The EF-4 tornado that devastated Washington, Ill and the nearby town of Pekin on Nov. 17 hit a little too close to home for Jim Thome. The former 22-year major leaguer was actually born and raised 15 miles from Washington in Peoria, which is enough to illicit genuine emotions and concerns for the welfare of those affected. But to make the scenario even more frightening for Thome personally, his brother Randy and family are current Washington residents.
Fortunately, Thome’s family made it through the storm unharmed, but others were not as lucky as the powerful system claimed eight lives between Illinois and later tornado touchdowns in Michigan. Countless others were injured during the storm and in the aftermath, and the damage left behind was almost too extensive to comprehend or calculate.
On Wednesday, Thome and his wife Andrea did their best to survey the damage when they toured the ravaged city along with Washington mayor Gary Manier and former NBA player Doug Lee, and were deeply impacted by what they witnessed. Later in the day, the Thome family announced a $100,000 donation in a press release sent out by the Chicago White Sox.
"I've never seen anything like it in my life. The devastation literally took my breath away." Wednesday. .
"I knew at that moment that Andrea and I would do whatever we could to help the people of Washington, so near to where I grew up, and home to my brother Randy and his family," Thome added in the statement. "We are so grateful that my former teams stepped up to join us in our efforts to help."
In addition to the Thome's donation, the White Sox announced their intentions to organize a youth-and-athletic-focused benefit event in Washington next spring. More details will be available at the White Sox official website.
Last week, the Peoria Chiefs — Class A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals — announced an auction and donation drive to raise funds for the victims. As noted in the release, three of Thome’s former teams — the Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins and Philadelphia Phillies — will also make financial donations as a show of respect and support for Thome, his family and the affected communities.
When all is said and done, the collective donations from around baseball should make a pretty big dent, but more funds will obviously be needed as the devastated towns continue to heal and rebuild. For those who might be interested in making a direct donation, checks can be mailed to Morton Community Bank, c/o the city of Washington Tornado Relief Fund, 721 West Jackson Street, Morton IL 61550.
Every little bit helps.
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