LEXINGTON (KT) — The University of Kentucky Athletics Department raised more than $3 million during a “Kentucky United for Tornado Relief” telethon Tuesday night.

Through the combined efforts of contributors and matching funds, the four-hour event raised nearly $3.1 million that will be given to the American Red Cross to benefit the victims of last Saturday’s tornado outbreak in parts of western and central Kentucky. The telethon was shown on WLEX-TV at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Recruiting Room at Kroger Field.

Every head coach on campus, along with student-athletes and staff, handled phone calls from donors.

“On an incredible night, the Big Blue Nation and all of Kentucky continue to show the special bond that exists throughout the people of the commonwealth,” said Mitch Barnhart, UK Director of Athletics. “As relief organizations and volunteers continue to help rebuild the lives of so many, we are thankful to all who contributed to the telethon, the volunteers who made it happen, the American Red Cross, WLEX and JMI Sports.

“When you raise more than $3 million in four hours through the hearts of wonderful people who care so deeply about those who are hurting, it’s really special. We will continue to find ways to help rebuild, restore, heal and return stronger than before. Our hearts extend this hope and promise to the people of western Kentucky.”

Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari added the telethon was an “unbelievable success and it took a lot of people to make it happen.”

“Money like that is usually raised when there is a huge concert or benefit on national television,” he said. “This was us coming together as Kentuckians, Big Blue Nation and others, to make sure people in Western Kentucky know that we care, that we’re praying for them and that we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is.

I want to thank everyone who played a part. We appreciate the American Red Cross for making sure the funds generated over the last couple of days go straight to people in Western Kentucky, and I want to thank WLEX-18 and the UK Sports Network for all of their support in making tonight happen.

Ohio State coach Chris Holtman, whose Buckeyes play Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic Saturday in Las Vegas, pledged to make a contribution on his Twitter account prior to the telethon and “encouraged Buckeye Nation to do the same.”

Iowa Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz also urged his fanbase to follow suite.

“Hawk fans are a passionate fanbase,” he said. “Let’s show them how compassionate we can be.”

Kentucky basketball junior forward Keion Brooks offered his condolences following the team’s loss to Notre Dame last Saturday in South Bend.

“I wish we could do more to help because that’s devastating what happened to them,” he said. “The best thing we can do for them is prayer and be there for them and let them know that you’re not alone and you’ve got people that care for them and want to help them — thoughts and prayers with them.

“Hopefully we can all come together and do some good to help rebuild that community.”

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