Brooke Elder cried when she saw her parents in Jefferson City, Tenn., on Sept. 3.
She said she always cries when she sees her family, but for Elder, who is a junior on the Augusta State volleyball team, this time was different. Her parents were visiting her at a tournament just a few days after riding out Hurricane Katrina in the basement of their home in Mobile, Ala.
"It's just one of those things," Elder said. "Thank God they're safe and nothing happened."
Her parents were lucky, with only a few fallen trees around their house, but their proximity to the destruction made Elder eager to help those who weren't so lucky. So when coach Amber Glass suggested to the Jaguars that they help raise money for the victims of Katrina, Elder and her teammates jumped at the chance.
With help from Augusta State's Student Athletic Advisory Committee, the Jaguars will stage a relief rally Friday at Christenberry Fieldhouse before and during their match against USC Upstate. Donations will be collected beginning at 6:30 p.m. and will go until the end of the match, which Glass said will probably last until about 8:30 p.m.
The volleyball team will sort and deliver the goods to the local chapter of the American Red Cross. Along with monetary donations, victims need toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.), food (ready-to-eat, canned items, etc.) and bottled water.
"I know how much damage it can do," said Elder, who has seen first-hand the destruction caused by previous hurricanes. "Whole houses picked up and just thrown into the next yard. ... You want to cry. You feel so sorry for the people who own the houses. ... They have nothing. They can't do anything."
That made the Jaguars want to do something. They have spent the past week advertising for the rally on the sidewalks across campus and on the windows of their cars.
They've posted flyers around the school and tried to get the word out to local high school and club volleyball teams.
"We want it to be a really big thing," Elder said.
Reach Kristy Shonka at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.