RAISING OKLAHOMA: Locals stand behind tornado victims with benefit concert

Jun. 09, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Laurie Smith and Amber Dunigan remember the tornado that hit Lee County two years ago all too well. So when they saw the destruction caused by recent tornadoes in Oklahoma, they knew this community would be willing to help.

In an effort to mobilize a wide array of locals, they’re throwing an all-day concert featuring a variety of music to raise funds for the Red Cross’s disaster relief efforts in Moore, Oklahoma City and other cities and towns hit by powerful and deadly tornadoes in the last few weeks. Admission is free, although donations will be encouraged.

They’re calling the event Raising Oklahoma.

“We had a concert in mind, for Relay [for Life], but then Oklahoma happened,” said Dunigan, a firefighter with the Tramway Volunteer Fire Department who worked as a first responder in Lee County during the tornado two years ago. Witnessing the damage inflicted locally, she said she can imagine better than most what first responders and civilians in Oklahoma are experiencing, and it’s still hard to fathom the amount of destruction there. Dozens of people have died in the past few weeks, others have been reported missing, and more than 400 were injured.

“After ours, and seeing what we went through, theirs is a lot worse,” Dunigan said.

The complete lineup for the concert hasn’t been finalized, but organizers do have the Lions Club Fairgrounds reserved for an 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. concert — allowing time for plenty of music.

“We’ve got everything from bluegrass to country, rock, to Christian, to gospel,” Smith said.

However, organizers said one thing they want more of is vendors. For $50, a local business can set up a booth at the fairgrounds during the concert; any type of artists or businesses are welcome. Food vendors don’t have to pay to set up, although Smith said they will be encouraged to donate whatever they can at the end of the day.

Anyone who wants to sign up or learn more can call Smith at (919) 708-7070 or Dunigan at (919) 478-3322.

Smith said all proceeds from the event will go to the Red Cross because the agency provides such a wide range of emergency aid. She said more details about the concert — such as a full list of vendors, and the lineup of the bands — will be released as soon as they’re available. Despite the last-minute preparations, she said she’s hoping that Lee County residents turn out in force, remembering the aftermath of the April 16, 2011 tornado that killed two people in Lee County.

“We’re sort of putting a rush on it because they need it now,” Smith said. “They don’t need it in three months.”