Oct. 11, 2015
By Andy Demetra
When devastating floods ripped through Columbia last week, damaging homes and changing lives forever, South Carolina's athletic teams heeded the call to help.
From unloading boxes to distributing water to cleaning out some of the area's most rain-ravaged homes, Gamecock student-athletes fanned out across the Midlands, using the same qualities they show on the field - strength, teamwork, discipline, focus - to pitch in to the city's relief efforts.
"These are the people who come and watch us play, come and give us all of their support. This was the time that they needed to get our support. I was just happy that we were able to give it to them," said Justin McKie, a junior on the Gamecock men's basketball team.
The storm, described by Gov. Nikki Haley as a "thousand-year" event, dumped more than 15 inches of rain on parts of Columbia October 4. Heavy flooding collapsed bridges, broke dams, washed away roads, and threatened the city's water supply. Thousands of Columbia residents, their homes downstream or in low-lying areas, were forced to evacuate. Many suffered catastrophic damages to their homes, businesses, cars or property. Schools throughout the state, including USC, closed for the week. As of Friday, nine flood-related deaths had been reported in Richland County.
But as the floodwaters receded, the sun returned, and Midlands residents took survey of the damage, South Carolina's 450 student-athletes sprang into action. According to Erica N. Nelson, USC's Director of Life Skills and Community Outreach, Gamecock student-athletes logged approximately 900 volunteer hours in the first six days after the storm.
"All of this puts it in perspective for them. They want to contribute. They want to be a part of getting us back on track," Nelson said.