SSAC spearheads efforts to help athletic programs recover from flood

Derek Taylor , Assistant Sports Editor

It didn’t take long for the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission to become involved in relief efforts following last week’s flooding that devastated several communities in the central and southern regions of the state.

“Shawn Krajeski from Clay County called me on Friday and said, ‘Bill, we are in bad shape here. We lost everything,’” SSAC communication, technology and event coordinator Bill Gillispie said Monday.

“I thought, with my ability to put it out there we might be able to help out, but let’s not just limit it to one school,” Gillispie said.

Gillispie, the former athletic director at Charleston Catholic, oversees the SSAC’s social media presence and facilitates the flow of information between the SSAC and its member schools. In this case, he has found himself opening the lines of communication between those schools themselves.

“We put it on Twitter first, then Facebook,” he said. “We got such a response back from member schools it’s been amazing. The outpouring of support we’ve got has overwhelmed me.”

The SSAC home office itself will act as what Gillispie called a “staging ground” by the end of the week. There, schools will be able donate equipment and supplies to those schools in need as a result of the flooding. From there, it will be dispersed to those aforementioned schools.

While facilitating activity between member schools, the SSAC is also working with its corporate sponsors in attempt to alleviate some of the financial burden from athletic programs in their attempts to rebuild. SSAC executive director Bernie Dolan said Monday that while direct financial aid given by the SSAC to member schools is not currently a possibility, the governing body is working diligently to broker deals with athletic suppliers such as Zide’s Sporting Goods to reduce costs to schools and their support systems.

“They’re a big dealer and one of our corporate sponsors,” Dolan said of Zide’s, which is based in Marietta, Ohio.

“By the time I got to them [Sunday] they’d already been in contact with some of the schools. They do a lot of reconditioning of equipment for a lot of teams,” Dolan said. “We’re working with some of the suppliers to see what they can do to help us out. Maybe [they can offer] a special purchase for those who have lost, or that kind of thing.”

Several schools have expressed concern that they might have to cancel their fall athletic schedules because of the losses they sustained. Richwood’s athletic fields were completely lost to the flooding while Herbert Hoover’s football field was covered in water and the first floor of the school itself was Sunday night called by principal Mike Kelley “almost a total loss.” Because of these factors, Hoover and athletic programs at other schools are looking at far more than just having to replace football equipment.

“If you lose your gym to it, with a wood floor it’s going to warp,” Dolan said. “That can be refinished or probably have to be replaced.”

Dolan and Gillispie noted that it is still too early to assess all the damage and determine exactly what each school needs.

“If it was at a central location that lost everything, chances are you have an inventory at the end of each season that you can just pull from for that information,” Dolan said, adding that while that would be the most efficient way to determine need, it is also not very likely that all affected schools have such lists available, and that those that do might have lost that information in the flooding itself.

“You have to sort out what was lost in damage and what was beyond repair,” Dolan said. “They’ll have some challenges just getting that together.”

By midday on Monday numerous schools had contacted Gillispie with specific lists of equipment they could offer.

“Coach [Luke] Salmons at [Cabell] Midland said they have enough stuff to outfit a whole team. There’s a middle school in Jefferson County — Wildwood Middle — that is a feeder into Jefferson — and their athletic director, David Viands, called and said they can donate 30 helmets,” Gillispie said.

“Now, that might not be much help to a high school but to a place like Elkview Middle, that could be a lot of help,” Gillispie said.

Ravenswood High already has donated 20 sets of practice uniforms, and Gillispie said that he spoke to officials at Doddridge County High on Monday morning who said the Bulldogs program can outfit 15-22 players.

South Charleston’s football team, led by coach Donnie Mays, travelled to Clendenin on Monday to assist in flood cleanup there. Other efforts include a plan from Huntington High to take its football players to Richwood and assist with cleanup efforts Thursday.

“For Huntington to be able to do that, that’s huge,” Gillispie said. “It is a fraternity of programs. All coaches know how it would affect them. They want to help.”

Gillispie also highlighted the fundraising efforts of programs like the Winfield basketball program, which donated $4,000 from a fundraising car wash it operated over the weekend, as a significant help. Hurricane’s cross country program is donating the proceeds from its annual Great Teays 5K in July to help in flood relief.