Tesh and his radio audience “adopted” the hurricane-ravaged towns of Slidell, LA and Long Beach, MS and focused on providing food, shelter, and necessities for their residents. The Tesh camp, which had been collecting cash contributions and accepting donations of used motor homes and travel trailers, began a massive caravan in Birmingham, AL on October 12, traveling more than 300 miles to deliver the items to the storm-savaged communities.
“The purpose was not only to serve the residents of the Gulf Coast but also to encourage others to put together “out of the box” ideas for relief,” said Tesh, who first visited the area a few days after the storm. “When every person who comes by has a horrible and touching story, there’s no way not to get involved.”
Tesh also asked manufacturers, retailers, and individuals to help replace musical instruments that were damaged or destroyed by the storm, so that the towns’ music programs could get restarted. Sweetwater donated two digital pianos to the effort and coordinated the delivery of six additional pianos from Yamaha Corporation. Sweetwater President Chuck Surack said, “In a tragedy of this scope, people sometimes overlook the impact on institutions like school music programs. Many of them were completely wiped out.” Surack noted that Tesh is a longtime customer and remarked, “We were happy to be able to help John make the Katrina Convoy as effective as possible.”
Peggy Sharpe, St. Tammany fine arts supervisor, said the cost for replacement equipment exceeds $100,000 throughout the parish school system. In addition to the instruments, stands, sheet music and uniforms lost at schools affected by Katrina, also lost were many of the band materials students had at homes that also were devastated by the storm.
Although the Katrina Convoy has wrapped up, much rebuilding work remains to be done. Tesh urged individuals to continue providing assistance through the long recovery period, saying, “Individual Americans can make an amazing difference. The people who donated these items didn’t wait for the government. They just jumped in and did it.”