As they watched the devastation caused to people in the south by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a group of former South Dakota Coyotes football players immediately felt they had to do something to help the people of the southern gulf region.
In conjunction with The University of South Dakota and the Community Food Banks of South Dakota, these former USD alumni, who come from all across the nation and played football in the 1970s, will sponsor a hurricane relief food drive during the Dakota Day weekend. Nonperishable food items will be collected, donated to the Community Food Banks of South Dakota and distributed to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita.
According to John Russell of Knoxville, TN, the former Coyote players communicate on a regular basis and were planning a trip back to USD's campus for Dakota Days this fall. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the southern gulf region, these USD alumni knew they had to do something to help.
They immediately contacted the university with the idea of putting together an effort to help those in need.
"Like all Americans, I was emotionally horrified as I watched live coverage of the destruction caused by (Hurricane) Katrina," said Russell, a 1977 USD graduate. "When the idea came up to turn our Dakota Days trip into a relief effort, everyone came together like when we were teammates on the Coyote football teams in the 1970s.
"We knew we had to make this happen," said Russell, one of the lead coordinators for the food drive.
Most of the former Coyote athletes were members of the three NCC championship football squads from 1972-75 that were coached by Joe Salem. Among the former USD football players helping in the effort include Dwight Duncombe, St. Paul, MN; Tim Cheever, Longmount, CO; David Combs, Grand Junction, CO; Pat Cooper, Minneapolis, MN; Dave Hultgren, Ida Grove, IA; Jeff Juneau, Shoreview, MN; Mike Lee, Knoxville, TN; Clyde McCormick, Grand Junction, CO; Steve Moore, Troy, MI (Detroit); Joe Morgan, Todd, NC; Ed Sundby, Overland Park, KS; Steve Winkel, Overland Park, KS; Mike Susner, Chicago, IL; John Vogelbacher, Champlin, MN; and Russell.
The group will hold the food drive from Friday to Sunday, Oct. 7-9 at the DakotaDome. The group will receive donated items on Friday afternoon from 4 to 8 p.m.; on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 am. to 2:30 p.m. The truck and trailer will be donated by Midwest Coast Transport in Sioux Falls, through the help of former Coyote men's basketball player Mike Kloth.
"The need in the aftermath of the hurricanes is extreme," said Matt Gassen, executive director of the Community Food Banks of South Dakota, Inc. "It is our mission to provide food assistance to those people until they can get back on their feet. We really appreciate the effort by these Coyote alumni."
For the USD alumni group, this is a team effort to support people that have gone through unbearable circumstances.
"We are truly blessed with what we have," said Steve Moore of Troy, MI, and a 1975 USD graduate. "For me, USD was a big part of that and it will feel good to be part of such a great cause that will help so many. Doing it at the university is a bonus."
Pastor Joe Morgan of Todd, NC, said his friends and former classmates have shared friendship and comradeship for more than 20 years and this is an effort that is necessary.
"I feel as people of faith that we are supposed to show genuine care and compassion and help out whenever and wherever people are in need. As a team of caring individuals, we are doing our small part to reach out to American citizens who have lost just about everything and had their world turned upside down," said Morgan.
According to Russell, the group is asking the people living in southeastern South Dakota to help out as much as they can.
"We know that the people of South Dakota have already given a lot from going to the region to help the people of the gulf south, donating items and more. We hope they will continue to exhibit a big charitable heart," he said.
Ed Sundby, who now lives in Overland Park, KS, knows it is important for Americans to be there for each other. "Since so many people lost family and friends in this hurricane, helping out with a relief effort � alongside friends � is very meaningful to all of us. It makes me proud to live in a country where I know that if a horrible catastrophe happened in my town that people would be there for us," said Sundby.
With so many relief efforts already underway across the U.S. and abroad, this effort may seem small in comparison to the millions of dollars raised and thousands of trucks already dropping off goods and items to the people. But this drive is an example of how a small group of friends can help others.
"Years ago, I remember how everyone worked so hard to accomplish our goals as a team," said John Vogelbacher of Champlin, MN. "It's so good to again see so many teammates working together on something that will make a difference."
For more information, contact John Russell, 865-567-0881; Matt Gassen, Community Food Banks of South Dakota, Inc., 605-335-0364; or Dan Genzler, USD Sports Information, 605-677-7833.