LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — John Calipari has done several telethons to raise money during his tenure at Kentucky. The next one planned for Tuesday to benefit flooding victims in Eastern Kentucky was initiated by his players.
“This was totally different,” Calipari said Monday. “This kind of got me.”
The Kentucky Flood Relief Telethon will be 5-8 p.m. Tuesday and an open practice will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the doors will open at 5 p.m.
Donations to the American Red Cross will be accepted upon entry to Rupp Arena. The telethon will be aired on WLEX-TV Channel 18. Proceeds generated will go to support flood victims and their families in Eastern Kentucky. The death toll from the devastating floods climbed to 30 Monday. A total of 14 counties and three cities were impacted in last week’s flooding.
“They came to me last week and said, ‘Coach, this is ridiculous what we're seeing and this is so bad. What can we do?’” he said. “Can we have an open practice? Do you think that would do anything? Can we generate anything? … this is driven by them, which really, really makes me happy.”
Kentucky guard CJ Fredrick was one of the first players who approached Calipari about the idea of raising funds for the flood victims and their families.
“(We’re) extremely excited for tomorrow to help out in any way we can for eastern Kentucky," he said.
In a span of less than two hours on Sunday, plans were finalized for the telethon. The team has already signed 100 basketballs that will be sold and Calipari hopes the sale will generate thousands of dollars. He also is hopeful that victims and their families are touched by the gesture.
“What I would hope is they turn on the TV and see Rupp Arena and they're like, ‘wow, these people care and this state is that way.’” he said. You know what? I'm not calling all my buddies like I have in the past because I just did it. I just did it. So I'm going to give and I'm hoping and will recommend, can you do it? And I'm hoping in our state and our state always comes through.”
Kentucky senior Oscar Tshiebwe said the images and footage from the floods “broke my heart” and added urged donors to have the “heart of God” when it comes to giving.
“This is something I see happening all the time back home,” Tshiebwe said. “When I see something like this happening, I just try to encourage people to have the faith and trust God because nobody understands but God. We've just got to trust God in every situation. You just have to be strong and very courageous because life, you never know what can come tomorrow.
"That's what even the scriptures say. You can't worry about today, not tomorrow, because tomorrow is in God's hands. You never know what can happen tomorrow. That's what we got to be strong in terms of God and thank him for everything. That's the best thing.”
Calipari said the team’s platform serves a purpose and will help provide and avenue of recovery.
“We're in a position, this basketball program, we understand what it means to the state,” Calipari said. “… We don't take it lightly. And everybody, including me, has benefited by being in this program. … Let's give what we can give. It's going to be what it's going to be. I can't predict how how it'll turn out.
“All I can tell you is doing it for the right reasons. And all the people in West (Kentucky) we have not forgotten about you either. But this immediate stuff needs to be done in the other side of our state.”
Keith Taylor is the sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.firstname.lastname@example.org and via Twitter at keithtaylor21