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In a text-message conversation, Kelsey Wisslead, a Western Illinois University senior majoring in recreation, park and tourism administration, and her father, Greg Wisslead (who works at WIU), decided to travel to Moore, OK, together to volunteer for cleanup efforts after last week's EF5 tornado. Pictured here (L to R) in Moore, OK, last weekend is Wisslead; Ethan Neally (who will start as a freshman at Western this fall), Carthage, IL; Greg Wisslead; and Stephanie Mendenhall, who works as a nurse at Blessing Hospital in Quincy, IL.
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WIU Daughter/Father Lend a Hand in Moore, OK

May 30, 2013

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MACOMB, IL – For Western Illinois University senior Kelsey Wisslead (Macomb, IL) the decision to lend a helping hand in Moore, OK, after last week's EF5-rated tornado was made in a few seconds in a text conversation with her dad. She had volunteered in disaster-relief efforts before, and this weekend, she plans to do it again. Even as a large swath of the Midwest continues to face ideal tornado conditions today, she is on the road to Moore now to help with the ongoing cleanup efforts.

Wisslead, a recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) major, traveled to Moore last weekend, too, after her father, Greg Wisslead (who works as a pipe fitter in Facilities Management at Western) asked her about volunteering there.

"My dad sent me a text me Tuesday [May 22, following the tornado], and asked if I wanted to go to Oklahoma, and I asked 'When?'," she explained. "My dad and I volunteered in Joplin after the 2011 tornado there. I contacted Samaritan's Purse, an organization that I have previously worked with, to see about what we could do and when we could come to help. I really enjoy volunteering, especially when a community has been affected so terribly."

Wisslead said she also volunteered in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She said although the destruction she has encountered in her disaster-cleanup volunteer work is similar, each experience is different.

"It's the people who I work with and get to meet who make it a new experience every time. Each person has a different story of survival—what he or she heard, who he or she talked to last, where his or her pets were and what he or she thought and saw when the storm was over," she noted. "Most of it is amazing and jaw dropping, but the people who lost the most always seem to be the ones smiling the widest. I don't know if that is to mask their hurt or to keep the volunteers smiling, too."

According to Wisslead, the cleanup she was involved in last weekend involved gathering insulation that landed on people's rooftops, picking up fallen trees, cleaning homeowners' yards, looking for belongings to be salvaged, as well as raking and mowing yards. She said while volunteering in a disaster-cleanup operation is difficult, the exhaustion it brings is offset with the joy of helping others.

"Once you see the difference that a helping hand can make in someone's life, it is completely worth it in every aspect," she said.

Wisslead plans to finish her bachelor's degree in RPTA next May and will be serving in an internship this fall with the Peoria Park District.

For more information or to get information about volunteering in Moore, contact Kelsey Wisslead at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Relations