Nearly four months after a tornado destroyed Anastasia Hunt’s home in Moore, Okla., some of the top talent in college soccer converged on Durham for the Duke Nike Classic. But the story of the weekend wasn't the soccer—it was the perseverance of the Hunt family.
As the Blue Devils took the field for weekend tilts against West Virginia and UCLA, the Duke athletic department raised more than $500 through a silent auction to benefit the Ana Hunt Fund, which was started during the summer to assist in the Hunt family's rebuilding process.
Although the total amount raised is not being released at this time, the Blue Devils' fundraising efforts are helping the junior defender's family rebuild. Hunt's father was in attendance for the weekend's festivities, which head coach Robbie Church said transcended the competition on the field.
“The most import thing was Anastasia and her dad,” Church said. “For [her dad] to come down and spend time with the family, that’s the most important thing. I am just very proud to be at Duke.”
The Hunt family was one of hundreds of families devastated by the EF5 tornado May 20 in Moore, Okla. At 1.3 miles wide, the twister claimed 23 lives and 377 were injured as houses were ripped apart and cars were flung dozens of miles away.
"Being in a disaster is such a scary thing," Hunt said. "Especially one in which people don't expect you to survive. All around you is pure chaos, and your life is dependent on whether a concrete structure holds up to code or not."
With the tornado behind them, the Hunt family continues to rebuild on the very lot that was leveled by the twister. For senior defender and team captain Natasha Anasi, Hunt’s composure throughout the rebuilding process taught the Duke team a valuable lesson.
“She's such a remarkable individual,” Anasi said. “The entire time she never seemed like she was that affected by the situation and it was almost scary at times when we'd say, 'you lost everything,' and she’d respond, 'we're rebuilding and we're going to get back to where we [were].' It was so inspirational to see that."
Even as she recounts the terrifying minutes she spent in her family's above-ground storm cellar, Hunt still manages to find the lighter side of an otherwise-difficult situation.
"We only had my dad's car [after the tornado], which is a four person sports car," Hunt said. "It's a small car, so five large people didn't fit in it too well."
Following the storm, the Duke women's soccer family immediately sprung into action, doing all they could to help the Hunt family recover. Teammates and coaches sent packages of basic necessities to help keep the family on its feet.
"Right when we heard the news, our team talked, texted and emailed in our group," senior forward Laura Weinberg said, "We wanted to do everything and anything we could right away to help [Hunt] and her family."
As Duke continues to grow its fundraising efforts for Hunt, the junior defender said she does not hesitate to reflect on the group of people that guided her through one of her darkest times.
"[The team] doesn't now how much it meant, especially to me and my family,” Hunt said. “It was awesome to know if I needed to go anywhere or someone needed to come help, [the team] would have done it.”
Senior forward Mollie Pathman led the organization of those messages from members of the team, if only to give Hunt a little inspiration in her time of need.
The Blue Devils finished the weekend with a draw against West Virginia and a loss to UCLA, but as one player walked off the field to find her dad, the overall spirits of the team couldn’t have been higher.
“We don’t all know what they went through or what they continue to go through,” Church said. “But to see them together, it was great. She definitely had a different glow about her, the Duke family definitely had a different glow overall.”
The Blue Devils have played one of the nation's toughest schedules in the young 2013 season and the squad has gone through injuries and growing pains alike—but as the team continues to build, Duke may have already conquered its biggest challenge.
“It really showed me that we are more than just a team,” Pathman said. “We are a family.”