By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — It has become a ritual for Sherri Coale. The Oklahoma women’s basketball coach has made an appearance every year at the annual Basketball Coaches Luncheon, which raises funds for the Mary Abbott Children’s House.
Each year when Coale speaks, she passes on a different message about how important it is to support the Abbott House. This year at the eighth annual Basketball Coaches Luncheon, she used her Sooners as an example to describe the type of strength and perseverance that is shown at the nonprofit every day.
“Right now our team is trying to figure what it means to have a bone-deep belief,” Coale told the crowd at the Embassy Suites. “A bone-deep belief in themselves, a bone-deep belief in one another and a bone-deep belief in the mission of our program. A lot of people have a skin-deep belief. They believe in things when they are going really well.
“It’s easy to believe in Santa when you have a bunch of presents under the tree. The hardest time is when things aren’t going so great. That is when you find out the difference between skin-deep and bone-deep belief.”
“The Mary Abbott House has a bone-deep belief, and this community has a bone-deep belief in the Mary Abbott house,” Coale said. “That’s one of the reasons this is such a great place to live and coach a basketball team.”
Not only did Coale speak at the luncheon, but so did Oklahoma men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger. While he hasn’t been involved as long as Coale with the nonprofit, he already has seen its importance to the community.
“It’s very special,” Kruger said after the luncheon. “The Mary Abbott House does such a great job for young people. No one else does it as well or does it like they do it. It’s an opportunity to come together with other members of the community to support that. It’s very important.”
The Mary Abbott Children’s House is a place for children to tell their stories after a sexual or severe physical trauma. Additionally, the Mary Abbott Children’s House provides acute sexual exams when necessary and offers reassurance and wellness checks to every child who comes through its doors.
Abbott House is one of approximately 580 independent Children’s Advocacy Centers across the country accredited by the National Children’s Alliance and is charged with serving Cleveland, McClain and Garvin counties.
The nonprofit also serves counties outside of its primary jurisdiction, serving 19 Oklahoma counties in the last year.
“This is one of the anchoring institutions in our town,” Coale said. “This is part of what grows our community and makes our community so special. I’ve had an opportunity to be involved with this for eight years. They were our service agency of choice one year. Our players spent some time working there, so I know exactly the service they provide and the difference they make in the lives of kids.”
The coaches brought a pair of players from the women’s and men’s basketball teams. Joining was Morgan Hook and Kaylon Williams. Kruger assembled Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard.
The players coached community members through a free throw shooting contest, picked the winning raffle tickets and also told what their favorite Christmas gift was.
“It was a real fun event,” said Woodard, whose favorite gift was NBA Live 2003. “A great cause. I really just jumped at the opportunity when I heard about. It makes me feel great knowing that the community is behind athletics and how we got involved in the event. It’s such a great cause, and it reminds me of why Norman is such a great community.”
Having their players see how important it is to get involved with community programs such as the Mary Abbott Children’s House is something Coale and Kruger felt was crucial.
“It’s important that our players see so many people that are in a giving mood,” Kruger said. “Reaching out to others that aren’t so fortunate. Our players do a great job of getting out into the community, and to see them witness others doing that, it’s very important.”
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