KNOXVILLE - With damaged and devastated communities to its south and northeast needing help following recent storms, the University of Tennessee athletic department did its part to help.
UT held a disaster relief drive all day Tuesday, using the 18-wheel trailer truck that's normally used to carry the football team's equipment to road games to load and transport supplies to 10 counties in East Tennessee.
"Any time there's a need, Tennesseans have shown a desire to help, and I think we've got a track record of doing that in our state," UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said. "There's sometimes the desire to have an immediate impact.
"Well, we decided the best thing to do was to step back and ask the agencies that are working in this area and ask the people who are in these areas where the needs were, what the needs were, and so our folks did that. It doesn't surprise me to see people wanting to help with that."
Individual donations of supplies from fans around Knoxville and nine truckloads of materials from Knoxville-area Home Depot stores helped fill the larger truck, which will carry aid to storm-ravaged communities in Bledsoe, Bradley, Hamilton, McMinn, Monroe and Rhea counties. A smaller truck was to take supplies to Cocke, Greene, Johnson and Washington counties in the northeast corner of the state.
"From what I've seen obviously on the news, and we went down to Cleveland [for the Big Orange Caravan last week] and saw some of that as well, it's just been tough," said new Volunteers basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, who was joined by his staff and center Kenny Hall in helping load the trucks.
"It's just one of those things - you have to do your part as a community. It's what you have to do; it's what you need to do. I think in anything like this, whether you're coaching or just a regular everyday guy, this is your community and that's more than anything. That's how you look at it, not necessarily let me be out here because I'm the coach at Tennessee. I'm out here because I can be a part of this as well."
UT also donated $25,000 to Red Cross to help the relief efforts, a sum that included proceeds from the Orange and White game.
"It brings it home," Hamilton said. "I think we need to sometimes take a breather and stop and think about things that are most important in life, and there's nothing more important than life itself. If we can help those who have been through some tragedy to maybe have a little bit better day tomorrow or the next day because of some of small things we're doing here today, then that's what we need to do."