Duke rallies around student after tornado destroys home

Sep. 08, 2013 @ 09:24 PM

Doing their best to find normalcy after their home – and lives – were ripped apart by a tornado last May, the Hunt family got a firsthand look at Duke’s efforts to help them this weekend.
On Friday and Sunday, during the Duke Nike Classic women’s soccer tournament, fundraisers were held to benefit the family of Ana Hunt, a junior walk-on soccer player for the Blue Devils.
On May 20, Ana and her mother, Doreen, were at the family’s Moore, Okla., home when an EF5 tornado tore through the town near Oklahoma City and destroyed the house.
Doreen and Ana survived only because they were in a bunker-like safe room attached to the back of the home.
“That’s what saved their lives,” Alvin Hunt, Ana’s father and Doreen’s husband, said Sunday while watching the Blue Devils play UCLA at Koskinen Stadium.
Alvin Hunt was at work when the storm hit. Ana’s younger siblings, 15-year-old twins Samantha and Stephen, were hunkered down at their high school.
While all five family members survived, they suffered heavy material losses. In addition to the family’s four-bedroom home and its contents, three cars were destroyed by the storm, which packed winds that peaked at 210 mph. The storm’s death toll is 23, including seven children, with 377 injured.
The family immediately moved into a smaller rental home, but required adjustments. Instead of single bedrooms for all, Ana and Samantha became bunkmates.
“Share a room, share a bed,” Ana Hunt said Sunday.
It didn’t take long for Duke’s women’s soccer team to learn about their teammate’s plight. Care packages were immediately put together and mailed to the Hunt family.
Ana Hunt said items which would normally be taken for granted were greatly appreciated.
“Shirts, shoes, underwear,” Ana Hunt said. “The random things that most people have were things we needed at the time.”
With each package that arrived, Alvin Hunt said, his children’s spirits were raised.
“That was really great for the kids knowing that someone cared about them,” Alvin Hunt said. “It’s really, really been wonderful, the whole Duke family and the staff here. It’s really been amazing and humbling.”
Duke’s help went beyond those care packages, though. The school contacted the NCAA and received approval to start the Ana Hunt Fund, which allowed the public to donate money to help the family in their rebuilding efforts.
While insurance helps cover many expenses, Alvin Hunt said he’s discovered it doesn’t take care of everything.
“Trees are not covered, unless they land on the house or block the driveway,” Alvin Hunt said. “You have to pay to take them out and somebody to come in with a stump grinder. A lot of those little stupid things you don’t think about.”
A systems engineer at Boeing for the last 24 years, Alvin Hunt also usually works as much overtime as he can to help pay Ana Hunt’s Duke tuition bills since as a walk-on she doesn’t receive scholarship money for soccer.
The fund helps ease that burden as well, he said.
An evolutional anthropology major and a chemistry minor, Ana Hunt returned to Duke on Aug. 4. Duke coach Robbie Church said she’s doing well considering what she went through over the summer.
“She missed a lot of prep for the season,” Church said. “That definitely set her back but we understand. She’s worked hard. She’s an unbelievable teammate. She plays hard everyday. We’re very proud of her. She’s been through a lot at a young age that people really shouldn’t have to go through. But she has and I think down the road it will help her.”
Ana Hunt doesn’t shy away from talking about her experiences on May 20.
“A lot of people ask me how I can be so positive about it,” Ana Hunt said. “It’s really easy to be down about it. If you stay positive and be thankful about the things you do have, it’s easy to be positive. To come back to a place like Duke, it’s such a wonderful place and people are supportive.”
Alvin Hunt is managing the process of rebuilding the family’s home on the old site. Another 6-9 months of work is needed, he said.
Last week, he drove from Oklahoma to Durham in the car that was bought as a replacement for Ana’s destroyed car. He’s flying back to Oklahoma today.
But he said he’ll take fond memories of his daughter’s second home and second family at Duke.