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Around the Columns

Mizzou embraces Joplin

mizzou football

Sophomore defensive lineman Brayden Burnett was one of 32 football players to help clean up damage in Joplin, Mo., after an EF-5 tornado tore through the city May 22, 2011. Photo by Jeff Lautenberger

Throughout spring 2011, softball player Nicole Hudson was a consistent glove, a powerful bat and an unflappable leader at third base for Mizzou’s squad. But on May 22, 2011, when a massive tornado cut a six-mile swath through Joplin, Mo., obliterating approximately 20 percent of the town, Hudson was shaken and stunned.

“I couldn’t believe it when I turned on the TV. These were places I had seen my whole life — gone,” says Hudson, who grew up in Webb City, Mo., just minutes north of the devastation. Fortunately for Hudson, her parents, grandparents and boyfriend were in Columbia for the regional round of the NCAA tournament at the time of the storm. “It was hard to stay focused on softball when you don’t know if everyone’s OK and you don’t know the extent of the damage.”

The EF-5 tornado destroyed an estimated 450 businesses and caused as much as $3 billion in damage. The death toll was 160 at press time. Hudson’s family owns two Domino’s Pizza restaurants in Joplin, one of which was leveled.

“I didn’t have a chance to go home until about three weeks after, and you could hardly tell that anything had been done to clean up,” Hudson says. “They have done a lot, but the damage was just so extensive that it still looked awful.

Here are just a few ways that student-athletes, coaches and others in the MU community are contributing to the Joplin tornado relief effort:

  • Men’s basketball Coach Frank Haith visited Joplin to pitch in, visit shelters and deliver stuffed Truman the Tiger Build-A-Bears to children.
  • Football Coach Gary Pinkel and 32 players delivered supplies, and the student-athletes spent a day clearing debris.
  • More than 22,500 “One State. One Spirit. One Mizzou.” T-shirts have been sold to raise more than $245,000 for relief efforts.
  • Former Tiger and current NFL quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert signed autographs for the cause. Daniel raised more than $5,000 in two hours at a Columbia car dealership, while Gabbert signed memorabilia to be auctioned.
  • MU Extension specialists are providing training and education for communities on topics such as ensuring a safe food and water supply, repairing and rebuilding homes, replacing lost documents and managing stress.
  • MU Health Care mobilized two ambulances and four crew members after the storm. The crew worked throughout the night and into the next day providing search, rescue and recovery assistance.
  • Students from the College of Veterinary Medicine collected pet-related items and cash donations for the Joplin Humane Society. The MU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital also helped Sugar, a cocker spaniel paralyzed in the disaster, walk again using underwater treadmill therapy.
  • The One State, One Spirit Classic Presented by Leggett & Platt exhibition basketball game between Missouri Southern State University and Mizzou is scheduled for Oct. 30 in Joplin, with all proceeds going to Joplin relief.

“I am so proud of where I come from. Everyone down there is so resilient,” Hudson says. “I knew the ‘One Mizzou’ T-shirts were a good idea, but wow — you see them everywhere.”