Mark Harmon and Team Continue Benefit Drive for Oklahoma’s Children
Amidst all the sadness and loss in Oklahoma City during the recent tornado disasters, a group of men forge ahead with an annual charity fundraiser to benefit the children of Oklahoma.
These men are actor Mark Harmon (NCIS), longtime friend and attorney Barry Axelrod, and Dr. Mike Wright of Oklahoma Sports Science and Orthopedics (OSSO).
The three friends, with whom I had the privilege to sit down with on the Friday morning prior to the arrival of the second of two devastating tornadoes, have worked as a team to raise money for various charitable organizations in Oklahoma since 2000.
As for which charities they choose to support with their annual fundraiser, Axelrod said, “It’s a group decision. We never really make future plans about which charities we raise money for. It all just becomes clear to us.”
Harmon added, “There are a lot of worthy candidates out there. We all talk about it. It’s important that the money raised, all of it, goes to the cause. That’s something that doesn’t always happen in charities. That’s a large appeal. And, we’ve had the privilege of doing these benefits for a number of years.”
Long History Together
Axelrod said, “We started out in 1987. We were part owners of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (originally San Bernardino Spirit) in California, and the General Manager of the team went to Columbia, South Carolina and asked us to join him there, so we played in South Carolina eight or nine years. Then, he moved to Mobile, Alabama, and we played there every year for ten years.”
Axelrod continued, “It got to the point that we were playing three games a year, in different places across the U.S., and we had to space out the schedule. Then, Mark got regular employment, and we couldn’t play three games a year anymore.”
Wright added, “I was fortunate enough to play in a baseball game for three or four years in California against these guys, and when I moved to Oklahoma, I worked up the courage to talk to Barry and Mark and ask if they would be willing to come to Oklahoma and play a game out here. They said yes.
A Matter of Heart
“Mark came out, and we had a charity that was pretty special to all of us, and that was the Children’s Center. You’ll have to ask him why he keeps coming back. I think he fell in love with the place, and he’s come back ever since.”
Axelrod added, “We love the people here in Oklahoma. Everyone is so nice.”
A Lot of Good
Over the past 13 years, Wright confirmed, the OSSO-sponsored charity events in Oklahoma have “done a lot of good.” Their first fundraiser was for the Bethany Children’s Center. Through it, $1.5 million was raised to build a gymnasium. Another year’s events saw the building of the Harmony Pediatric Clinic for the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic.
Wright added, “Anna’s House, a foster home program here in Oklahoma, is breaking ground on their new foster home program out in Luther.” Construction has also begun on a Ronald McDonald House in the area, and funds have been given to feed hungry children in Oklahoma through the Oklahoma Food Bank.
He continued, “We get to enjoy the relationships that we’ve had with people over the years. And Mark comes back and gets to touch some of the things that we’ve been able to build.”
What a rewarding way to honor the charities – and people – of Oklahoma.