Former McNeese Athletics Administrators help in Hurricane Laura recovery

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LAKE CHARLES – One month ago, McNeese State University, Lake Charles, and all of Southwest Louisiana suffered one of the worst natural disasters by way of a storm when Hurricane Laura dealt a devastating blow.

Thousands lost homes and businesses. Electricity would not be restored for weeks, and as of September 25, many are still without. Cleanup is ongoing and will take many more weeks. Life in Southwest Louisiana changed instantly that early morning of August 27 when the Category 4 storm made its presence known with sustained winds of 150 mph, just short of a Category 5 cyclone.

Immediately following the storm, the recovery began with the help from the Louisiana National Guard, United Way of Southwest Louisiana, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, thousands of volunteers, and from universities within the state of Louisiana and across the nation.

Two of those schools that delivered truck loads of supplies to McNeese State University were Louisiana Tech and Stephen F. Austin – both whose Athletic Directors are former McNeese Athletics administrators.

Tommy McClelland (La. Tech) and Ryan Ivey (SFA) have a personal connection to the area and the people of SWLA.

“I spent seven years of my life in Lake Charles and both of my sons were born there,” said McClelland who was recently named Deputy AD at Vanderbilt. “Simply put, it’s like home to us. It breaks my heart to see all of the devastation that has occurred in the wake of Hurricane Laura. Seeing how bad the athletics facilities were hit brings me to my knees. My heart aches for the coaches, staff and mostly, the student athletes.”

“Lake Charles is where both my boys were born, where I bought my first house, where I gained the foundation that has helped me become an Athletics Director, and, more importantly, where I met wonderful individuals that have had a profound impact on my life,” said Ivey who is in his second year as AD at Stephen F. Austin. “Lake Charles and McNeese will always hold a special place in my heart and soul, so seeing the devastation and the impact Laura has had on the area has been gut-wrenching. Watching the storm come in at night, and waking up with others to see the devastation was heartbreaking and, honestly, I felt helpless and wanted to do what I could to help.”

Both schools organized goods drives on their respective campuses with the student body and delivered the supplies to McNeese.

But those weren’t the only ones with generous donations.

LSU delivered multiple truck loads of supplies ranging from non-perishable food items, paper goods, cleaning supplies and pet food, just to name a few. Louisiana-Lafayette, Northwestern State, Nicholls, Southeastern Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Southern and New Orleans also contributed from the state as well as Sam Houston State, Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, Abilene Christian and Central Arkansas from the Southland Conference.

“That has been so special,” said McNeese Interim AD and head men’s basketball coach Heath Schroyer. “I’ve said all along, when you go through hard times and you go through a crisis, a lot of times you see the best in humanity. Seeing the support from our league and the state, it’s been so humbling to see. They’re bringing in tractor trailers full of supplies and being able to distribute those to people in the community, it’s been so humbling. I just thank them so much.”

One month later, the help still exists in SWLA and schools are still answering the call.

Northwestern State delivered more than 800 items on Thursday from a drive that was titled “Demons Supporting SWLA – The Cowboy Collection” as an initial goal of 500 items, one for every NSU student-athlete and athletic department staff, blew past its goal.

As for former McNeese AD McClelland and Associate AD Ivey, holds SWLA as a special place in their hearts.

“Southwest Louisiana is populated with self-reliant, hard-working people,” said McClelland. “They will make this community better than it was. They are Cowboy touch!”

“Having lived in SWLA and knowing the resolve and resiliency of the community and people there, I have no doubt that the area will rebound and bounce back,” said Ivey. “After seeing the devastation, I know it is going to take some time, but I know rebuilding will happen.”

Rebuilding will take time, but it will happen. McNeese and Southwest Louisiana will not rest until the last nail is hammered.

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