News9, OETA and the Red Cross teamed up to raise money the past two days to aid tornado victims. I hosted the event and did approximately twenty live cut-ins during our wall-to-wall tornado TV coverage. We worked Tuesday 4-11 p.m. and Wednesday 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
In three days we raised over $215,000 through the phone banks alone. I was blown away when doing four radio shows around the country when listeners from out of state got in contact with me wanting to know how to contribute. So the 21K figure will rise.
Combining the Red Cross donations with the overall efforts of News9--which receieved cash and checks, text donations and 16 truckloads of goods--as of Wednesday 8 p.m., we have raised over $1,233,000.
Using the phone bank infrastructure of OETA, we accepted donations for the Red Cross ranging from $2 to $10,000. Most donations were in the $100-$250 range, so there were lots of people involved. We had a good many people call and donate a certain amount and then extend a "challenges" to others in their particular industry to match their donation. This concept wsa particularly effective.
Shifts of volunteers took phone calls. There were around fifty volunteers who took time to get involved. Some were board members of the Red Cross, some were bank officers, realtors, students and retired citizens.
After a long day that had me down and out thinking about the nightmare we were covering, something happened I won't soon forget. A God thing. A gentlemen walked into my office at 11 p.m. Tuesday and said that Kevin Durant wanted to come help take phone calls and be available for a one on one interview on Wednesday. I've interviewed KD hundreds of times in group settings. Only once in a one-on-one setting. And here he was, seeing the devastation, wanting to get involved, and I'm told he'd like to come out to see us. Hello!
The drive home was full of prayers of thanks and the belief that this world if filled with good people and when people are pulling on the same rope, amazing things can happen.
KD showed up thirty minutes early Wednesday and at 1:45 p.m. met the volunteers and began taking phone calls from donors. We actually cut in to live programming for me to do an extended interview that inspired countless calls and dollars the next half hour. When he left, KD was headed to the actual tornado zone in Moore.
It struck me that KD genuinely did not want the publicity--and said as much--but is sharp enough to understand that just like on the basketball court, people follow a leader. So after donating $1 million dollars Tuesday, he backed it up by hitting the pavement and getting involved.
The Lanky Longhorn's presence and charisma is inspiring to all and a great example of what makes him one in a million. And what makes this area special.
Overall, being involved in raising money and working with wonderful people at OETA and The Red Cross was something I'll never forget. Not very often do you see an idea spring into action and within two days of asking people to simply make a phone call, see them respond and generate over $220K. The $1.5 million will help a lot of people. More is needed. But I know there are other groups like us out there doing the same thing. And combined, the efforts will have lasting results.
The loving, generous and optimistic outpouring of giving was truly an incredible thing to see.