Oklahoma athletes volunteer in Haiti

NORMAN, Okla. – Landry Jones doesn’t complete a pass or throw an interception.

Running back Brennan Clay never gets a carry or scores a touchdown and Whitney Hand and Morgan Hook of the women’s basketball team never even suit up.

They’re all wearing Oklahoma gear, but they’re out of uniform and definitely in a different light.

A one-hour documentary, Seed Sowers: Sooners for Haiti, follows a group of more than three dozen Oklahoma football and women’s basketball student-athletes and staff on their week-long journey at the Mission of Hope in Titanyen, Haiti.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” Sooners offensive lineman Gabe Ikard said in the video.

Throughout the movie, Soones athletes hug and get hugged by the children of Haiti. They go into church and go into their classrooms, touring villages, cities, working on projects and playing with kids.

“I’m excited to just put smiles on their faces,” defensive back Demontre Hurst said in the movie. “And I know I’m impacting them as much as they are impacting me.”

“The No. 1 thing you get is an awareness of how fortunate we have it,” said Kenny Mossman, Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Operations. “You realize possessions are overrated. Happiness can be found in other things. It makes you re-evaluate what your priorities are and be more appreciative of what you have.

“Hey, it’s nice to have running, clean water. Most people don’t think in those terms. Most of the world doesn’t get to make the choices we do. It’s a great experience. The most meaningful thing I’ve done. For me, it’s been a learning a experience and it’s a chance to  share that with my children.”

For Sooners fans, it’s a chance to see some of their favorite players in a new and different context.

A good portion of the documentary takes place in a village called Leveque where players are divided into groups and work on improvement issues, like painting. But while they’re working, the most-memorable moments come when they put down the brushes and pick up the children of the small town.

“The children give us the drive to come back each year,” said Hook during the movie. “We come back home and we talk about them every day. It’s something you never forget.”

More than 5,000 people worked with Mission of Hope in the past year, including the group of about 20 student-athletes at Oklahoma. This is the third year a group from Oklahoma has made the trip.

Told to let the children hug them and told it will change their lives, the Sooner athletes seem to embrace the experience, holding and playing with the children and having fun painting as well.

“They made us feel comfortable,” linebacker Corey Nelson said in the documentary. “They were attached to us. When we show them affection, it rocks their world.”

The OU athletes were trained on a number of different elements before making the trip, everything from ministry advice to logistical things, such as maintenance and interaction with the locals.

Everything is not centered around earthquake relief. There are other projects, assigned by the Mission of Hope to work on, however it seems like the most changes comes in the players themselves. It’s a different experience to see the student-athletes out of uniform.

“What I see is is that they are so moved, and their effort level shoots through the roof,” Mossman said. “Spending time with children, I can see how motivated they are. That’s heart-warming. They ramp it up Everyone would benefit from a trip like that.”