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Stepping Up Big

606 Camp Photos by Nancy King/Debbie Green

During my 47 plus years covering University of Kentucky athletics there have been a lot of memorable achievements and special performances by individuals and teams.

However, I am not quite sure there has been a time quite like last week when UK athletes have done more to make Big Blue fans proud.

Kentucky athletes and coaches rallied to help eastern Kentucky flood victims in some amazing ways. Athletes from various sports worked the phone lines during a telethon during an open Kentucky men’s basketball practice that raised almost $3 million for flood relief. According to T.J. Beisner, director of player development for UK men’s basketball, John Calipari’s team has now helped raise over $9 million for people in our state the last eight months.

No one is better at charitable work than Calipari and his compassion carries over to his team. Fans sense that but more importantly, folks in eastern Kentucky really appreciate it. They also appreciated Calipari’s decision to move the annual Blue-White Game to eastern Kentucky.

“When he made that announcement, my heart went wild,” said Lonnie Rowe, father of UK freshman basketball player Cassie Rowe and an eastern Kentucky resident. “I hope they make sure flood victims get tickets, and I am sure they will. We have people here who never get a chance to get to Rupp Arena but never miss a game on TV. Having UK come here for the Blue-White Game means a lot to us.”

Rowe’s daughter along with UK teammates Emma King and Blair Green were joined by former UK standout Maci Morris at a basketball camp at North Laurel Saturday with all $3,000 raised going to flood relief.

“I think Kentucky as a whole if something happens to one of us, it happens to us all. I am thankful to be able to use what platform I have to give back to the state and those in need,” King, a senior from Lincoln County, said.

“Not only was the camp for a great cause but it also got our spirits lifted,” the UK freshman said. “We had some special kids at the camp who made us all feel great. We even had kids from eastern Kentucky. One was impacted by the flood. She lost her home and just the fact she came out to camp and had a good time and we put a smile on her face was heartwarming.”

Father Jim Sichko, well known for his charitable work, had the same heartwarming feeling when UK football coach Mark Stoops and over 100 players showed up at his house Friday to help load about 55,000 packages he had sent to him in less than a week after posting a wish-list for flood victims on his social media accounts.

“It was the miracle of the loaves and the fishes which was not that there was food for everyone but that everyone shared what they did have,” Sichko said. “It was the same thing of beauty when coach Stoops and his guys showed up. They came in three buses. I had no idea so many were coming because I really am not a sports guy. They were great, kind, hard workers. It stormed and I asked coach Stoops if I should get them umbrellas. He said, ‘No, we are working.’

“We filled three moving vans with packages and that still was not enough space to get everything packed.”

Since Sichko was expecting 1,500 or more packages Sunday from people all across the United States and world.

“If Mark Stoops and his players had not assisted, I would have been in trouble. Those guys were just great,” Sichko said.

Maybe it was just coincidence that a celebration of life service was also held last week for Mike Pratt, who passed away in June after nearly a three-year battle with cancer. No one had a kinder, more giving heart than Pratt, a former UK basketball All-American and UK Radio Network analyst.

Pratt would have been so proud of what UK athletes have done — and likely will continue to do — for floor relief or others in need. Maybe it was just divine intervention that his memorial service was Friday.

Calipari and every player attended the service and the UK coach said all the right things about Pratt.

“We lost one of the greatest ambassadors this program has ever known. Mike Pratt loved the University of Kentucky from the moment he stepped on this campus in 1966,” Calipari said. “He spent a lifetime giving himself to the betterment of this program and inspiring others to love this game and this program as much as he did.”

Indeed Pratt did and that’s why I know he was looking down with a big smile last week as he saw all the good things UK athletes did to help eastern Kentucky flood victims.

Larry Vaught
Larry Vaught is a seven-time winner of the Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year award and has covered University of Kentucky sports since 1975. Larry now has a syndicated UK sports column appearing in 34 newspapers across the state as well as http://www.yoursportsedge.com/, and http://www.cameronmillsradio.com/. Larry also joins Mark Buerger and Anthony White on WLAP Sunday Morning Sports each week in Lexington as well as appearing each Tuesday with Tom Leach on The Leach Report.

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One thought on “Stepping Up Big

  1. As a 55 year alum from the UK College of Pharmacy from Evarts in Harlan County, I am so proud of what UK people have done and are doing for Eastern Kentucky. GO CATS!!!

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