The earthquake in Haiti has personal resonance for South Dakota State basketball coach Scott Nagy, and he plans to coach barefoot this weekend to raise money and awareness for the deadly disaster.
Nagy's adopted daughter is from Petionville, near the quake's epicenter, and he hasn't been able to contact the girl's birth mother since the disaster last Tuesday. Nagy said 6-year-old Naika is aware of what happened, and he struggled to explain the situation to her.
"She's very intelligent and very bright," he said. "She doesn't say a whole lot, but I know it's heavy on her heart."
Nagy said he has tried not to burden Naika with too many details, but she heard about the events at school the next day. He had no choice but to explain further after images of the destruction were shown during a televised NBA game.
"At first, she thought everybody was dead in Haiti," Nagy said. "I told her that most of the people lived. She said 'so, four people died?' I said 'more than that.'"
On Saturday, Nagy will coach barefoot as part of his effort to help collect shoes and money for earthquake relief in Haiti through Samaritan's Feet, a charitable organization based in Charlotte, N.C. The Jackrabbits will play Oakland (Mich.) in Brookings, S.D., and Nagy's goal is to help collect $30,000 and 2,000 pairs of shoes.
Nagy has encouraged fans to text "shoes" to 85944 so $5 can be added to each person's cell phone bill to buy a pair of shoes for a child in need. Donations also can be made at Finish Line stores, or at the organization's Web site.
Members of the South Dakota High School Coaches Association also will coach barefoot this weekend in Naika's honor.
Nagy said he visited Naika at her orphanage in Haiti in May 2005 and left overwhelmed by the struggles the people there endured. Four months later, the Nagys adopted her. He said it will be a challenge to rebuild a nation that already was extremely poor.
"This is a news story now, and I know it will go away, but this is going to be a long, long term thing for the Haitian people to recover from this," he said.
Samaritan's Feet has had operations in Haiti for more than four years, said spokesman Todd Melloh. The organization first became involved with college basketball when IUPUI coach Ron Hunter coached barefoot two years ago. More than 300 coaches, including Nagy, joined the cause last year.
Now, Nagy is even more motivated to participate. He said going shoeless for a few hours will be a minor inconvenience.
"I like to stomp," he said. "I can't do that. My feet hurt bad enough after games. Honestly, once the game gets going, you don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. It's a good way to remind people that there's other things going on that are a heck of a lot more important than just basketball games."
The text number 85944 is a general number for Samaritan's Feet, but donations from the 605 area code specifically will go to Haiti.
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