Stacy Lewis, Chris Stroud, several prominent athletes doing their part in Hurricane Harvey relief

By
Mike McGovern
Reading Eagle

Series: News Feature

Published: Sunday, September 10, 2017 | 3:42 p.m.

Too-good-to-be-true stories usually are, which is why they're more likely to be plots for movies on the Hallmark Channel than they are to play out in real life.

But last week there was a Hollywood ending that took place in Portland, Ore., where Stacy Lewis won the LPGA Tour's Cambia Portland Classic.

Lewis ended a winless streak that stretched all the way back to June 2014 and included 12 runner-up finishes.

And under normal circumstances, that would've been the story.

The golf story.

But Lewis' victory, what it meant to those in need and the ripple effect it caused was about so much more than golf.

Prior to the start of the tournament, Lewis, who grew up at The Woodlands, just outside Houston, and now lives in Humble, also a Houston suburb, pledged to donate her winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Lewis' first-prize earnings of $195,000 was only a start. It was matched by one of her sponsors, KPMG. Another of her sponsors, Marathon Oil, donated $1 million to the relief effort to celebrate her victory.

"We're going to be able to help people rebuild their houses -- that's more important than any win," Lewis posted on Twitter Sunday night.

And that's been the attitude of countless athletes, team owners, leagues and organizations throughout the country in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

They've seen the destruction and devastation that has enveloped southeast Texas. They've been motivated by the faces of helplessness, touched by the stories of hopefulness and moved by the actions of first responders, friends, family and even perfect strangers who have stepped up and emerged as heroes, doing what they can to make a difference.

The sports world has done likewise.

Athletes have demonstrated their generosity in ways big and small, and no gesture has gone unappreciated.

J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans' all-world defensive end, used his enormous popularity -- in Houston and beyond -- to fuel a fundraiser that has defied expectation.

On Aug. 28, Watt posted a video asking for help. He kicked in $100,000 to get the relief effort started and hoped people would follow his lead. His goal was to reach $200,000.

Thirteen days later, Watt has raised more than $27 million, including a $5 million check from Charles Butt, owner of a Houston supermarket chain.

But Watt is not alone. There have been scores of sports figures who have donated millions of dollars, principal among them, team owners.

Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander gave $10 million, Astros owner Jim Crane $4 million, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones more than $3 million.

Patriots owner Bob Kraft gave a $1 million, as did Amy Adams Strunk (Titans), Arthur Blank (Falcons), Martha Ford (Lions) and Mickey Arison (Heat).

Players got out their checkbooks, too. James Harden ($1 million), Steph Curry ($118,000), Hakeem Olajuwon ($150,000), Leonard Fournette ($50,000), Mike Trout ($27,000), Joey Logano ($25,000) and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott (combined $200,000) are among those who donated to the cause.

The donations haven't been confined to cash.

NBA forward and Houston native Gerald Green requested the use of a boat so he could rescue people.

PGA Tour player Chris Stroud turned his home in Spring, Texas, about 20 miles north of Houston, into a shelter for neighbors who didn't escape flooding.

Tracy McGrady, who played for the Houston Rockets, hosted a barbecue at a local church that fed more than 800.

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer offered to pay adoption fees to find homes for animals in overcrowded shelters.

And then there's University of Houston basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, who saw a mother and her son, a first-grader, telling their story on TV after being rescued. They'd lost pretty much everything they had except the clothes they were wearing.

Seeing a need, Sampson put out a call on Twitter, asking basketball coaches to send team gear -- 20 T-shirts and 10 pairs of shoes -- that would be distributed to kids in need. He expected the response to be primarily local -- coaches from Texas and Louisiana -- but it's exceeded anything he could've imagined.

Boxes and boxes of T-shirts and shoes began arriving -- and continue to arrive -- on the Houston campus. They've come from all over the country, from all sports and from all levels: from Power 5 college programs to AAU and youth programs. Sampson is expecting more than 150,000 T-shirts and 20,000 pairs of shoes, although he admits those projections may have to be adjusted upward.

But this goes beyond T-shirts, shoes and even the money that's been donated. The generosity and outpouring of good will has fostered a sense of coast-to-coast community that's been uplifting and much needed, especially now.

"It wasn't that long ago that we were going through Charlottesville and something that proved to be divisive," Sampson told CBSsports.com. "And then, all of the sudden, you go through something like Hurricane Harvey. And this little tweet that goes out, you see what this country is. You choose who you want to be. We're a country of neighbors."

This article is written by Written Mike McGovern from Reading Eagle, Pa. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.