The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

June 30, 2012

Joplin story hits close to home for Alden, Tigers

— Mike Alden took a quick look around Christine Taylor’s new neighborhood and smiled.

“This is great,” he said. “The Chiefs have been here, the Royals have been here, the Cardinals have been here.”

As athletic director at the University of Missouri, Alden had a first-hand look Friday at the five houses under construction in south-central Joplin with the assistance of players, coaches, administrators and other volunteers from the Tigers’ athletic department.

“It’s not just athletics. We just happen to be the most visable,” Alden said. “The concensus was that in the next tragedy that happened, everyone would move on. That hasn’t happened.”

The Tigers’ commitment to help rebuild the neighborhood is part of the Governor’s Joplin Challenge. Sawhorses decorated with flowers and the Mizzou logo mark the sites where the Tigers have been working.

“It’s everybody together and to see them bond like that,” Alden said. “It teaches compassion, community service and volunteerism.”

Alden has close ties to Southwest Missouri. His brother, Dr. John Alden, is a physician in Lamar, and his nephew, Michael Alden, is studying pre-law at Missouri Southern.

Sarah Baumgartner, associate athletic director for development, was part of a construction crew working on another house nearby. She said about 60 volunteers, including 35 student athletes and 20 administrators and coaches, made the trip.

“For student athletes, it’s so important to get involved in the community and make a difference,” she said. “They all made a choice to do this. It definitely means something to them to be a part of this.

“It’s amazing to see our state coming together,” she said. “It makes a huge statement about the commitment of all the athletes in the state. It transcends sports and competitiveness. I’ve never seen all these teams come together for something like this.”

Alden recalled his thoughts upon hearing of the storm that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011.

“We were shocked,” he said. “My nephew was out of town. His apartment was destroyed.

“We heard there was a storm in Joplin, then we heard it was a tornado. All of a sudden, we started to hear about the devastation. Then your heart goes out to people and you just become heartbroken for those who lost family members and loved ones.

“For us, as Tigers, we have fans and student athletes who are connected to people throughout the state.”

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