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Raider Relief

Filed Under: President's Post

Raider Relief, a humanitarian drive I revived when Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas in 2019, flew—in multiple separate trips piloted by MTSU Board of Trustees vice chair Darrell S. Freeman Sr. (’87, ’90) in his private plane—tens of thousands of pounds of emergency supplies, medicines, and necessities to help people who were affected.

The hurricane hit home for numerous MTSU students. In all, MTSU has 51 students enrolled from the Bahamas, and the families of seven of our students were among those enduring the aftermath of the storm in the most affected areas of Grand Bahama and Abaco islands. Freeman, myself, and Terry Dorris, an associate professor and pilot in the Department of Aerospace, flew to the Bahamas on various days last fall. 

Freeman donated the use of his personal aircraft and fuel for the trips, while Dorris’ flight expenses aboard MTSU’s aircraft came from the approximately $123,000 in donations from community members. Those cash contributions also covered the cost of the goods for the families and were further distributed to affected Bahamian students on campus to assist them as their families tried to recover. 

I simply cannot put into words the tremendous feelings of gratitude I feel for our close-knit Raider community, which once again banded together in a True Blue spirit of giving to provide for those less fortunate than we are. 

When Sidelines, MTSU’s student-run news source, asked what one thing I wished to explain to students, I responded that this situation could happen to anyone. 

I have never been prouder of this University community than in its repeated generous responses to the devastation occurring around the world, which, in the case of Dorian, was my own birthplace of the Bahamas. 

Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane, hit and lingered over the island commonwealth of the Bahamas on Sept. 1, killing many and leaving 70,000 homeless from the storm. I lost a grand-niece after the hurricane made landfall on Grand Bahama Island. Our entire family was devastated. Once again, let me emphasize my deepest thanks to the Blue Raider community for your thoughts, prayers, and actions resulting from this terrible event. I am truly touched.

On our third mission to the Bahamas, Tiara Ashley Brown, president of MTSU’s Bahamian Student Organization, accompanied myself, Freeman, and Chip Crunk, CEO of R.J. Young Co. in Nashville. The Raider Relief trip also delivered donations gathered by Brown’s student group.

I would be remiss if I did not single out Trustee Freeman for his exceptional level of humanitarianism in this instance. Freeman also piloted his plane for the first Raider Relief mission to Puerto Rico in 2017, which came to the aid of the family of former MTSU basketball player Raymond Cintron after landfall there by Category 4 Hurricane Maria. 

Freeman said he was honored and humbled by the opportunity to donate his services as a pilot—and the use of his aircraft—to the various relief missions. “If you own a plane,” he said, “I can’t think of a better way as to how you should use it.”

As commencement speaker at a recent graduation ceremony, Freeman urged his audience of newly minted degree holders to “take over the world.” 

“But when you do go take over the world, do it with compassion,” Freeman added. “Because the world needs more compassion . . . and do it with the sole purpose of helping people who are less fortunate than you are. 

“If you do these things, you will have represented MTSU very well.”

Freeman has proven that those are words he lives by.

 

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