BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The effects of Hurricane Sandy had an effect on many people in the northeast, specifically in the state of New Jersey. A number of people lost property or had property damaged by the storm. At Lehigh, some students returned home after a week of classes were cancelled. Others simply waited out the storm. For the sophomores on the softball team, the storm provided an opportunity to help those in need along the Jersey shore.
Members of the softball team, led by sophomore Emily Bausher, decided to spend their time on the shore helping families. Bausher, a New Egypt, N.J. native, decided to reach out to help others in need including her uncle Donald Labella.
What started out as a trip home to make sure everything was fine, turned into Bausher, Emma Capetz, Brandi Hawkins and Cassie Waggy spending countless hours helping families in need.
When asked why they decided to help out these people during trying times, Bausher’s answer was simple. She believed it was the right thing to do and felt it was important to seize the opportunity and make a difference.
“We traveled home for the hurricane to make sure everything was okay at my house, and after it hit we realized the devastation closer to the shore,” said Bausher. “We knew we were lucky to have been as fortunate as we were, and wanted to take the time to do something for people who were unfortunately not so lucky.”
Labella’s father's home in Ocean Port was one of many homes that had been completely destroyed from the storm. As soon as the softball players heard this news, they unanimously knew they wanted to help. They traveled down with Bausher’s mother and brought food, water and their helping hands to the block.
With no electricity, no one seemed to want to break for food in fear they would lose valuable sunlight time.
“It was absolute mayhem down on the shore so we had many jobs,” Bausher said. “We tried to organize everything into anything salvageable and items we had to trash. Unfortunately the latter was the most dominant. We moved furniture and bagged up wet clothes and shoes and provided them with burgers and hot chocolate. Everything in the house was moved out onto the lawn and soon enough the lawn became full of wet destroyed items.”
"When I received the call from Mrs. Bausher to see if it was ok with me if the sophomores went to South Jersey to get through the storm, I was a little nervous,” explained Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. “I felt like they might be in for more trouble than staying on campus. But Mrs. Bausher assured me that they were not that close to the shore and that they would be fine. As it turns out, they were fine, but the shore was not fine.
“The fact that this group felt compelled to ‘do something’ to help out confirms everything that we are trying to do with Lehigh Softball,” Troyan continued. “We ask our student-athletes to try to make not only the right decisions, but make them for the right reasons. An opportunity to help another in need came up and they seized that opportunity. I am proud of them."
They fed the crew working as well as the neighbors on the block and everyone was very appreciative. The survivors told stories about their houses and what they looked like before the water washed away precious items and valuables. The ladies told the people stories of their time at Lehigh and how proud they are of their team and school.
During the cleanup and removal of household items Bausher said it was a very sad time for the families and people helping out. People along the shore were forced to throw out valuables or what was left of them, while they watched their homes be destroyed by the storm.
There was water about five feet high that rushed through homes in Long Branch, just blocks away from the bay.
Labella shared with Bausher and others how the water came up past waist high, ruining pretty much everything in its path.
“Bo (Labella) told us stories about how the house used to look and we even flipped through wet photo albums trying to remember with him,” Bausher explained. “He told us of his mother and how she spent her last days in that house. I think, for all of us, that is what affected us the most. Seeing how upset and how little Bo had left of his life and memories.”
Members of the shore were beyond thankful for the groups help and were thankful to have optimistic college students around to cheer them up during a natural disaster.
“They were thankful beyond words. You could tell, in their eyes, that our presence was greatly appreciated,” Bausher said.
Bausher and her teammates knew it was crucial for the members of the shore to feel like their future could be salvaged. Members of the cleanup crew said they knew that if their families were put into that situation, they would be forever grateful for any people who were willing to give up their time.
Story by C.J. McCollum ‘13