When a devastating tornado strikes your hometown, it’s difficult to find the silver lining in such a tragedy. But that’s exactly what the residents of Moore, Okla., did. On May 20, 2013, a tornado struck the town, leaving Veterans Memorial Park, a favorite community park, in shambles. Instead of accepting defeat, the residents took action, leading to the park’s victory in Coca-Cola’s America Is Your Park (AIYP) campaign.

Check presentation

Stuart Kronauge and Mark Rahiya, Chief Region Sales Officer, presenting the check to the city of Moore.

Across the country and at home in Moore, people got active to help Veterans Memorial Park win this summer. The park also encouraged voting across airwaves, the internet and social media. Participants logged more than 16,000 hours of activity and cast more than 400,000 votes for the park. Ultimately, Veterans Memorial Park beat out more than 12,000 parks for the title of “America’s Favorite Park.”

Earlier this month, I visited Moore to present the park its winning prize.  Together with my colleagues at Coca-Cola Great Plains and Mark Rahiya, Chief Region Sales Officer, Coca-Cola Refreshments, we presented the $100,000 recreation grant to City of Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis. 

The day was picturesque. The sunny was shining, and there was not a cloud in the sky. More than 300 people gathered to celebrate at Veterans Memorial Plaza, the park’s beautiful memorial to honor our country’s veterans.  The local Highland East Junior High band played the National Anthem, and American Legion Post 184 presented the colors. 

Veterans and guests

Veterans and guests listening in for special remarks from city representatives and Coca-Cola.

I experienced firsthand the spirit and optimism of the Moore community that day. I heard story after story about the destruction of the May tornado. And with each story, a common theme arose – how people came together to make the most of their situation. I also learned how locals, along with communities like Joplin, Missouri, rallied together to help Veterans Memorial win AIYP.

For 127 years, Coca-Cola has been bringing people together to make a positive difference in the communities where we operate.  And November 8, 2013, was no exception.  It was inspiring to see the strength of the Moore community and help celebrate the win. And we were thrilled to see the park’s story on national broadcast show, CBS This Morning, earlier today, the six-month anniversary of the spring tornado.

Stuart helping to break ground

Coca-Cola’s Stuart Kronauge helping to break ground at the site of the new playground.

During the event, we took a short walk to the site where the park’s playground once stood.  Alongside several officials, I grabbed my hard hat and shovel to help break ground for the new playground. It was a hopeful symbol of the restoration to come. 

I want to thank the City of Moore and the thousands of participants for their unwavering support of AIYP. It’s because of your collaboration and perseverance that the Veterans Memorial Park playground will be restored.  We wish you all the best.

Stuart Kronauge

Stuart Kronauge is the General Manager of Sparkling Beverages for the Coca-Cola North America Group