Badgers’ Vogt returns to Kentucky to help tornado relief efforts

"It just felt like I was walking through a war zone."

MADISON, Wis. — Chris Vogt is becoming a big contributor for the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team, but his contributions off the court are going to outweigh anything he does on it this year.

Vogt’s hometown of Mayfield, Kentucky was devastated by a tornado earlier this month. Luckily, his family was with him in Columbus, Ohio as the Badgers were playing Ohio State the weekend the storms hit. His family’s house was just one mile away from the tornado’s path. Other friends weren’t as lucky.

Vogt had to watch it all unfold miles away.

“It was really tough,” Vogt said Friday during an interview with News 3 Now’s Chris Reece, as part of our “Sending Hope to the South” Red Cross fundraiser. “Seeing all the pictures and the videos of the place I call home was just heartbreaking. Being able to pick up landmarks and have those fond memories in my mind of going there and spending time there and seeing the place just get completely torn apart is heartbreaking.”

At first, he was in shock.

“I was just kind of speechless, just kind of like staring at a trainwreck, I couldn’t take my eyes away from it,” Vogt said.

He set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the Red Cross. As of Friday, it has raised more than $158,000.

“When I was creating the goal, I was honestly putting the first one for a thousand dollars, thinking there was no way I would get more than that,” Vogt said. “Then I thought I would put it at $10,000, I guess, and there’s no way I get that much. And it hit $20,000 in less than 24 hours.”

But that wasn’t enough — he decided he also needed to go home to help. He boarded a plane to Kentucky on Thursday morning, hours after helping the Badgers win in Madison on Wednesday night. When he got home, he had a hard time believing what he was seeing.

“I thought I was prepared for it just by seeing all the pictures and videos, but even those don’t do it justice, just how widespread all the damage is, and it just felt like I was walking through a war zone, it was just everywhere,” Vogt said.

The scope of the destruction and loss is something that can’t translate through the screen of a phone or computer.

“It was one thing to see those pictures and videos, but then when I was able to visit here and actually put my hands on the debris, walk through town, see with my own eyes, it was just a completely different experience,” Vogt said.

After getting home, he immediately went to Red Cross headquarters on the ground. After touring the area and learning how the Red Cross was helping, he helped deliver food to people in Mayfield.

While he’s gotten plenty of attention for his efforts and the money he has raised, he says he doesn’t want to distract attention from the real heroes of the relief efforts.

“That’s all the frontline workers, those that are putting their health and safety behind other people, and they’re trying to serve others and help any way they can,” Vogt said.

Still, Vogt wants to thank Badgers fans and everyone else in the Madison area that has helped with the relief efforts.

“I’ve only lived in Wisconsin for six months, and to be able to take me in and treat me like one of their own, it’s been awesome,” Vogt said. “It just kind of blows me away when [the GoFundMe total] went up $40,000 during the course of the game Wednesday night, so I feel a majority of that was Badgers fans. So to get that much support from everyone to reinforce that feeling of community, it’s pretty cool.”