Teaming up for Texas telethon raises $1 million for Harvey relief efforts

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One day after completing its first two practices together, the Kentucky men’s basketball team worked together for a cause with a much greater meaning.

On Sunday afternoon at the WKYT studios in Lexington, answering a call to action from John and Ellen Calipari, Joe and Kelly Craft, and the Kentucky men’s basketball team, the Teaming up for Texas telethon raised $1 million (with matching funds) that will assist those affected by Hurricane Harvey. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the American Red Cross to aid in the relief efforts in Texas.

For each of the 14 Wildcats, the day was an opportunity to learn about servant leadership and using their position for a greater purpose, which is a lesson so many other Wildcats have learned during head coach John Calipari’s first eight seasons at UK.

The Teaming up for Texas telethon at WKYT’s studios in Lexington raised $1 million (with matching funds) that will go to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. (photo by Quinn Foster, UK Athletics)

“I can tell you the two we did (before), John Wall was involved in one, that team, and he became the Community Assist Award leader in the NBA. The runner-up was Anthony Davis, and I believe he was in the other (telethon in 2012),” Calipari said. “You want them to understand that you’re in a position to help and you cheat your own position and you cheat the good things that have happened to you if you don’t. So, hopefully they see that from this and they feel good. Kevin Knox had two $10,000 donations. He’s like, man. It’s a good thing.”

The phones rang early and often throughout the telethon, which ran from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on WKYT and its affiliates across the state. The Teaming up for Texas telethon was also streamed live at,,, and on the official @UKCoachCalipari and @KentuckyMBB Facebook pages.

The telethon meant a lot to a couple of the current Wildcats, including freshman Jarred Vanderbilt, a Houston native, and PJ Washington, a freshman from Dallas.

“Being a fellow Houstonian, I’m just glad we’re here today teaming up with Red Cross just having a chance to give back to the community that pretty much raised me,” Vanderbilt said. “That really hits home. I have a lot of family and friends up there, so I’m really just excited to be here.”

Kentucky freshman Jarred Vanderbilt, a Houston native, said he was happy to be at the telethon helping out. (photo by Quinn Foster, UK Athletics)

“Just as a teammate when one of your teammates are down, just want to pick them up, support them. In this case, one of our states is down right now,” Vanderbilt said later. “So, any donations can help. Trying to just (help) so the city can bounce back. Anything helps right now.”

The telethon received $25,000 donations from the Calipari family, as well as Kentucky women’s basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell and football head coach Mark Stoops’ families. It also received a $1,000 donation from the Kentucky men’s and women’s golf programs.

“I think any of us, all the coaches, we’ve all got families and anytime you think about a disaster like this happening and you try to put yourself in those folks’ places, you want to respond,” Matthew Mitchell said. “Jenna and I are happy to do what we can and it’s incredible what Cal’s putting together here and raising this money for the Red Cross so we can try to help these folks through Hurricane Harvey. It’s just a tough, tough deal, but we’re happy to try to help.”

Former Kentucky All-American Karl-Anthony Towns also called into the telethon and pledged $5,000.

“I’ve been talking to my teammates. It’s just tragic,” Towns said of Hurricane Harvey. “As a society, we gotta step up and lead the effort to rebuild. Regardless if I play in Minnesota, played at Kentucky, we’re all one and we gotta help each other out.”

Current Kentucky men’s basketball players and staff, along with members of the American Red Cross and WKYT, took phone calls throughout the afternoon. Among the telethon’s on-air guests were:

  • De’Aaron Fox – Former UK point guard and Houston native
  • Andrew Harrison – Former UK point guard and Houston native
  • Julius Randle – Former UK forward and Dallas native
  • Nerlens Noel – Former UK forward and current member of Dallas Mavericks
  • Eric Bledsoe – Former UK guard
  • John Wall – Former UK guard
  • Ashley Dusek – Senior UK volleyball player and East Bernard, Texas, native
  • Dakari Johnson – Former UK center
  • Del Harris – 1995 NBA Coach of the Year
  • Marcus Camby – Coach Cal’s star forward at UMass and a Houston resident
  • Jon Hock – Director of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on Coach Cal, One and Not Done

Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson, who has done great work fundraising in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, called into the telethon and said he and Calipari plan on petitioning the NCAA for a third exhibition game so UK can play the Cougars in Houston to raise additional funds for Harvey aid.

Although the telethon is over, people can continue to donate to the relief efforts online at People can also call the Red Cross at (859) 253-1331 or 800-RED-CROSS, or text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10.

Coach Cal said Kentucky freshman Kevin Knox had two $10,000 donations Sunday. (photo by Quinn Foster, UK Athletics)

On Sept. 10, Calipari plans to visit shelters in Texas that donations from Sunday’s telethon will directly impact.

Sunday’s telethon marked the third telethon Coach Cal has held at Kentucky to aid those in need following natural disasters. In 2010, Calipari’s first season at UK, he held a “Hoops for Haiti” telethon that raised more than $1 million to help those affected by the devastating earthquake in Haiti. In 2012, just two days prior to the Wildcats’ season opener, the team held a “Rebounding from Sandy” telethon for the victims of Superstorm Sandy and generated $1 million. Also in 2012, Coach Cal helped raise funds for West Liberty, Kentucky, after tornadoes ravaged the town.

For more information from the Red Cross, please visit or contact Lynne Washbish at

“How about Mark and Matthew Mitchell and their families giving $25,000 each? How about our golf coaches throwing in money? It was everybody doing their part to make this happen,” Calipari said. “We did add the money we did at the (UK Charity) Alumni Game, so that was $150,000 to it, which kind of made the number bigger, but we did raise it. It just was before today started. I think in the end it’s going to be $1 million that’s going to be used for housing and food, and can you keep one of the shelters going for two weeks or 10 days? Well, that may be enough for somebody to get back in their home, or then to start. That’s the idea. We’re not FEMA, we’re not the government. We’re a small state and not one of the richest states, but I do know this, in three hours we raised a million dollars to help other people.”

These guys are ready to generate some money for victims of Hurricane Harvey. #TeamingUpForTexas

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Coming together for a worthy cause. Servant leadership at its best. #TeamingUpForTexas

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What a truly special day. The #TeamingUpForTexas telethon raised $1 million and donations are still coming in!

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