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Dan Weber: How Beechwood Responded to Aid Rival Mayfield After Tornado

Dan Weber writes a sports column for The River City News. Contact him at dweber3440@aol.com.

Beechwood High football coach Noel Rash understands that when it comes to Mayfield and how the rest of the state and the nation is getting together to help the tornado-flattened town in Western Kentucky 320 miles from Ft. Mitchell, people would think of him.

"They know my relationship with Coach (Joe) Morris and how much I think of him and his program," Rash said Monday after a day of full-scale support activity for Mayfield at Beechwood. So naturally this would somehow go through him.

Beechwood has had an ongoing relationship with the town of 10,000 in Graves County that found itself squarely in the path of 200 miles of tornadoes overnight Friday for years now through playoff football

But after Rash had begun trading text messages with Morris to see how he and his family were doing early Saturday before he even knew the full extent of the damage while asking what the folks in Ft. Mitchell could do for Mayfield, Rash reported in to Beechwood Principal Justin Kaiser. But he needn't have.

Kaiser had already been in contact with his counterpart at Mayfield High School. "He was in shock," Kaiser said although the high school had pretty much survived intact. And now has become the hub for displaced victims although its immediate future as a place for education is clearly in doubt.

By the time Rash got to him, Kaiser had already secured a semi-tractor-trailer to deliver all the donations for Mayfield -- and all directly to the high school for them to get it to the people who need it the most.

"They need it and they need it right now," was Kaiser's thought process here. He didn't ask permission, he just said to himself: "Let's just do it, we have the ability to do it. Everybody's on the same page, just do what's right. That's the advantage of a small school."

So on returning to school from his guest spot on WLW radio Monday, Rash learned from his players and students who had loaded the first truck that they would need a couple more at least.

"The first truck got here at 9 a.m. and it was filled by 3 p.m. and it's off to Mayfield," Kaiser said. He had told one of his friends, Nick Lanham of Lighthouse Transportation Services in Covington, what they were planning to do. And Lanham -- "a Covington Catholic guy," Kaiser notes -- said he'd be glad to help with a truck and driver. Which is pretty much how this has gone since they decided to do it. "Little did he know he was going to have to come up with three or four more," Kaiser laughs.

So that first truck is on its way, filled with warm clothing, hats, gloves, blankets, bedding, food, water, cleaning products, feminine hygiene products, 30 to 40 space heaters and kerosene heaters, grills for cooking absent electricity, extension cords, phone chargers, flashlights, and on and on.

Rash was thrilled at how after one former Beechwood board member, Brad Hood, found out what they were doing, "he cleaned out Home Depot for 17 space heaters" as part of that haul.

The Ft. Mitchell Police Department is even donating a police cruiser for a department that had a number of theirs damaged. And since this went online less than 24 hours ago, the Beechwood Alumni Association has raised more than $20,000 in cash.

"This just hit really close to us," Kaiser said after Mayfield had visited Beechwood for the state semis just over two weeks ago. And for Kaiser, who was a sophomore on the Beechwood team that lost the state championship game to Mayfield in 1995 by a point before his next two Beechwood teams won it all, Kaiser says proudly. Even more proudly, his children now attend Beechwood as the only fifth-generation family at the Ft. Mitchell school.

So this was just too close to home -- even if that home was 320 miles and one time zone to the west.

There were cars still dropping off donations until 7 p.m. Monday before they had to shut it off, Kaiser said. But they'll be back at it at 7 a.m. Tuesday with the second truck to be filled and then another and another. "They're coming from all over the Tri-State," he says of the donors.

Having been to Mayfield three times with Beechwood teams for playoff games, Rash said he "had the same visceral response as everybody else, it's overwhelming. You look at those giant trees just snapped off and think of them having to search for survivors under the rubble . . . "

As to the response from this community he's been a part of since his grandfather's father, Kaiser says, it might be a surprise "how quickly, how fast" this all came together.

But "what the response would be?" or how overwhelmingly positive it would be, "No," Kaiser says.

No surprise there.

-Dan Weber
Photo via Beechwood Independent Schools