For University of Southern Mississippi student David Sliman, the tornado that struck Moore, Okla. last week wasn’t just some distant event of passing concern.
His aunt, Southern Miss alumna Angie Sliman Stroud, lives in Moore with her family and witnessed the devastation firsthand but did not incur damage to her home from the storm.
After learning she and her family were safe, Sliman continued watching news about the Oklahoma disaster. He was moved by what he learned, including about the deaths of students in an elementary school who huddled in its hallways along with their teachers when the tornado struck. Seven students were among the reported 24 killed in the city.
“They did everything they were supposed to do (to survive the storm), but didn’t make it,” said Sliman, an Ocean Springs native and junior ACS biochemistry major. “It’s hard not to think about that.”
Inspired by the assistance Southern Miss received following the Feb. 10 tornado that struck its Hattiesburg campus, Sliman decided to plan fundraising initiatives with fellow members of the university’s Greek Life community to support his sister’s efforts to help her neighbors in Moore.
“What better way to show our appreciation for the help we’ve received than to give back to them?” he said.
A member of Pi Kappa Alpha, Sliman began his outreach efforts with the creation of the Facebook page “USM Greek Life for Moore Oklahoma” and is working with other fraternities and sororities to organize fundraising events for the fall semester. He’s been pleased with the positive response the page has received and from conversations with fellow Greeks.
“Right now, we’re asking that people consider giving VISA gift cards as donations to purchase basic necessities,” he said. “For those who lost their home, there’s just no place to keep many physical donations.”
Stroud said she’s proud of her nephew and heartened by the support of the Southern Miss Greek Life community.
“I’m touched David would take on such a project, but not surprised at his big heart,” said Stroud, a former Miss Southern Miss and president of the university’s Chi Omega chapter. “He certainly could have used one of many excuses not to help - most students are away from campus for the summer, Hattiesburg is still recovering from its own tornado and Oklahoma is far way. But he didn’t let any of those reasons deter him.
“He and his family lost everything in Katrina, so I think that really gives him a great desire to help others who have been in his shoes.’”
Southern Miss Greek Life Director Josh Schutts also praised Sliman, saying his efforts are “another shining example of the values of our Greek community that translate to help those in the greatest need.”
“We were fortunate as a USM family to have the help and support of others during our own experience with Mother Nature,” Schutts said. “I’m proud to see our students and fraternal organizations pay it forward through their effort and energy."
Visit the Facebook page “USM Greek Life for Moore Oklahoma” to support Southern Miss Greek Life efforts to help tornado victims in Moore, Okla.; or contact Sliman at email@example.com.