When University of Alabama softball player Courtney Conley heads south to Tuscaloosa today from her native school of Eureka High, a semi-truck load of water bottles, clothing, paper towels, cleaning supplies, diapers, shoes, wipes, personal hygiene items and cash will be heading south as well. It's all going to help victims of a massive and deadly tornado that occurred there Wednesday.
As reported in The Huffington Post Thursday, the town of Tuscaloosa with a population of 83,000-plus and home to University of Alabama, was one of the hardest hit areas in the state by a series of tornadoes. Click here to see a video of the twister.
As in Eureka-Wildwood Patch, Conley is a 2009 graduate who now plays third base for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. Wednesday, she and team members survived what has been called one of the worst outbreaks of tornadoes in U.S. history.
After the tornado leveled and crippled the entire town of Tuscaloosa, college classes for the foreseeable future were canceled. Conley and other non-resident students were sent "home," at least until water and electricity can be restored.
Once back to the Eureka-Robertsville area this weekend, Conley first thought she'd ask a few friends if they had items to donate so she could take them back to Tuscaloosa on the plane with her. Upon talking with Eureka swim coach Sharon Wasson, the plans broadened.
At first, Conley said she hoped to host a relief drive on the parking lot of the Walmart Supercenter in Eureka, but the retail store did not authorize it. Wasson told her she would try to clear the way to use the Eureka High School parking lot instead, and "to pray for things to work out."
Wasson said she received a call from Conley about a half hour after that conversation, indicating that a connection to a local moving company led to a semi-truck being donated. The rest of the magic occurred on the school's lot, after loads of boxes, bags and individual items showed up last night, in a steady stream for several hours.
As one Eureka resident, Ann Martel, put it: "We ran around this afternoon gathering every piece of clothing we didn't need anymore to send to them! It was a great opportunity to clean out closets while doing something good for someone else."
Mrazek Moving Systems donated the trailer, and a Conley family friend who is a commercial truck driver is donating his time.
For those who would like to still donate checks, send them to:
Tuscaloosa Disaster Relief Fund
P.O. Box 020410
Tuscaloosa, AL 35402
This fund was established by Conley's softball coach, Patrick Murphy, to go directly to tornado victims' assistance.
In light of Wednesday's tornado, the Alabama softball team's weekend series with Kentucky originally scheduled to play at Rhoads Stadium April 29-May 1 was canceled and will not be made up.
The Crimson Tide is slated to return to action May 6-8 against Mississippi in Oxford, MS, to close out the regular season.
"The generosity of the Eureka community should never be doubted; Eureka always comes through," said Wasson. "Sometimes, Eureka's results and help are overwhelming."