(from l-r) Pepper Burruss, Aaron Kampman, Will Blackmon, Colin Cole, Thomas Gafford
Aaron Kampman found out that his Packers teammates are not only there for him on the football field, but back in his hometown as well.
After completing three days of OTA practices last week, Kampman was part of a group that included cornerback Will Blackmon, defensive tackle Colin Cole, long snapper Thomas Gafford and head athletic trainer Pepper Burruss as they headed to Parkersburg, Iowa this past weekend to assist in the tornado cleanup effort in his high school hometown.
"There were other things going on over the weekend for guys, and to have a couple of them say that they wanted to come down and help out, it was really significant," Kampman said. "I gave them all a pretty big hug and really said thank you.
"I've had so much support from people here, even guys that couldn't come this past weekend. I've had a lot of them come up to me and ask how the weekend went. It's been great."
Seven people were killed and about 50 others were injured in the tornado that ripped through the town of about 1,800 on May 25. Kampman's 81-year-old grandfather, Claas, was among those injured in the storm and underwent surgery, but Kampman said that he is doing much better.
During their two days in Parkersburg, the players were part of a group that spent time gutting a house owned by a couple that attended the same church Kampman did when he was growing up. They also did cleanup at a home that was about to be moved into before the storm hit, as well as demolition and cleanup of another damaged house that had very little work done on it since the tornado.
For Blackmon, the trip put life into a different perspective as he met people that have lost so much.
"You had to bring yourself down and realize that you are just another human being and that it could happen to you too," Blackmon. "It was just good to help people that didn't have anything. It was a really cool experience and made me realize how fortunate I am."
Cole said he had read accounts and seen photos of the destruction in Iowa, but viewing it first-hand made it sink in for him.
"I didn't know really what to expect," Cole said. "It was a very humbling experience and something that you never could imagine or put into words. I could describe it all day, but the feeling that you get by looking at it is really something."
Kampman said the signs of rebuilding in his hometown community are beginning to emerge, as he witnessed roads clearing, floor joints being put in, rafters going up and garages being shingled.
"There is still pain for people there, and then we come in and work and we get to come back to our homes," Kampman said. "They live there, so you can never underestimate the fact of what they are living in. Having said that, you see a tremendous resiliency and a tremendous hope. It is a faith-filled community and you are seeing them put that faith into action."
*People interested in providing monetary assistance to the tornado victims in Iowa can call 1-800-588-7551 and make a donation to a local foundation that will distribute the gathered funds to the necessary needs of the people there. Please include 'Parkersburg Relief Fund' in the memo line.
The address for the foundation is:
Lincoln Savings Bank
Attn: Dave Ragsdale
932 Parrott Street
Aplington, IA 50604