JACKSONVILLE – The "Oklahoma Standard" is an ideal simply defined as helping people in need.
Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon helped people in his home state of Oklahoma on Thursday night, hosting a Bowl-a-Thon for Tornado Relief event at Latitude 30, benefiting the American Red Cross in Oklahoma tornado relief. Blackmon capped off the evening by donating a check for $15,000 to the cause.
"I've seen tornadoes, but I've never been affected by a tornado," Blackmon said. "It's something that happens in that area a lot. Bowling is something we do regularly as a receivers group, and we decided to have the event here and try to have a little fun doing it."
Blackmon was born in Oceanside, Calif., but his family moved to Ardmore, Okla., about 95 miles south of Oklahoma City, when Justin was in the second grade. After graduating high school there, Blackmon attended Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla., about 65 miles north of Oklahoma City.
Both home and away, Oklahomans try to live up to the "Oklahoma Standard" when any kind of tragedy strikes in the state. The ideal really started in the aftermath of the Murrah Federal Building bombing in 1995, and continues in tornado relief efforts and whenever else someone needs a helping hand.
Help comes in any way imaginable: immediate search and rescue, food banks, clothing drives, hosting a displaced family, clearing roads with farm equipment, charity assistance, donation of blood.
Richard Gropper, the American Red Cross Northeast Florida major gifts officer, said that Blackmon pushed to assist people in his home state with his donation and the bowling event, trying to live up to the "Oklahoma Standard."
"Justin had an interest in providing some support for the people who are undergoing some pretty tough times in Oklahoma right now," Gropper said. "Of course the American Red Cross is right there in the thick of things, and we're providing a lot of disaster relief. We thought that it would be kind of nice to get a number of Justin's teammates involved and invite the public out here."
The EF-5 tornado that tore through the Oklahoma cities of Newcastle and Moore on May 20 left 24 dead and hundreds injured, as it hit a heavily-populated suburban area south of Oklahoma City. More storms rocked the region on May 31, including another EF-5 tornado near the city of El Reno, just west of Oklahoma City, when 18 people perished. University of Oklahoma researchers and the National Weather Service said the El Reno storm was the widest tornado ever recorded in the United States, measuring 2.6 miles across at its widest point.
A number of Blackmon's teammates attended Thursday's event including wide receivers Cecil Shorts III, Mohamed Massaquoi, Jordan Shipley, Tobias Palmer, Mike Brown, Ace Sanders, Toney Clemons and Jamal Miles, running backs Jordan Todman and Jonathan Grimes, offensive linemen Cameron Bradfield and Will Rackley, tight ends Isaiah Stanback and Matt Veldman, defensive end Andre Branch, quarterback Matt Scott, defensive back Kevin Rutland and long snapper Carson Tinker.
Blackmon also said that everyone he knew survived the recent storms, but felt a responsibility to his home state to help in the relief effort in his own way.
"This money is earmarked for disaster relief in Oklahoma and that's exactly where every dime of it will go," Gropper said. "We'll handle the money, but we'll get it to the folks in Oklahoma and make sure they're provided with whatever relief they need."