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By LARRY VAUGHT
When the tornado devastated West Liberty, Kentucky coach John Calipari went there to help with a fundraising telethon that came about partially because of a plea UK fan Rose Lykins made on Kentucky Sports Radio.
On Saturday, Lykins and her husband were in Rupp Arena to watch UK play Texas A&M thanks to Big Blue Nation Cares, a group that provides UK football and basketball game tickets for deserving fans. Lykins and her husband got front row seats and a hotel room from BBN Cares.
“I can’t tell you how much my husband and I enjoyed the game. It’s a shame Kentucky didn’t win, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Lykins said. “I was able to get (former UK coach) Joe B. Hall’s autograph, which was more than I ever hoped for.”
I was able to spend a few minutes with Lykins before the game. Enjoy her comments on the video.
It took a plea on Twitter before David Bradley was able to help me find Rose of West Liberty, a caller to Kentucky Sports Radio who helped set the wheels in motion for last week’s fundraiser spearheaded by KSR and attended by UK coach John Calipari that raised about $65,000 for a new community center for the town that was devastated by a horrific tornado earlier this year.
Why did I need to contact Rose? Because Big Blue Nation Cares, an organization that provides UK football and basketball tickets for those who might not be able to get them any other way and have shown their loyalty to the Cats, wanted to make sure she got to a basketball game this season.
“We want to recognize her for her effort,” said a Big Blue Nation Cares spokesman.
Here’s the email that was sent to Rose Lykins by Big Blue Nation Cares: “My wife and I were moving our son into UK for his freshman year last Friday. We were listening to (KSR on) WLAP and heard the details of what you and your town went through several months ago and continue to face. As we live over 600 miles away, we’re not always able to keep up with the details of what goes inside Kentucky. As a token of appreciation of what you have (and continue to do) for your fellow Wildcat brethren, we would like to send you a pair of lower level tickets (hopefully front row near Joe B. Hall) for any one of the following games. If the game is a night game, we will also provide you with a hotel room in Lexington so you won’t be driving too late into the night to return home.”
Rose was given a choice of 10 home games, including Baylor and Vanderbilt, to pick to attend with a guest.
She was a bit flabbergasted when I talked to her Tuesday to let her know the offer was going to be coming her way. I was flattered she immediately knew who I was and said she listened to me on radio sports shows, but she was more than just a bit overwhelmed.
“All I did was just call Kentucky Sports Radio. I have been calling in for like two years,” she said. “When the tornado hit, I called in after that to let them know what happened. It was their idea to come to West Liberty and somebody here at Commercial Bank got in touch and they made it work out. I just showed up, but I can tell you the people here really appreciated it. The whole town is gone and the money for the community center was really needed.”
She was thrilled Calipari came to West Liberty and pledged $25,000 for the fundraising campaign.
“I got to hug him and told him we shared the same birth date,” she joked. “I didn’t want to take up his time because it was so nice of him to come. I’ve always been a UK fan. If you come to my house, you are not going to harp on the Cats or whine or you are out of here.”
She said she lived about a mile from town with her husband, Chubb (“his real name is Mark but everybody calls him Chubb”). Her mother-in-law does live in West Liberty about a mile from her house and as they stood and watched the tornado it, she said it was “awful looking” to watch. “We couldn’t see the town because of a hill, but we knew it was really bad,” Lykins said. “We went to town a half hour after it happened and it took us an hour to pick our way through what is usually a 7- or 8-minute drive. Thankfully her house sits in a low area and was okay, but the trailer park right behind her was gone.”
After the tragedy, she made sure to let others know what happened, including calls to KSR.
‘I just speak my mind. I am a preacher’s daughter. I tell it like it is,” she said.
That includes her feelings about the upcoming seasons.
“I have real high hopes for basketball, but I think the football team will be good, too. I have a lot of optimism for the football team. I know in my heart they are ready to go out there and smack somebody in the mouth and get the job done,” she said.
That love and support of the Cats is why Big Blue Nation Cares want to send her to a game that she probably would not be able to attend otherwise.
“This means so much. It’s what you do in life. You don’t do thing for glory and recognition. You just do it to help others, help your fellow man who needs help to make the best of a bad situation,” she said. “This will go a long way toward making this whole season special for me. I can’t thank Big Blue Nation Cares enough. It’s going to be great.”
How could it be better? Well, what about if Calipari comes over to see her before the game if she’s sitting on the front row as she likely will be. Or maybe he brings her in to meet the whole team. If KSR got Calipari to West Liberty, then maybe Matt Jones and Ryan Lemond can work their magic with Calipari again on game night for Rose.