After Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 25, Houston was slammed with record flooding. During the storm, Loyola athletics was watching closely and knew they had to do what they could to help.
They got their chance to help when University of Houston (UH) men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson sent out a tweet asking for gear from college programs to help families who lost clothes in the floods.
Loyola men’s basketball head coach Porter Moser and women’s basketball head coach Kate Achter saw Sampson’s tweet and decided to send gear to assist in the effort.
Moser said the team sent shirts, shoes, pullovers and balls down to the affected areas, while Achter said her program sent shoes and roughly 100 shirts to Texas.
Both programs have ties to the Houston area. Women’s basketball assistant coach Bianca Smith is from Houston, where her family still lives, so Achter said the staff has been monitoring the storm and the aftermath closely.
“[Smith’s] mom, her grandmother and all of her family lives there,” Achter said. “So we have been on high alert.”
Smith’s parents and grandparents have lived in Houston since 1965, and their homes weren’t impacted by the flooding, but she said she has a brother-in-law and several friends who lost the entire first floors of their homes.
While Smith said her family is doing “pretty good,” there was cause for concern during the storm. Her cousin’s wife was pregnant and her due date was Aug. 25, the day the storm made landfall. While the baby didn’t come during the storm, Smith’s family became worried that they wouldn’t be able to reach a hospital when the time for delivery arrived because of the flooding.
The baby “finally” came on Sept. 3 and is healthy, according to Smith.
Smith’s mother, Nina Jackson, has been facing the aftermath of the storm head on. Jackson is the regional director of marketing and public relations at NRG Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans, which has been turned into a shelter.
Smith said her mother has been working around the clock, arriving at work between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. and not leaving until between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. Her responsibilities have involved handling all the local and national media requests coming into the stadium as well as all the charities trying to provide support.
After sending gear down, Achter said the coaches will donate an amount of money to the recovery effort.
The team hasn’t sat down to decide how much they will donate or when they will donate, according to Smith.
Concerned about scam foundations, Achter said the program will donate through either Houston Texans player J.J. Watt — who has accumulated $20 million in donations — or the Red Cross.
Coaches might not be the only team members involved in helping the cause, according to Achter. Typically, her staff will talk to the players and see if they’re willing to assist.
“We’ve had things like this in the past where we’ve actually run it past our kids, too, and opened it up to them,” Achter said. “If they’re willing to donate to the cause, they’re more than welcome to and we’ll put something together.”
After one season as assistant coach at Creighton University, Moser worked at Texas A&M University as an assistant coach from 1991-95. During that time, he got to know Sampson, who was coaching at Big 12 Conference rival Oklahoma University. When he saw Sampson’s tweet, Moser said he felt he and his program should get involved quickly.
“When [Sampson] sent that tweet, it went viral and there was no hesitation,” Moser said. “We were going to jump on board and get involved.”
As the tweet started to make its rounds on social media, Moser was surprised at just how many programs sent aid to Texas.
“It’s just amazing how many schools got involved,” Moser said. “His tweet went viral. People that know and people that don’t know him even sent [donations] to him.”
Moser also said his program sent a package directly to UH. He praised Sampson for reaching out on social media and getting the ball rolling.
“What an undertaking he’s doing,” Moser said. “It’s great that people are seeing this kind of story because when one misstep happens, everybody pounces on that. And this is just a great story.”
In an official statement, Sampson expressed his gratitude toward everyone who sent donations.
“I cannot thank enough all the coaches and all the schools, teams, businesses and individuals, who have donated to our relief efforts for those suffering,” Sampson wrote.
UH Athletics department official Jeff Conrad thanked the men’s and women’s basketball teams for their donations.
“We are certainly grateful for the support from both the Loyola men’s and women’s teams,” Conrad said.
As of Sept. 5, UH had received more than 1,300 donation commitments over Twitter and more than 300 packages in the mail, according to Conrad.