Coach's Wife Helping With Tornado Relief

The Trash 2 Treasure project led by the wife of Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik is benefitting victims of the April tornado outbreak.

Auburn, Ala.--Jonna Chizik, the wife of Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik, is hoping that Thursday evening's Trash 2 Treasure fundraiser will benefit a good cause and give visitors to the event a chance to take home one-of-a-kind pieces of artwork.

The Chizik Family YourTurn Foundation is helping sponsor the event that will assist residents of the Lake Martin and Dadeville areas recover from a devastating tornado that did millions of dollars worth of damage less than an hour's drive from the Auburn University campus. The storm was part of the deadly April 27th, 2011 tornado outbreak that took lives and did a huge amount of property damage in numerous parts of the state of Alabama.

A group of artists from the Auburn area and around the state are on board with the project and have taken items salvaged from the tornado debris and turned them into art that can be bid on Thursday, Oct. 13th from 6-9 p.m. at the Events Center Downtown on North Railroad Street in Opelika.

In the aftermath of the tornados a group of Auburn football players and athletic department officials put on their work clothes and helped with relief efforts in communities near Birmingham. Jonna Chizik accompanied her husband on the trip and said she wanted to do more to help after seeing first-hand how destructive the tornados had been. "I?tagged along and was blown away just by the personal stories we heard of survival and destruction," she said.

Mrs. Chizik was invited by the mayor of Dadeville as well as the sheriff of Tallapoosa County to tour the damage closer to Auburn. "When I got an opportunity to be invited into the Dadeville area, I got to witness and walk in areas that had been catastrophically affected and it became personal as I met these families and got to know their names," she said. "I got to put a name and face together. It wasn't somebody I was watching on the news."

Jonna Chizik said the money raised by the Trash 2 Treasure event will go exclusively to help families in the Lake Martin and Dadeville areas. "We are really excited to come together as an Auburn community to give back and do something special for those people," she said.

Asked where the idea for the project originated, she explained, "We were walking amongst the homes that had been destroyed and we had seen the different things that had survived from each of these homes from address books to shoes--it was completely random. When we were noticing things that were so personal we started realizing these were people's lives.

"These people were in the process of cleaning up and trying to salvage," she said. "God just put it on our spirits to go back and ask permission from these family members to be able to salvage pieces of furniture that survived or windows that were sucked out of the house that landed in the yard."

When the word got out in the arts community of the need for artists to do pieces to be auctioned to support families in need, the project moved into high gear or as Mrs. Chizik said it "became a community-wide all-in project.

"They have taken debris and turned it into amazing artwork and treasure that other people can purchase and buy and bring into their home," she said. "It is a tangible memory of something so good that can come out of something so bad."

In addition to the artwork at the event on Thursday night featuring artists like former Auburn and NFL football player Kendall Simmons, other items such as sports memorabilia and vacations can be purchased on line at

Tickets to the evening at the Downtown Events Center are $75 and can be purchased on-line. "It is going to be a night of celebration, a night of a lot of fun," Jonna Chizik said. "One hundred percent of all of the money raised from start to finish is going back to Dadeville. The foundation that my husband and I have is not going to be benefitting (financially) one bit. We are just excited to be able to be able help facilitate this vision.

"We would love people who are going to be in town who might not even be in the Auburn area to go on our website and purchase some tickets," she added. "My husband and I will be there. We are really excited to have some of the Dadeville families there and some community members and the mayor there."

Premium Subscription Signup

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories