By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
There probably aren’t many things that will cause a high school football coach to willingly give up a day of summer camp.
But the opportunity for Joplin coach Chris Shields to send his players to Moore, Okla., was a definite exception.
Approximately 30 members of the team left Joplin at 6 a.m. Friday for a day of volunteering and story-sharing with the tornado victims of Moore.
“We were originally scheduled to go down there on June 28, but I got a call on the 27th saying the recovery efforts had been called off for the next day because of heat advisories,” Shields said. “We had camp this week and I thought it would be a great thing to do on our last day. So we just went four days and then loaded up the kids and sent them down there to work.”
An EF-5 tornado hit Moore on May 20, killing 23 and injuring 377, just two days before the two-year anniversary of the EF-5 Joplin tornado that killed 161 and injured 1,000-plus.
“It brought back some memories of what it was like in Joplin,” said Joplin defensive backs coach Kris Garrett, who was in charge of the trip with Shields attending a funeral. “Just seeing it and being able to give back was a great feeling. We were blessed in Joplin to have a lot of volunteers, so it was nice to see our players get in and help. They were very grateful.”
Evan Moore, a senior offensive lineman, said the team spent the day in a rural area of Moore, picking up debris, moving supplies and loading trucks.
But he said the players were also able to share their experiences from 2011 with the Moore residents.
“We shared stories with a lot of them,” he said. “They were curious about our experiences with the similarities between them and Joplin. They had a lot of questions.”
Garrett said he was concerned at first about the visit being too emotional for the players who went through the Joplin tornado, but instead witnessed a day full of positives.
“I was wondering if it would bring back a lot of bad memories,” he said. “But the players had the attitude of ‘Let’s go. Let’s help these people out.’
“I think it humbled them. They were willing to get in and get work done and give back.”
The team worked with Journey Church in finding people who needed help. The players were originally slated to help remove debris and damaged fence on some farm land before heavy rains washed that opportunity away.
Moore said the trip ended up doubling as a team-building exercise.
“I think any time you do something outside of sports it brings the team closer together,” he said. “It felt good to be together and be helping out.”
Garrett echoed Moore’s thoughts.
“It was great to see them laughing together and having fun while they were helping,” he said. “They were able to eat lunch and talk to the residents. I felt like that kind of stuff, maybe it brought the team closer together.”