Members of the Carver girls soccer team are spending the off-season collecting donations for soccer players in an Oklahoma town hard hit by a tornado last year. (Submitted photo / February 14, 2014)

The girls soccer team at the Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson is hard at work this off season collecting donations and preparing gifts for their peers at Moore High School in Oklahoma, in the town that was heavily damaged by a May 2013 tornado.

“The tornado that went through Moore last year really destroyed that town and we thought of a project we could do — not through the Red Cross, not through FEMA,” coach Jason Sherfey said. “We wanted to help someone directly. What better for a girls soccer team to do than help another girls soccer team?”

According to Sherfey, the team’s coach and a Baltimore County police officer who works at the Towson precinct, such philanthropic endeavors are typical of his girls. He said they have an “intense desire to help others,” a feeling only magnified by the kinship the team says they felt with the team in Oklahoma.

Alex Bessett, 18, of Cockeysville, said the Carver team refers to itself as a “team family.”

“We get really, ridiculously close during the season,” Bessett, a senior co-captain from last fall’s team, said. “We get to be like sisters.”

When Sherfey first reached out to Lorie Witherspoon, the coach at Moore High, the two shared coaching philosophies and found their two coaching styles were “eerily similar,” he said.

“We really work hard at becoming a family and promoting that atmosphere,” he said. “Our teams are very, very close off the field, and hers are as well. … That made it all the more reason to help this team who is built a lot like our team is built.”

Sherfey said he thought even before he talked to Witherspoon that his team would take the idea and run. Their phone conversation solidified it, and he told his team about what the Moore team went through on that May afternoon at a late season practice, the team was all in.

“It’s just a huge difference knowing that they’re a family and everyone gets along,” senior co-captain Celeste O’Keefe, 17, of Lutherville, said.

The seniors, especially, commiserated with the idea that the seniors in Moore would have issues with their field and team during their final season, senior Mary Morekis, 17, of Timonium, said.

Girls soccer is a spring sport in Oklahoma, so Sherfey said the gifts would arrive at the perfect time. During the season, he didn’t want to burden them with that responsibility on top of their academic workload and soccer commitments. But at the end-of-season awards banquet at Carver, his mention of their project solicited a key donation almost immediately.

Under Armour donated 56 blue and red shirts — one for each girl in the Moore program, all in their school colors. Baltimore T-Shirt Co. has offered to print the shirts before they’re sent away. Hayes Construction of Jacksonville has already made a donation, Sherfey said.

The girls plan to use the money they raise in the next few weeks to buy soccer gear and other supplies for the girls. Senior co-captain Bailley Rhoten, 17, of Towson, said that while simple things like soccer balls and hats and gloves to fight the early-season cold will help, the girls want to help rebuild the team’s spirit as well.

Just as the Carver team has bonfires and sleepovers during the season, the Moore team has its own traditions as well. Witherspoon told Sherfey of a restaurant the girls frequented for team dinners, and the Carver girls want one dinner to be their treat this season.

“If we could make that dinner be on us, those are things we want to do to help bring them together again,” Sherfey said. “Insurance covers their stuff, but we want to improve their spirit and let them know they have a girl’s team a thousand miles away who never met any of them before that cares about them and wants to help them rebound from this horrible thing that they’ve gone through.”

Witherspoon said “rebuilding is kind of slow” in the town, and some players are still waiting for their homes to be rebuilt.

“We try to make every day as normal as possible and try to help them with their day-to-day life,” she said.

Witherspoon said she was touched when Sherfey reached out and said the Carver team was willing to offer help.

“It was heartwarming, and great to hear from another team that wanted to help us when we were going through such chaos,” she said. “It was nice to have somebody out there who was looking out for us.”

Donations can be made to the Carver Center, with Moore Soccer Fund in the memo line of the check. Donations may be made until the end of February.