Sept. 21, 2005
PULLMAN, Wash. - For Washington State Women's Basketball Head Coach Sherri Murrell, the Hurricane Katrina tragedy has hit especially close to home.
Murrell is a native of the Pacific Northwest region, but at one time she was a resident of Louisiana. From 1986-88, Murrell played two seasons for Southwestern Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana-Lafayette).
In that time, Murrell adopted Louisiana as her home state. Now, in that state's time of need, Murrell and the WSU women's basketball staff and team are adopting a family affected by the tragedy and spearheading an effort to get them back on their feet.
"The team and staff have felt helpless as we've watched the events and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina unfold," Murrell said. "We wanted to help, and not just by sending money to charities, but to adopt a specific family in need.
"I wanted to have the team see first-hand that they are making a positive impact on people's lives," Murrell added. "The team is excited to roll up its sleeves and help this family."
That family is the Petry's: Randy and Danel, daughter Jennifer (23) and son Jeremy (20) of Slidell, La., a town roughly 30 miles northeast of New Orleans on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain.
Murrell and Debi Sterk, wife of WSU Director of Athletics Jim Sterk, still have many close friends in the area from their time living in Louisiana (Jim Sterk once worked at Tulane University). Two of those friends own a bakery, where Randy is an employee, in Kenner, La., a city just west of New Orleans. Murrell and Sterk became aware of the family's plight from the owners of the bakery.
"The Petry family is only one family among thousands who have lost everything," Murrell said. "We feel blessed for the opportunity to help the Petrys rebuild their lives."
In what Murrell stresses what will be a season-long effort to help the family and others affected by the hurricane, the team will be at Safeway grocery store (430 SE Bishop Blvd, Pullman, Wash.), Friday, Sept. 23, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., accepting donations that will go directly to the Petry family.
Beginning this week, coaches and players will be going throughout the local business community to accept cash donations, clothing, and personal items for the family from a list that Murrell and Sterk has compiled.
Murrell is also gathering WSU clothing and each member of the team will provide handwritten notes to give to the family.
Murrell asks that the general public donate gift cards from retail outlets such as Macy's, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, Sears and Home Depot, which will be used for household items and clothing. In addition, the public can donate money, which will be used for shipping packages to the family, food and personal items (personal hygiene, etc.).
Individuals who would like to contribute can also drop off donations at the women's basketball office at 220 Bohler Athletic Complex or by calling Linda Rubenthaler in the women's basketball office at 509-335-0276.