It’s the kind of phone call no one ever wants to receive, the kind of news no one ever wants to hear — a loved one, a friend, a teammate has passed away. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. But Friday night, that call rang through Konawa.
The family of 12-year-old Rhindi Kay Isaacs lost a daughter. The Konawa Junior High School Lady Tigers lost a teammate and a friend. Konawa students lost a classmate. Konawa lost a piece of itself when the school’s activity bus was struck head-on by an SUV as the team made its way home from a game in Okemah. The bus driver and five team members were injured and taken to hospitals in Seminole and Ada. Rhindi and two occupants of the SUV were killed.
Grief-stricken and in tears, Konawa Public Schools Athletic Director Karis Reavis spoke Friday by phone while at the hospital with the families whose children were involved in the crash.
“This is a terrible, terrible tragedy and, hopefully, people will be in prayer for us,” Reavis said.
People were in prayer for Konawa, for the Isaacs family and for those affected by the tragic loss of a young life taken far too soon. In the days to come, it became evident that prayer was not the only thing on people’s minds. People wanted to help Konawa, and they did just that.
The outpouring of public sympathy and support for Konawa was immediate. A #KonawaStrong hashtag sprang up on Facebook and Twitter, and with it, messages of support and solidarity began to stream in from across the state of Oklahoma and beyond. Collegiate softball teams in Texas, Iowa and Tenessee recorded messages of solidarity for the Lady Tigers. University of Oklahoma Sooner Softball Coach Patty Gasso recorded a message of support for the Lady Tigers, in which Gasso said the Sooners would dedicate their season to the Lady Tigers.
Accounts were opened at local banks to receive donations for the school and the Isaacs family. Local businesses and their employees began offering donations, large and small. Businesses in Ada and Allen began collecting donations. Konawa’s Sonic carhops collectively decided to dedicate Monday’s tips to the school and the Isaacs family.
“I know (Rhindi’s) mom and we just, as a community, wanted to do something,” Sonic Assistant Manager Kristy Davis said. “It feels amazing that our community can get together like this in such a time of tragedy. We’re praying for their family.”
Allen resident Michael Bailey, owner of Ada-based Bailey Plumbing, was moved to action when he heard the news.
“It just hit too close to home,” Bailey said. “We’ve got daughters in that same age range. Our daughters are right there.”
Bailey said he felt the need to “do something” just eating at him, and then he had an idea.
“I said I was going to start a benefit and it’s turned out to be a monster,” he said. “It’s growing every hour, but we’re glad to do it.”
Bailey said his intention was to hold a fish fry and an auction to raise money for the family — an endeavor he thought might raise a few thousand dollars at most. But once he announced the fundraiser, he and other organizers were immediately overwhelmed with interest and support from as far away as Montana.
“We have a package coming from Montana Silversmiths, we have stuff coming from a ranch in South Texas, down near San Antonio — I don’t know how to explain it,” Bailey said. “We’ve got a cooler from Ace Hardware, a kayak from Tractor Supply, a ton of feed and someone even donated an expensive puppy — a puppy! 10Box (Cost Plus) gave me all of the supplies. Pepsi is donating all the pop. I’ve got a man who donated eight hours of dozer service to be auctioned off.
“Don’t tell me we don’t live in the greatest state in the nation. These people around here, a lot of them don’t have a lot of money, but they’re all giving what they have.”
The dinner and auction is set to be held at 6 p.m. Friday in the Allen High School cafeteria in Allen. Bailey said there is no price at the door, and no one will be turned away. Everyone who attends will be able to eat and participate in the auction. Organizers are hoping people will donate generously, but they aren’t requiring a donation to take part in the event.
Konawa Public Schools Superintendent Cory Ellis said Sunday, ahead of a vigil planned for friends, family and the community at-large, that he, too, was overwhelmed by the support and concern shown for the school and the community.
“It has been overwhelming the amount of response we’ve gotten for assistance, really, more than I honestly know what to do with,” Ellis said. “From all four corners (of the state) — the panhandle to the Altus area to the northeast and the southeast, it’s been pretty overwhelming.”
Ellis said the school has received offers to provide everything from counseling services to buses and personnel to teach and handle operations if the school’s staff needed time to grieve.
“When it’s a child, everybody’s heart breaks, and I don’t think people understand a lot of the time,” Ellis said. “Educators become educators because it’s a mission or a call. Whether you’re in Blair or Hardesty, you don’t have to have that child or that student in your classroom. Your heart just breaks.
“I think Oklahoma is unique, because when it comes to disasters or incidents like this, we’re all Konawa.”
Funeral services planned
Funeral services for Rhindi Kay Isaacs, 12, are scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the Konawa High School Performing Arts Center. The Revs. Drew Isaacs and Ed George will officiate. Burial will follow at Vamoosa Cemetery.
The Konawa Junior High School softball team will serve as honorary bearers.
The family will receive guests from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Swearingen Funeral Home.
Rhindi was born Dec. 9, 2006, in Ada to Haydon Bryant and Jessi Kay Isaacs. She was a sixth-grade student at Konawa Junior High School and attended Bethlehem Baptist Church.