SAAC "Hoops for Heroes" to collect donations at Saturday doubleheader


COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- U.S. Army Specialist Thomas Kelley and Marine Corporal Mark Roop have each fought overseas for America's freedom, and received high honors for their service during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As part of the Ohio Valley Conference's "Hoops for Heroes" initiative, both warriors and their families have been invited to attend the OVC Basketball Tournament in Nashville, March 6-9, with their week's expenses provided from fund-raising efforts by Tennessee Tech University's student-athletes.

To support the effort, Tech's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) will fan out into the Eblen Center stands on Saturday during an OVC doubleheader against Austin Peay, with a mission of collecting donations from TTU fans to support the trip for Kelley and Roops's families.

Kelley served in Bravo Company, 3rd Brigade, 270th Armored Division, spending time in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He was injured in Iraq in 2003 and received a Combat Action Badge. Kelley and his wife, Lisa live in Baxter and have three children -- Elizabeth (7), Daniel (4) and Emma (1).
 
Roop served in the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, and fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal with Valor. Roop and his wife Renate live in Cookeville and have one son, Jayden (2).

Kelley and Roop will receive family trips to the OVC Tournament from Tech's SAAC efforts through the OVC's association with the Wounded Warrior project. The program was started two years ago. Tech's fund-raising have gone to Army Lance Corporal Eric Frazier in 2011 and Army Sergeant Kelly Deming in 2012.

Fans will be asked to give generously to support this effort when the student-athletes make their way through the arena Saturday evening.

For additional information on the game or the "Hoops for Heroes" project, please call (931) 372-3940 or visit the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center. The doubleheader begins with the women's game tipoff at 5:30 p.m., followed by the men's contest at 7:30 p.m.

Fans wishing to make donations to the SAAC fund-raising efforts for the "Hoops for Heroes" program but are not able to attend the games Saturday may contact the Athletics Ticket Office for information.