Shock Players Participate in Relief Efforts in Joplin

It began as a playful bus ride after a tough two-hour Nolan Richardson practice as ambitions to star on the “The Amazing Race” (Jennifer Lacy) and “Yo Gabba Gabba” (Ivory Latta) were openly shared amongst the small group of players.

“Who told Liz (Cambage) that I want to be on ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’?” said Latta. “She just tweeted that she’s terrified of Yo Gabba Gabba.”

Exiting off of Interstate-44 towards Joplin, the conversations became more subtle, the laughter simmered a notch and the tension arose as everyone anxiously anticipated the scene that lay ahead, a scene that, up to that point, had only been observed through newspaper stories and nightly news reports.

“We are all looking out the window not knowing what to expect,” said Latta, breaking the tension for a moment of laughter as the city was approaching in the distance.

Then, Main Street. Then, silence.

Surrounding the bus were recognizable American Landmarks - Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Walgreens - but they were not discernible by their logos but the remnants of their structures and colors scattered across the parking lot.

Stopped at a stoplight at the intersection of 20th and Main Street with military personnel assisting the mechanical change from red to green, the bus driver pulled out his digital camera and began taking pictures of the chaos around him.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

[Related Story: Photo Gallery of the Shock's Relief Efforts In Joplin, MO ]

The bus arrived at the disaster relief site at 15th and Main Street where Shock season ticket-holders and local nurses, Lisa Cantrell and Lori Porter, had organized a pick-up site for twin beds for those in need.

Recognizing the Shock players inside, individuals in the parking lot began to cheer but before exiting, Marion Jones led the team in prayer, asking a higher authority to bless the city and its people amidst all the carnage that lay around them.

Betty Lennox began to cry.

After exiting the bus, each player – Jones, Lennox, Latta, Jennifer Lacy, Rashanda McCants, Kayla Pedersen, Miranda Ayim, Darxia Morris and Chastity Reed – were embraced by a group of volunteers with handshakes, hugs and their stories.

“I want to stay as long as I can,” Pedersen said. “There’s so much work to be done.”

The team welcomed a group of volunteers onto their bus and headed towards what was formerly Joplin High School a couple blocks away on Indiana and 20th Street. Only the letters “OP” from “Joplin” remained on the high school sign but volunteers had added an “H” and “E” with black permanent marker on each end to spell out “HOPE.”

The team arrived at the disaster relief site and immediately began to help out in any way they could. Lacy and Jones began unloading and sorting a truck full of supplies; Latta and McCants sorted personal items in a tent that was setup in the school’s parking lot to provide provisions for all those who lost their homes; Pedersen, Ayim and Lennox became servers on the lunch shift as groves of relief workers came to the school for a free meal.

Morris and Reed hopped on a four-wheeler, heading out towards a local nursing home to deliver water and food to the volunteers working amongst the mass amounts of debris.

“This is some sort of experience,” Morris said. “You couldn’t see anything by the nursing home - no roads, just nothing but crashed buildings.”

Each player took turns between the relief site and distributing items on the front lines. As Reed and Morris returned from the nursing home to take over the dinner shift, the remaining players jumped into three separate four-wheelers to travel to the front lines and help those that are helping so many others.

“It was unbelievable, words can’t describe it.” Latta said. “You still see people searching through their family belongings and family pictures scattered everywhere around the broken down houses.”

After a sobering 100-mile bus ride back to Tulsa and time for reflection, Jones offered these parting words on Twitter to summarize the team’s experience:

@marionjones Words cannot describe the total destruction that we witnessed today in Joplin but the one thing that was so evident from our trip was how God was at every turn. He is so mighty and powerful and the community is so overwhelmingly thankful to have their lives. I was so overwhelmed and honored to be part of this team today.