Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Fans branch out to aid rivals


As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Tide for Toomer’s Facebook page has raised at least $40,000, half of the total $80,000 in donations that Auburn University has received so far by supporters and alumni nationwide to restore Toomer’s Corner, according to the Interim Vice President of Development at Auburn, Rob Wellbaum.

Gina Smith, one of the founders of Tide for Toomer’s, said the page was created as a gesture of goodwill by five UA alumni to help Auburn raise funds for the preservation of their Toomer’s tradition. The alumni created the initiative hoping people will understand that the Alabama fan base can’t be stereotyped by one person who has caused so much negativity, she said.

She said the destruction of Toomer’s Corner for Auburn fans would be like the defacing of Denny Chimes or one of the Walk of Champions statues for Alabama fans.

“As we said in our letter of intent on Facebook, tradition is what binds generations together,” Smith said. “It’s what gives a grandparent something in common with their college freshman grandchild. Tradition is part of our identity. Auburn is our biggest rival, but our histories, both on and off the gridiron, are closely tied to one another.”

She said recognizing the importance of tradition as well as the magnitude of negative emotions that surfaced when the story of the poisoning broke, the founders of Tide for Toomer’s felt it was critical to bring some sanity to the situation. Wellbaum said Smith and her fellow workers, UA alumni Jennifer Hanson, Clay Loftin, Taylor Nichols and Camaran Williams, have worked with the Auburn Development Office from the beginning, and all of the donations are routed directly to the Toomer’s Trees and Traditions Fund.

“People have reached out to us from universities all over the country,” Wellbaum said. “However, we especially appreciate the efforts of Tide for Toomer’s. They made it clear they purely wanted to give Tide fans the opportunity to help Auburn, expecting nothing in return.”

He said a committee of experts has been meeting daily to determine the extent of the damages, which will undoubtedly cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Our No. 1 priority is to save the trees,” Wellbaum said. “The tough part is we won’t know the results of the poisoning until about a year from now. Even if the trees die, the herbicide could remain in the soil for up to a decade.

“The initial reaction at Auburn was outrage and anger at this senseless act by a person cloaked as being an Alabama fan,” Wellbaum said. “I went home that night and my three young girls saw the poisoning on the news and cried. ‘Daddy, how could someone do this?’ they asked me.”

He said some of the greatest support Auburn has received, however, has been from Alabama fans who dislike being portrayed in such a poor light.

“I just want folks to know Tide for Toomer’s represents the best of the spirit of the University of Alabama,” Wellbaum said. “That group reaching out to us and wanting nothing in return speaks volumes for the character and class Alabama fans possess. My respect for Alabama fans has grown greatly in the past week.”

Wellbaum said the healing process began with the news release UA Director of Athletics Mal Moore issued immediately after the incident.

“It’s an awful act, a terrible thing to do,” Moore wrote. “A lot of what makes our two programs so special is our many unique traditions. So, hearing this about Toomer’s Corner is upsetting to me in several ways. I certainly hope that whomever is responsible is held accountable.”

University of Alabama President Robert E. Witt told The Crimson White in an interview Monday afternoon that he has not contacted Auburn University’s President regarding the Toomer’s Corner incident, and he said he believes the whole incident is completely separate from the University of Alabama.

“The man did not graduate from here,” Witt said. “Our records indicate he never took a course here. He’s never purchased a season athletic ticket here. He’s never donated a dime to the University.”

Even though the man charged with the crime, Harvey Almorn Updyke of Dadeville, was never affiliated with the University, sophomores Kayleigh Moring and Kelsie van Wyck are of a similar mindset as the Tide for Toomer’s Facebook creators. They are planning to host a silent auction in Tuscaloosa before Spring Break to raise money for Toomer’s Corner.

“We are asking for donations for the auction, things like sports memorabilia, pieces from local artists, etc.,” van Wyck said. “We also hope to have a type of raffle at the event for gift cards from local restaurants and businesses. The auction is targeted at alumni, but the event will be open to the public.”

Moring and van Wyck are working to involve the athletic department and the Student Government Association in this endeavor as well.

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