Kent State joins national relief effort; athletes send clothing, shoes to Houston

Cameron Hoover

On August 28, 2017, at 4:10 p.m. local time, University of Houston basketball Coach Kelvin Sampson tweeted a call for help from the notes section on his iPhone. Hurricane Harvey had hit landfall, and significant parts of Houston, America’s fourth-most populated city, were underwater.

Kelvin Sampson’s tweet:

News outlets across the country showed before and after images of normally congested interstates leading into the city, now filled with white-tipped waves crashing into road signs, leaving many citizens trapped.

After colleagues in and around college basketball contacted Sampson to help, he came up with a solution that could benefit thousands of Houston residents following the natural disaster.

Sampson’s Twitter note asked for every school reading to send 20 T-shirts and 10 pairs of shoes to Houston as a contribution to relief efforts.

The message spread quickly, as Sampson’s tweet had 6,712 retweets through Thursday night. This note resounded across the nation, and soon athletic departments from all corners of the country were doing all they could to help with the effort.

Kent State was no exception.

The Mid-American Conference sent out a memo Tuesday that said every member of the conference was to participate in the relief effort. However, Kent State had already begun doing their part.

Less than 24 hours after Sampson’s tweet, Katie Schilling, Kent State’s associate director for student-athlete development, estimated they had already sent out 20 pairs of shoes and nearly 100 T-shirts, all before the student-athletes had a chance to pitch in.

The men’s and women’s basketball teams found old team apparel that wasn’t being used, packaged it up and sent it out to Houston Tuesday.

Women’s basketball tweet:

Schilling said Kent State’s decision to help was instinctive.

“With any NCAA school, it’s a very tight-knit community,” Schilling said. “When it comes down to it, most coaches usually know at least one coach from every university. … Even if it’s not helping the student-athletes out, even if it’s helping their communities.”

Women’s basketball Coach Todd Starkey echoed these sentiments, adding any help his team was giving went far beyond the bond created by basketball.

These moments, he said, the ones where sport is transcended and a connection is formed, are where he sees the human spirit at its strongest.

“It was a no-brainer,” Starkey said. “I think it’s a great idea because it’s a great example of how powerful we are as a nation, or a group of coaches. (The University of Houston) is going to get thousands of T-shirts and thousands of pairs of shoes from all over the country, from basketball coaches. It’s a great idea.”

Todd Starkey’s tweet:

Both Schilling and Starkey cited the golden rule as a main moral compass when it came to sending relief to those in need.

“At the end of the day, we treat others how you’d like to be treated,” Starkey said. “If we were in the same situation, we’d love for people to be that way for us, to help us out. It’s a small gesture, and a fairly easy thing to do, but even if 300 Division I schools across the country had their men’s and women’s basketball programs each send T-shirts and shoes, look what you get.”

The athletic department plans to send more apparel to Houston Friday morning to help with relief efforts.

Cameron Hoover is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].