News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 11, 2013

SPPRAK to help tornado victims

By Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — People in the Wabash Valley plan to extend a helping hand to an Oklahoma community recently affected by a weather tragedy.

SPPRAK –– which stands for Special People Performing Random Acts of Kindness –– is partnering with the Terre Haute Rex baseball team to bring about a fundraising event later this month to benefit the victims of the violent tornado that struck Moore, Okla., in May.

“We want to let [people in Moore] know that another community is thinking about them,” said Susan Short, co-founder of local nonprofit group, SPPRAK, which was formed in 2009.

A “FUNdraising Day”  is scheduled on July 27 at Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium.

Plans include a Rex doubleheader game (at 1:05 p.m. and 7:05 p.m.). In between the games, there will be a “Battle of the Shield,” a game between the Terre Haute Police Department and the Terre Haute Fire Department. There will also be a K-9 demonstration and activities for the kids.

Community groups are involved in putting together the kids’ activities. Organizers said VNA and Hospice will be doing sand art; the Terre Haute Family YMCA is hosting kids’ zumba; the Girl Scouts will be doing facepainting.

“It’s going to be a big, organized, fun-filled day,” said Casey DeGroote, general manager of the Terre Haute Rex.

He hopes the community will “come and support the cause, the Rex and the community in Moore, Okla.”

 Game admission is at regular ticket prices, but access to the activities require only a donation to the cause. Terre Haute first responders will help pass buckets around for donations during the games.

Robin Heng, SPPRAK co-founder, said 100 percent of the donations will go to the initiative.

“We donate to the penny,” she said.  

But this is more than just about pennies and fun. It is about lending a helping hand to the schools affected by the tornado.

On May 20, a massive tornado ripped across Moore, destroying elementary schools, killing 24 people and injuring dozens more. Rebuilding efforts are under way.

Gail Steelman, director of student services at the Moore Public School District, said students of schools severely damaged by the storms will be relocated. One of the elementary schools is planned to be relocated to a junior high school and another in a church. A junior high school that was affected will reopen in the fall.

Steelman said they have received lots of volunteers to help clean up. Money and goods have also been donated.

But the SPPRAK event will allow people to share not only money but also emotional support … from a distance.

Kim Grubb, another SPPRAK co-founder, said they want to let people in Moore know that “there are still people thinking about them several months later.”

“We want to let them know that another community cares,” Heng said, standing beside Grubb at the Sycamore Stadium Wednesday afternoon.

An important activity planned for the event can show Moore just how much Terre Haute cares.  

SPPRAK organizers will make a banner available at the event upon which the audience can post sticky notes with personal message to the students, staff and faculty at Moore.

SPPRAK co-founders Heng, Grubb and Short will go to Moore on Sept. 9 to personally deliver the “community banner” and the money raised from the event. They also plan to volunteer in the area.

Even weeks before the fundraiser, people in Moore are grateful.

“It’s so nice to know that people all across the country have been thinking about us, wishing us well and doing things for us,” Steelman said.

She added that the outpouring of support following the tragic event restored her faith in humanity.

SPPRAK co-founders plan to spread kindness to Moore schools, just like the program they did at Vigo County schools. The group will present 32 banners for counselors to take to the 32 schools in the Moore Public School District so students, faculty and staff can write notes to each other about the kindness they have been performing.

Steelman welcomed the idea.

“I particularly like this project because it gives a lot of healing power into the hands of the students,” she said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or