K cross country runner Brock Crystal ’15 (l) and WMU football player Nick Norton (r) helped New Jersey homeowners Vicki Laudien and Joe Danski clean up after Hurricane Sandy.
Brock Crystal’s ’15 decision to attend the weekly athlete bible study at Kalamazoo College led him on an adventure in giving and gratitude he says he’ll never forget. Crystal, a member of the K Men’s Cross Country team, heard about a planned mission trip during Thanksgiving weekend to the East Coast where Hornets would collaborate with Broncos—Western Michigan University’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes—to help people affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Though he had never tried anything like this before, Crystal decided to tag along with fellow K students. Sophie Roberts ’16, Quinn McCormick ’14, Jacob Lenning ’15, Liz Lenning ’16, Guiherme (Will) Guedes ’15, and Crystalcarpooled east where they met up with the WMU volunteers. The group of 14 student athletes worked for five days tearing out damage from flooded homes and helping residents take photographs for insurance claims.
This trip marked Crystal’s first time volunteering at a disaster site. He said many homes still lacked power and water, and many people were stranded or living with friends. One day, Crystal and others travelled to the Jersey Shore where they met homeowners Vicki Laudien and Joe Danski whose house had been flooded with four feet of water.
“They basically said, ‘everything in this house from four feet below has to leave,’” said Crystal. As the K crew worked clearing out the house, they discovered a board in the back of a first-floor closet. The board held pencil markings of Laudien’s and Danski’s grandchildren’s changing heights over the years. Crystal and his crewmates pried the board from the closet, and presented it as a gift to the family.
“It was really powerful to connect so deeply to someone in the span of half a day,” said Crystal. Now that he’s back home, Crystal says he caught the volunteer bug. “I really now see it’s not about us and not about getting gratitude for what we’ve done; it’s about helping other people,” he said. “It was a very rewarding experience I’d go on 100 times over.”
Story by Elaine Ezekiel ’13