In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Houston men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson has made it his personal mission for the Cougars' men's basketball program to collect and distribute as many donated clothes – specifically t-shirts and shoes – as possible to local families affected by the flooding. The idea originated from Sampson watching an interview with one of the displaced families on the local news.
"What struck me was one family in particular ... mother had a respirator on one hip and a five-year-old on the other hip," Sampson said Tuesday via phone from his home in Houston, "and they kept saying that they had to leave everything behind and all they have is the clothes on their back."
So Sampson called his son and Houston assistant coach, Kellen, with the mission of "We have to do something," and the two began brainstorming. Over the last few days, the elder Sampson has received countless messages from college coaches around the country who wanted to check in on Houston's head coach and his family. Every one, Sampson said, finished their message with some form of the question: Is there anything we can do to help?
"Coaches are great people," Sampson said. "They have big hearts, they care and I know they would all like to do something. They just needed an avenue."
Sampson's Twitter account and Houston's Guy V. Lewis Development Center became the avenue, as the college coaching veteran put out a call to action Monday evening.
"I came up with something I think coaches at all levels can help with," Sampson tweeted as part of his statement, "Both men's and women's HS, JC, every level of college DI, DII, DIII and NAIA ... if you can, please send 20 of your schools (sic) t-shirts and 10 pairs of shoes."
His tweet has been retweeted more than 4,000 times, as athletic communities from across the country responded in full force.
As of lunchtime on Tuesday, Houston had received commitments on Twitter from more than 300 schools, teams and people, according to a team spokesman. That number includes colleges, college conferences, junior colleges, high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, AAU basketball programs, and professional sports teams. The contributions aren't limited to basketball teams, either. Football, softball, soccer, volleyball, track and field, and lacrosse teams have sent donations to the Cougars.
Some teams have gone above and beyond donating t-shirts and shoes. Sampson spoke with coaches who offered to send gift cards, shopping cards and prepaid phone cards.
"When it gets to that level, I'll be honest," Sampson said. "I got emotional. I get emotional talking about it because if you just see all these people around here, they have nothing and to be able to coordinate the coaches – I mean, lacrosse coaches, lacrosse teams, softball teams, California, Montana, Maine, Michigan, Florida, Arizona. Coaches from all over the country coming together to help these people here in Houston.
"It's just amazing. Our basketball team and our program, we're going to get on the streets and get those boxes and load them up into these trucks and we're going take them down to the right places. I want these people to know that what you're doing is going to make a difference and we're going to help a lot of people with this venture."
Any interested parties can help Sampson's cause by shipping clothing or shoes to:
University of Houston basketball
Guy V Lewis Development Center
3480 Cullen Blvd.
Houston, TX 77204
Here's a sampling of some of the responses Sampson received from fellow Division I head coaches and programs, an admirable display of support for the city of Houston and its flood victims. Teams from at least 16 of college basketball's 32 conferences responded to Sampson via Twitter announcing their shipments of clothing to Houston.
Consider it done Coach! Xavier Basketball is a go.... https://t.co/zYC32NN1ZQ— Chris Mack (@CoachChrisMack) August 29, 2017
@CoachSampsonUH Fordham MBB will take part in the relief efforts. We will be sending down a care package tomorrow morning— Jeff Neubauer (@JeffMNeubauer) August 29, 2017
We've got some BYU basketball shirts headed your way tomorrow!— Aubrey Reeves (@aub128) August 29, 2017
A box of Rhody gear is en route to Houston. Thank you for doing this, Coach.— Rhody MBB (@RhodyMBB) August 29, 2017
The Griz got y'all!!! #HoustonStrong— Matt Nicholson (@nicholsonm30) August 29, 2017
Done @Ramo_Out— Troy Dannen (@TU_Dannen) August 29, 2017
Coach count Georgia state in. God bless you and the city of Houston we are all praying for you and the city.— Ron Hunter (@coachrhunter) August 29, 2017
on it! :)— Northeastern MBB (@GoNUmbasketball) August 29, 2017
We are in! Sending ETSU gear tomorrow! #LoveFromEastTennessee— ETSU WBB (@ETSU_WBB) August 29, 2017