Pastor Shawn Kemp doesn't dislike homecoming mums — let's start there. He thinks they are part of a "beautiful tradition."
But, mums aren't like they used to be.
"There's just a lot of things that the tradition has become that I didn't like," he says.
Lead pastor of the Crossroads Community Church in Van Alstyne, Kemp had been thinking for several years about ways to redirect that trajectory. When Hurricane Harvey hit last month, it all came together.
Kemp's church launched mumsforharvey.org, encouraging students to donate the money they had planned to spend on a homecoming mum — or at least a portion of it — to Harvey relief efforts.
Largely a Texas phenomenon, the arrangements worn by high school students — usually at a football game — have dramatically grown both in size and in cost.
Most are so big now they must be worn around a student's neck. Adorned with lights, ribbons, stuffed animals and any number of customized items, they can weigh upward of 10 pounds. Some cost hundreds of dollars.
"I thought, here's an opportunity to take a beautiful Texas tradition and honor it in a way that's going to meet other Texans' needs," Kemp says. "Some students won't have a home at all this year."
To do so, Kemp's church set up a website with donation options. Putting $20 toward the cause will get donors a 3-inch button that says, "I gave up my mum for Harvey." Those who donate at least $50 will receive the button and a T-shirt with the same design.
Most of the students in his congregation attend Anna High School, Kemp says, but the movement isn't just for them. Those who donate can choose to have their button or shirt made in their own school color.
The money raised from mumsforharvey.org will go to Collin Baptist Association Disaster Relief, which supports SEND Relief, a project of the North American Mission Board, which is part of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"This effort is specifically designed to get needed items to those families and individuals who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey," according to mumsforharvey.org.
Kemp says he doesn't think students should have to forgo mums or homecoming traditions altogether — though, if they do choose to put 100 percent of that budget toward the cause, "that's awesome."
But, he's hopeful those who still want a mum will consider a vastly simplified version, maybe apportioning a bit of that budget to the cause. He envisions that way of thinking becoming an annual a homecoming tradition of its own — as it has at Frisco's Reedy High, where the student council spearheaded a mum charity fundraiser in 2015.
As for this year's Harvey relief effort, Kemp says he's hopeful schools across the state will catch on, even those whose homecoming celebrations have already passed this year.
"I just see it as an opportunity for Texans to show the rest of the nation how we respond when people are hurting in our state," he says.
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