Members of the figure skating community rally to support the victims of last week’s storms
By Mimi Whetstone
May 20, 2013, started like any other day. Residents of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area began their daily routines under the watchful eye of local meteorologists, as several factors were expected to cause storms throughout the area that evening. What no one expected, however, were the events that followed that afternoon.
“The tornado had hit the ground hard beginning in Newcastle, about 45 minutes away, heading northeast,” Jackie Brenner, skating director and administrative manager at Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Edmond, Okla., recalled. “Moore is the main community south of Oklahoma City where our south side arena, Blazers Ice Centre, home of Sooner Skating Club (SC), is located. It is approximately 10 minutes south of our home. It was horribly devastating. Our community gets out of school at 3:20 p.m. and the tornado hit Moore hard just past 3 p.m. It’s terrible that all the children were still in school and parents at work.”
The storm killed 24 people, including nine children, and was estimated to be 1.3 miles wide with peak winds ranging from 200 to 210 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Approximately 2,400 homes were destroyed in the cities of Moore and Oklahoma City, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, and the twister was registered as an EF5, the most powerful category of tornadoes.
“Many of my athletes’ families are from Moore, but to my knowledge, no Oklahoma figure skaters were directly impacted,” Brenner said. “I’m still reaching out to the hockey community, but have yet to hear that any ice families were directly affected.”
In the days following the tragedy, Oklahoma’s figure skating community rallied to help those who weren’t as fortunate in escaping the storm’s destructive path.
“Pat Young (manager at Arctic Edge Ice Arena) and I coordinated a drop-off point for donations at Arctic Edge West arena all last week,” Brenner said. “This was an opportunity for individuals to drop off donations locally as traffic patterns on the south side of town were limiting.”
Blazers Ice Centre in Oklahoma City, Okla., located just 10 minutes north of Moore, is accepting donations as well, and is specifically looking to collect items such as towels, washcloths, trash bags, tarps, work gloves and tools.
In addition to accepting and delivering donations, members of the Oklahoma City Figure Skating Club (OKCFSC) and Arctic Edge Ice Arena collected help for Operation BBQ Relief, a non-profit organization established in 2011 following the devastating tornado in Joplin, Mo., to provide compassion and meals for victims of natural disasters, while others volunteered their time to assist with the clean-up process.
“My daughter, Ciana, spent time with her dad picking up debris, etc. around two homes in Bethel Acres with our church volunteers,” Barbara Higgs, president of the OKCFSC, said. “Her first comment to me, via text message, read ‘How depressing’ as they passed by the areas to get where they were going. She was finding pictures and toys out in bushes and yards which makes you think about who these people were and what they lost.”
The OKCFSC, Sooner SC and Tulsa FSC are working together to host a blanket drive for the temporary housing set up for victims in the University of Oklahoma dormitories. Oilers Ice Center in Tulsa, Okla., offered free public skating with the donation of a blanket over Memorial Day weekend and the Tulsa FSC continues to sell “Pray for Oklahoma” T-shirts for $15 on their website (www.tulsafsc.com), with all proceeds going directly to those affected by the storm. Several additional fundraising events are in the works, including a possible exhibition benefit and Skate for Moore fundraiser.
“We are seeing what we can manage in order to do ice show or exhibition to raise money for tornado relief,” Higgs said. “The board has not met on this yet, but the show or exhibition would be something later down the road. The victims of this storm will have needs for a long time.”
“I have heard several people say they’ve cut down what is needed as far as supplies for now,” Higgs continued. “I feel that giving toys to the kids affected would be difficult with so many displaced, but maybe we can collect toys later, once people are getting back into their homes. We could also send school supplies before school starts back up in August. Various ideas come to mind, but we will discuss them as a board at our next meeting and decide how we want to proceed further.”
As families sort through piles of debris and look forward to a long and arduous rebuilding process, the people of Oklahoma, including its figure skaters, continue to stand behind those affected and provide support however possible. Those wanting to help are encouraged to purchase shirts from tulsafsc.com, take donated items to Blazers Ice Centre and continue to look for future efforts on behalf of the figure skating community through the OKCFSC (www.okcfsc.net), Arctic Edge Ice Arena (www.janikwicks.com/arctic), the Tulsa FSC and the Sooner SC (www.blazers-icecentre.com).
“Oklahoma City is not the most beautiful part of the country, but the people are truly extraordinary,” Brenner said. “Blessed are we to raise our children in a city that pulls together in tragedy.”
Photos provided by Barbara Higgs