a good way for our new and our returning cheerleaders to work together on something that is very important.”
Mosbey has family in Oklahoma City. She heard first-hand from them how bad the damage was. She was glad that Sands and five of her fellow cheerleaders were able to make the trip to Moore. The cheerleaders who were able to go and help included KaLee Duggan of DeQueen, Ark., Heather Gorman of Hampton, Ark., Rachel Lancaster of Camden, Ark., Ariel Little and Chandler Walley of Magnolia, and Mosbey of Texarkana, Ark.
“If it happened here, I would want people to come help us,” said Mosbey. “It was a great experience, but it was really sad. The devastation was awful, but it made you grateful for everything that you have.”
While researching volunteer opportunities online, Sands found the group called Serve Moore. They are working to connect those who need help with those offering help. The first day, squad members were taken with a group of around 20 volunteers to the five acres where Dan and Rebecca Garland lost everything they owned.
“Part of what really touched us was the way Dan and Rebecca were so strong in their faith and had such positive attitudes,” said Sands. “It really put things into perspective for us.”
The group put in a full day helping clean up the Garland’s property. At one point, the homeowners asked if anyone knew how to drive a Bobcat® loader.
“I waited to see if one of the guys in the group was going to speak up. No one did, so I told them that I knew how to drive it,” said Mosbey while talking about the trip on her cell phone from the cab of a combine as she was cutting wheat at her summer job on a farm outside Texarkana. “Even though I had on my rhinestone shirt and cap, the Garland’s did not hesitate to let me use their Bobcat® to speed up the cleaning.”
The following day, Sands said the girls pulled their hair up and left for the day’s work without makeup and their specially designed t-shirts. They were taken to a lot to help take apart a roof that had been blown off. It was tiresome manual labor, tearing down the structure board by board, shingle by shingle.
“We worked hard, and then drove home six hours covered in insulation,” said Sands.
While driving out of Moore toward home, the group saw areas that still had not been touched since the EF5 twister ripped through the town. Sands said that it was hard to see how people’s lives had been totally uprooted. The group knew it would not be a quick recovery, and the cheerleaders already started planning when they could return with more of their squad members. They hope to go back in September in conjunction with a game scheduled against a Great American Conference competitor in Oklahoma.
This and other team-building exercises for the squad are paying off as the group recently earned a bid to compete in the National Cheerleaders Association College Nationals in Daytona Beach, Florida, in April 2014.