Lynx Aid Tornado Victims
Immediately following the tornado that struck the close, family oriented neighborhood of North Minneapolis there was an instant call to action. Minnesota residents from across the state came together to support the major part of the downtown community that was affected by Mother Nature. The Minnesota Lynx were looking for an opportunity to help in any way possible and their request was granted through Shiloh Temple in North Minneapolis.
Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve originally brought up the topic promptly after the devastating event, "It was interesting, we had a meeting about some other things and in the meeting I informed them that there was some destruction over in this area and that we had an opportunity to, if they wanted to," Reeve explained. "This was personal decision; this was not mandatory, they are not getting paid for it, it doesn't count as an appearance. I just said if it was something that meant something to you and you wanted to participate, and all 11 players came forward and said this is something they would do."
Former Gopher superstar and Minnesota native Lindsay Whalen jumped at the opportunity to help the tornado victims straightaway, "When the tornado went through I think everyone was kind of thinking about what we could do to help out in any way...I think we all value the opportunity and the time we get to spend with people who have gone through some tragedy, like the tornado."
The Lynx arrived back in the Twin Cities last Wednesday morning, fresh off their last preseason victory in Indiana, and had just enough time to change and make their way to the church. The entire team walked in only to be greeted by prominent local figures including: Senator Linda Wiggins, council member - fifth ward Don Samuels, assistant chief patrol bureau Janee Harteau, the MAD DADS – Minneapolis Chapter and more.
Director of programs at Shiloh Temple Andrea Thomas helped to position and prepare the children as the team arrived. Thomas had nothing but kind words to say for the Lynx dedication to help those affected by the tragic event, "Number one, it shows us they know where the priority is. They took time out of their busy schedules...and to take their time, instead of practicing, to be here with these children shows their number one priority, and number two that these children are significant to the society, to the community, and that they are important - that they matter to everybody. That means a lot to us."
The young children were drawn to the players instantaneously as team members broke into reading groups, games of basketball and even hula hoping. "I read Dear Bear to them and I think they enjoyed that book,” Seimone Augustus laughed. “They found a bear every time I flipped the page (and) they would say, 'There's the bear! There's the bear!' and of course (playing) basketball, but that was easy they just took the balls and took off.”
Lynx rookie Maya Moore was also an immediate hit with the elated toddlers, “I had the books, so I was popular. It was a great thing to see and the kids were climbing all over me, we were just reading and some of the kids were reading the books as well. It was really impressive. I just had a blast."
Despite the smiles, laughs and non-stop chatter the team remembered the real reason behind their visit to Shiloh. Proud mother and newly added veteran Taj McWilliams-Franklin, or more affectionately known as “Momma Taj” by her teammates, explained how it hit close to home for her as a parent, "Having kids I understand. There is only so much you can do as a parent and when I was a single parent there wasn't a lot of community effort - NBA Cares wasn't around, the WNBA wasn't around and definitely a lot of the community based help wasn't around.”
Once the fun and games subsided it was time for the team to say their goodbyes to their newly made friends. The children gathered around the players to take pictures and received autographs from the entire team.
“You see the spirits and energy of everyone and you know the recovery and the building it back up is going to go well, because everyone here is really optimistic and looking towards the future. In that aspect we're happy to be here and help in any way we can,” Whalen said in regard to the rebuilding process that is yet to come.
McWilliams-Franklin concluded, "I think events like this, even for a small amount of time gives the kids, gives the moms, gives the dads a chance just to take a deep breath and say, 'We can do this!'"
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