In times of tragedy, there is always hope, and hope comes in all forms. For the residents of Oklahoma, hope started with hero teachers and neighbors, and now every part of the country is sending aid, prayers and gestures of good will. Here's a working list of notable acts of kindness offered up by fellow citizens.
Sharing some cheer
Comfort dogs: The famous LCC K-9 Comfort Dog program is driving 13 hours from Connecticut to bring half a dozen dogs to local hospitals in Moore and surrounding communities. On their way, they're picking up two more dogs that are based in Joplin. The LCC (Lutheran Church Charities) have set up two donation pages: One for the comfort dog travel expenses and another that serves as a disaster relief fund.
Operation BBQ: Folks from relief organization Operation BBQ are making the trip to Oklahoma from Texas to serve barbecue around the clock to people affected by the tornado. Check their Facebook page if you're interested in helping.
Members of the military doing what they do best:
The Oklahoma National Guard is hard at work:
Brig. Gen. Emery Fountain, an Army National Guard member and Oklahoma resident, said their teams are most interested in responding to communities' needs, instead of flooding them with unnecessary resources and manpower. And, of course, the presence of the Guard adds an element of leadership to a sometimes chaotic situation.
"The National Guard -- and the country -- has never let down a community," he told the American Forces Press Service. "So we’re always there. I think they know that. As soon as the public sees uniforms, it’s a calming factor."
A veteran helping his own: California veteran Justin Davis fought in Iraq for eight years and survived a traumatic brain injury. In response to the tragic news out of Oklahoma, Davis is leading an effort to collect donations of money and supplies to send to veterans affected by the storms. A local insurance agency offered office space to help store the donations. Davis says he has talked to fellow veterans in storm-ravaged areas, and many of them have been left with nothing.
"It's a horrible situation for anyone to have to go through, but on top of that, they served our country, they've lived in horrible places and done all this stuff for our country and they come home to hopefully peace with their families. They have to deal with starting completely over again and lose everything they've worked so hard for," Davis told HLN affiliate KERO.
Remember the animals:
Many animal rescue organizations have mobilized units to help search for and house animals lost in the tornadoes, and of course, try to reunite them with their families:
Free physical exams for affected pets: The Banfield Pet Hospital, the world's largest veterinary practice, is offering free physical examinations for needy pets in the tornado-ravaged areas. That's more than 14 animal hospitals in the Oklahoma region, and the offer is good through June 4. Banfield is also working on other relief efforts. Click here to find a local Banfield hospital, and visit their Facebook page for info and updates.
Athletes take a time out to help:
Durant's big gesture: Basketball star and Oklahoma City Thunder player Kevin Durant has pledged a staggering $1 million through his foundation to help Oklahoma's recovery efforts. "I call Oklahoma City my home. I go through Moore all the time. It's unfortunate," Durant told ESPN. "We're going to come together as a city like we always do and we're going to bounce back."
OKC native and Dodgers baseball player Matt Kemp makes a home run:
Dave Robertson's making a difference: The Yankees player established his High Socks for Hope charity after tornadoes ripped through his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, two years ago. Now, Robertson says, though his charity is small, he will do everything in his power to send relief Oklahoma's way. "We’re small but we’re doing what we can," Robertson told the New York Daily News. "Hopefully we can move some essential items back up to Oklahoma and help out any way we can.”
Tornado-stricken towns offer healing to fellow survivors:
Some towns that are still healing from their own bouts with natural disasters are taking this time to pay it forward.
Henryville helps out: The principal of Henryville High School in Indiana, the school hardest-hit by last year's tornado activity in the region, is heading to Moore right after graduation. Knowing all too well the pain and devastation of a tornado's wrath, a few more Henryville residents will join him. “Maybe it will be a big thing and maybe it will be little thing, but it is something we feel we have to do to make a difference,” he told HLN affiliate WXIN.
Alabama remembers: Tornadoes devastated parts of Alabama in 2011, and many residents remember the outpouring of help and hope they received from others. People in Limestone are trying to raise money in gift cards to send to Oklahoma victims. Their goal? A total of $4,027 to represent 4/27, the date of their own deadly tornado. The Alabama Baptist State Convention remembers when the Oklahoma Baptist State Convention sent money and aid in 2011, and now, they figure it's time to return the favor. The ABSC has already supplied money, and another 3,000 churches in the state are expected to take up a collection soon. Finally, the Silent Tide, a University of Alabama outreach program, is organizing drives and benefits. Click here for more info.
Sandy survivor and New York lawmaker is moved to act: Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder of Queens, New York, is traveling to Oklahoma to share some lessons he learned during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Above all, he says, he wants Americans to help out in the region the same way they helped out after Sandy.
Heroism at the heart: Teachers, neighbors & first responders
As the dust cleared in Oklahoma, staggering stories of heroism have came to light: Teachers saved students by covering them with their bodies, and stayed with students until they could be located by their parents. Rescuers even had to pull a car off one teacher who was protecting her students. In re-telling the story to KFOR, a rescuer broke down in tears. "Good job, teach," he said.
Still more first responders came to the immediate aid of students trapped inside ruined buildings. Oklahoma State police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said he witnessed amazing acts of bravery at Plaza Towers Elementary. "They literally were lifting walls up and kids were coming out," he told the Chicago Tribune. "They pulled kids out from under cinder blocks without a scratch on them."