Tigers team up with Red Cross for Haiti relief

Thursday, January 21, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Sports fans will have a chance to donate to American Red Cross relief efforts for Haiti at Saturday’s home basketball games. Members of various MU student groups will collect donations before and after both the men’s and women’s games at Mizzou Arena.

“It’s certainly been on everyone’s mind since the tragedy occurred, not just in the athletics department, but throughout the university,” said Chad Moller, department spokesman.

The fundraising idea originated after the university approached the department about ways to get involved.

“I know that Chancellor Deaton was looking at ways to engage Tiger Nation and asked us to reach out to fans,” Moller said.

This is not the first time the athletics department has mobilized its fans in times of need. After several recent disasters, including the Thailand tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, Tiger fans were asked to donate funds and aid in supply gathering efforts, Moller said.

“In the past, we’ve felt like our efforts were very successful and the fans very receptive,” Moller said.

To get the message to fans, the athletics department will use its Web site as well as social and electronic media.

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake, which struck Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, has launched extensive relief efforts led by the Red Cross and other aid organizations worldwide. The death toll is estimated at 70,000 people, according to the Haitian prime minister.

Mike Odneal, executive director of the mid-Missouri chapter of the Red Cross, encourages people to make cash donations to the agency’s international relief efforts.

“The Red Cross doesn’t recommend material donations because of the logistic challenges involved in shipping from a local level,” Odneal said.

The Columbia Red Cross office has raised about $14,000 from people walking in and calling, he said. The Red Cross assesses need throughout the progression of a disaster and uses cash donations to buy in bulk supplies needed at the moment.

Nationally, the Red Cross has raised more than $23 million through mobile phone donations alone. The money comes via text messages that automatically add a $10 pledge to an individual’s phone bill, according to a briefing from the U.S. State Department.

Fans can donate at the next basketball games on Saturday: the MU women’s basketball team plays Baylor at 1 p.m., and the men’s team faces Nebraska at 5 p.m.

Checks can be made out to the American Red Cross. Please note on the check that the donation should go to “Haiti Relief.”

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