The Moore American

November 5, 2013


By Michaela Marx Wheatley
The Moore American

MOORE — Almost 500 Moore kids wrapped themselves in brand-new coats in bright shades of pink, purple, blue and green replacing those that got ripped away by the May 20 tornado.

Some giggled, some were examining the garments quite seriously, others turned and swayed as they made sure the new jacket fit just right.

Moore firefighters had teamed up with disc jockeys from Air1 Radio and Operation Warm to distribute new winter coats to nearly 500 elementary students who were displaced from the tornadoes that ripped through Moore five months ago.

On the morning of Nov. 1, fire trucks packed with bright, new coats arrived at Plaza Towers Elementary School’s current home of Central Junior High and volunteers delivered new coats to kids that had been nominated by their teachers or counselor. All students had lost their home, or lost their belongings, in the May 20 storm.

In the afternoon, 150 Briarwood Elementary students received coats at their temporary school at Emmaus Baptist Church.

Skyla Upton, a sixth-grader, lost her home in the tornado. She said people’s generosity has been humbling.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said.

She recalled that after the storm all of her clothes and belongings were gone. In the aftermath people made sure they had clothes.

When asked what she missed most, she thought of her younger brothers – ages 7, 5, and 2.

“My brothers don’t have their toys anymore,” she said.

Receiving a gift like a coat still makes her feel like people care even five months after the disaster, she said.

A dozen firefighters and Air1 crews personally fitted each child with a new coat, helping them to write their name in the interior tag, which reads, “Made Especially for You!”

The firefighters had fun, too.

“The smaller kids are pretty excited,” said Ronnie Rawson, director of Moore Firefighters charitable work, recalling a young Plaza Towers student who jumped up and down in excitement as she waited for her coat.

“Mobilizing together means tangible relief to the families that were devastated by the tornadoes,” Rawson said. “So many lost everything, but now that cooler weather is approaching, we’re here to help keep these kids feel safe and warm.”

“We are so grateful that our listeners support not only to help keep 90.9 Air1 on the air in the Oklahoma City area, but that they also help us support worthwhile organizations like Operation Warm,” explained Air1 DJ Cari Kates. “When we unite with a purpose and touch those affected by tragedy in our communities, we really are the hands and feet of Jesus.”

The coats, manufactured especially for Operation Warm, were ordered in a variety of styles and colors, so that children may enjoy a unique coat that fits properly. Beyond warmth — one of the most basic necessities — organizers hope a new coat will bring pride to children and relief for struggling families, just in time for the holidays.

School staff said the kids are processing the trauma, but being embraced by the community has become part of their life.

“It’s become our way of life,” explained Briarwood counselor Amy Raney. “Our children are grateful people are out there thinking of them.”

Raney said she likes to think that the children learned compassion and empathy from all the outpouring of support, and if there would ever be a disaster somewhere else they would be the first in line to help.