By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Lobo Joe Stoner knows about natural disasters. He comes from the flat lands of Oklahoma where you often watch the skies for the evil funnel clouds that swoop down with their foul and sometimes deadly breath.
"Being from Oklahoma, I'm familiar with natural disasters and how they can affect families," said the University of New Mexico senior linebacker. "We have tornadoes and we sometimes have wildfires, too.
"We (Lobos) care about the people in New Mexico who have been hit by these fires. With the seasons we've had, we need all the support we can get and one of the best ways to get support is to give support. I'm happy to be out here."
Lobo Bryan Oldenkamp can relate to wild fires in a more personal way. His hometown is Hesperia, Calif., located in the Mojave Desert about 15 miles outside of San Bernardino on the road toward Barstow. It is a hot, dry place and vulnerable to fire.
"A couple of years back we had a bad wild fire in our area," said the UNM offensive lineman. "We were close to being evacuated from our house because the fires were closing in on us.
"It was scary just being on the verge of having to leave your house. I can only imagine what it's like to have to leave your house or maybe having your house gone."
Stoner, Oldenkamp, B.R. Holbrook, Richard Winston and Cole Gautsche were among the Lobos outside (and inside) Isotopes Park on Friday participating in a two-day "Fire Relief" fund drive to collect donations for The American Red Cross in New Mexico.
"I've run into some nasty dust storms in Rio Rancho, but that's about the extent of my experience with natural disasters," said Gautsche, who came to UNM from Cleveland High in Rio Rancho. "I love being out here trying to help out. It would be nice if everyone could just give something. Every little bit helps."
The Lobos' involvement in this "Fire Relief" drive was prompted by the program's fall relationship with the Village of Ruidoso. The Lobos will hold approximately two weeks of their fall drills in Ruidoso beginning the first weekend in August. It's the third time the Lobos have made "camp" in Ruidoso.
The Village of Ruidoso has not been impacted by the fire and is still a vibrant and prime destination stop. However, the Little Bear fire has scorched some surrounding areas and approximately 250 structures have been burned to the ground.
"We're going to fall camp in Ruidoso so it's a natural for us to try to help the people in that area," said Oldenkamp. "They support us when we go down there and now they are fellow New Mexicans in need of some help, so it's our turn to help them."
Oldenkamp had signed up to solicit donations in front of Isotopes Park from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday. He came several hours early and joined the Lobos out on the streets collecting donations.
"I came early to put in some extra time," he said. "I have extra time right now so why not spend it helping someone else."
The Lobos, the Isotopes and The American Red Cross in New Mexico has plenty of media help in this two-day event as all Cumulus Media Albuquerque radio stations (92.3 KRST, 93.3 KOB-FM, 99.5 Magic FM, 103.3 eD-FM, 610 The Sports Animal, and 770 KKOB-AM) are participating.
"There are some people in a rush today (Friday) because it's a work day, but we've had a good day," said Stoner. "We're raising money."
The American Red Cross in New Mexico will be in charge of directing how the donation money will be distributed in the relief effort. The American Red Cross in New Mexico helps families impacted by fire with food, clothing, shelters and prescription medicine.
To donate money directly to the Red Cross, call 505-265-8514, go to www. RedCrossNewMexico.org or text RED CROSS to 90999. A $10 charge will be added to your phone bill.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and Columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.