El Reno Fire Department Deputy Chief of Operations Danny Shrum walked through the Jenks Simmons Field House Annex last week with a smile on his face as he watched his grandson take part in a community-wide carnival hosted by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“It’s a good deal for the general public to see the Thunder come out here and support the community the way they have,” said Shrum.
Shrum was among the various emergency personnel who arrived shortly after an EF-3 tornado slammed into the Skyview Mobile Home Park May 25, killing two people and injuring dozens more.
Data from the National Weather Service shows the twister touched down at 10:28 p.m. and was on the ground for four minutes.
The storm path was 75 yards wide and 2.2 miles in length, and included not only the mobile home park but several car dealerships. American Budget Value Inn took a direct hit from the tornado, while Economy Express Inn also received damage.
A 34-year veteran of the department, Shrum says visions from ground zero that night are still fresh in his mind, but events like the Thunder carnival help start the healing process.
“These types of incidents (tornado) are always there in your mind but you learn to live with them and you learn from them so that you can do a better job the next time. Events like this (Thunder) does help the healing,” said Shrum.
According to El Reno Mayor Matt White, the Thunder reached out to the city wanting to do something to help support the community in its rebuilding process as well as honor all the first responders.
“The Thunder contacted us twice and first asked if everyone was OK and then said they wanted to do something to help us. I got them in touch with Heather Brothers at the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” said White.
The “Thunder Up” event came from those discussions.
“Obviously it’s important for us to support the people that support us throughout the time that we have been here. Being able to put this on for the people that have been affected, and be able to meet these people has been a great thing,” said Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti.
Presti helped served hot dogs, chips and drinks to the hundreds of people who attended the event. He then walked through the crowd and stopped and talked with fans young and old.
“Just seeing the adversity they are facing, from the people that get displaced or even the people that were in danger during that period of time, it takes time to recover from that. The more people can support other people from the state is critical. It’s part of the spirit of this state and it’s part of the Oklahoma Standard. We take that very seriously.
“Being a supporter of the citizens of Oklahoma is job number one. It’s not only just in the most drastic situations but on a day-to-day basis,” said Presti.
The event was to be held at Lake El Reno but due to windy conditions was moved to the field house with the help of El Reno Public Schools.
In addition to free food, the Thunder brought several inflatables for kids to play on as well as sno-cones, face painting, sketch drawings, a sign painting area, rock climbing wall and free Thunder memorabilia.
There was a live disc jockey as well as appearances from the Thunder Girls, the Storm Chasers and the ever-popular mascot Rumble the Bison.
Outside was a portable mock-up of the Thunder players locker room as well as a pair of star center Steven Adams’ shoes to try and walk in.
“We have so many great people that work for us and every aspect of the organization is touching this event. It does take a lot of people to make that happen, but again, as an organization we stand for more than what we do.
“A lot of people see that ball go through the basket and a score on the scoreboard but that is during the season. Being community ambassadors, that is year-round for us,” said Presti.
Presti said he took away several emotions from the event.
“It brings to light the humanity and the adverse situations people are in. It makes you put into perspective what our organization can stand for and what it can do,” said Presti.
Members of the El Reno fire and police departments mingled with the crowd as well as personnel from Pafford Medical Services, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Canadian County Emergency Management, Cheyenne and Arapaho Emergency Management and the city of El Reno.
“We are so very appreciative of what they have done for us and coming out here and trying to lift everyone's spirits,” said Shrum.