Patrick Finley: Vacation becomes vocation for Dorados

2013-07-11T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:17:12Z Patrick Finley: Vacation becomes vocation for DoradosPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Jim Luckow couldn't get the images of destruction out of his head.

So on the last day of the school year, while Canyon del Oro High School students wore "Three months of vacation!" smirks of unadulterated joy, the teacher asked kids from his construction class a question: Would they want to go to Moore, Okla.?

Luckow didn't quite know how he'd do it, but he wanted to help the town 11 miles south of Oklahoma City that was decimated by a May 20 tornado.

Twenty-four died in the storm. More than 2,400 Moore homes were damaged or wiped out by winds that reached 200 mph. Almost one-fifth of the population of about 55,000 was displaced.

Luckow, who also teaches architecture and coaches pole vaulters at CDO, didn't know what his students' reaction would be.

As an opponent, summertime fun is undefeated.

"Almost every person that was standing around me," he said, "said they wanted to go."

Luckow called a friend in Oklahoma who connected him with Sheds of Hope, a charity that builds 8-by-8 structures for those whose homes were damaged or destroyed. CDO's skilled students could build storage sheds on the homeowner's property.

Jim Click donated money for a rental van. Luckow spoke at Northwest Bible Church, and raised more than $5,000 in donations - more than double what he needed to pay for the trip. (He'll give the rest to a charity.)

Sunday morning, Luckow, three chaperones and six CDO students got in a 15-person van and drove through the night.

What they found when they arrived was almost beyond description.

"It looks the same as the pictures," said junior-to-be Larrison Nez, "but the emotion is way different."

Their first project was on a lot where the home had been stripped to the concrete slab. The tornado sucked the tile off the ground.

Animals on the property were pulled into the air, barn and all, and placed down, miraculously alive, elsewhere.

"Devastating," said Jon Black, a sophomore-to-be.

I spoke to Luckow on the phone Wednesday. He was sitting in the van and counted at least 50 totaled homes in his field of vision.

"I couldn't comprehend how I would deal with it," said Zachary Rischar, a pole vaulter who will be a senior in the fall. "It's a big mess."

The CDO crew is living in a church, using a shower trailer in the parking lot.

They level the land and clean up debris while listening to country music. They build two sheds per day, spending about 11 hours in the heavy Oklahoma humidity.

They use skills taught in their construction and architecture classes and have even picked up tips along the way.

But what class could teach them how to build shelters for those with no place to put their things?

What can prepare the CDO guys for the teary reaction from a mother when they gave her a Wal-Mart gift card they brought from Tucson?

"When you drive through neighborhoods, there's rubble, and almost every house has some kind of tarp," said junior-to-be Eric Pisciotta, whose family changed vacation plans so he could go. "Some houses have just the foundation there. Some are missing roofs.

"Then the house across the street is perfectly intact."

It's not fair, any of it.

But the CDO guys - and thousands of volunteers, most of whom never get any credit - are trying to make it a little bit better.

"I really wanted to help out," said junior-to-be Seth Upton. "I like doing this stuff - doing something that isn't just for myself."

Who needs another week of summer vacation, anyway?

"They'll remember this, probably, the rest of their lives," Luckow said. "It will be an experience that they can smile and be proud about.

"They didn't sit on the sidelines."

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4658. On Twitter @PatrickFinley

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Latest Video

More videos

McKale Center reveal

Greg Hansen explains why average fans will love McKale Center.


Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...