Times of hardship have a tendency to bring out the best in people, and this weekend at the Coach B Softball Classic, the crowd came prepared to help Harrisburg tornado victims.
Saluki Athletics set up donation bins Saturday and Sunday during the Coach B Classic Softball Tournament at Charlotte West Stadium to collect supplies for the First Baptist Church in Harrisburg.
At the forefront of the stadium gates, fans and athletes alike helped fill donation bins with canned goods, bottled water, toiletries and other needed items.
Steve Sowers, SIU athletics director of marketing, said the bins will be set up at all SIU athletic events so people can continue to donate.
“It’s the first of many benefits that will be going on throughout the area,” Sowers said. “This event is our way of getting behind our neighbors and supporting their cause.”
Sowers said bins of relief items had to be exchanged every few hours to ensure enough room for additional donations. He said donations were then transported to the First Baptist Church in Harrisburg to be dispersed throughout the community.
Though SIU is only in its early stages of sponsoring drop boxes through the athletic department, Chancellor Rita Cheng said similar events are planned to lend further aid to Harrisburg and the surrounding areas.
“We’re just beginning our efforts, particularly in the early things we are doing around the drop boxes for non-perishable foods and clothing,” Cheng said. “We are working to get our web page together so that next week if people want to donate money, they can through our website.”
Cheng said she’s proud of how the athletic department and students have taken advantage of Harrisburg’s proximity to campus and stepped up their support efforts.
“We have to reach out to Harrisburg and the areas affected by the storms, but it’s also important that we don’t drop all of our duties at the university,” Cheng said. “The students still need to study, and our athletic teams and music department still need to perform, but I know SIU has and will continue to step up in a big way.”
This is the 26th time the Coach B Classic has been at Carbondale, and former Saluki softball coach Kay Brechtelsbauer (Coach B) said she thinks the tournament is an appropriate avenue for facilitating aid and awareness through southern Illinois and beyond.
“I know people in Harrisburg,” Brechtelsbauer said. “I also know that a lot of people here today know people there as well. I’m right pleased and proud that we can use this tournament to help out our friends and neighbors in their time of need.”