(ATR) Several Olympians and professional athletes are raising money and awareness to aid relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth.
Rio 2016 Olympic tennis champion Monica Puig, winner of the first Olympic gold medal for Puerto Rico, established a donation campaign at www.youcaring.com/donatewithmonica, a similar mechanism that former NBA basketball player Tim Duncan used to aid in the reconstruction of his native U.S. Virgin Islands.
"I am heartbroken by the devastation that hurricane Maria has brought to my beloved Puerto Rico," Puig writes on the site. "I hereby ask anyone willing to help rebuild the island to donate via this fund."
Puig’s YouCaring page has already received more than $67,000 on its way to the original goal of $100,000. This number is sure to be surpassed in the coming days.
"I know that other Puerto Rican athletes have opened other accounts and asked people for help and many people have helped them with generous donations and that means a lot," Puig said from China where she is participating in the Wuhuan Open.
Puig said she has received support from the tennis community, including Kei Nishikori who linked to her campaign with the message: "It reminds me of the disaster that was in Japan and how the whole tennis community helped us. Help @monicaAce93, support her country."
Russian Maria Sharapova and the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) have also helped Puig spread her message, with the WTA promoting the cause on the Tennis Channel.
NBA Dallas Mavericks point guard Jose Juan Barea, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, Olympic runner Andrés Arroyo and former tennis player Gigi Fernandez are other famous athletes from Puerto Rico who have joined in the recovery efforts.
Fernandez, who had represented Puerto Rico when San Juan hosted the Pan American Games in 1979, and at the 1982 Central American and Caribbean Games in Havana, donated $50,000 through the YouCaring website.
Molina established a national fund-raising campaign. On his Instagram account (@yadier_marciano_molina), he wrote in English and Spanish the following message: "Please, Puerto Rico needs your help. Any amount you can donate will be well received. Thank you".
Molina's message was shared by Los Angeles Angels catcher Martín Maldonado on his Twitter account as well as Cleveland Indians catcher Roberto Perez.
Halos ties run deep in Puerto Rico. On behalf of the Molina family, please help spread the word. #Pray4PRhttps://t.co/ixPIQQl90R— Angels PR (@LAAngelsPR) September 21, 2017Houston Astros outfielder Carlos Beltrán donated $1 million and is seeking to raise more through his foundation.
"We will be raising funds for the Carlos Beltrán Foundation as we can personally ensure that all funds will go where they are most needed when the floods subside. Any donation, large or small, will be greatly appreciated and help the neediest," said the baseball star.
Carmelo Anthony, a basketball player for the Oklahoma City Thunder, donated $50,000 and has already received more than $100,000 in donations from others following an essay he penned in The Players’ Tribune.
"You read the headlines, and they’re all saying Puerto Rico might be powerless for 4-6 months." Anthony wrote. "But do you really understand the magnitude of that? Do you really? Right now, as I’m sitting here on Thursday night, there’s thousands of little kids sitting in the dark. They might not have a roof over their heads anymore. Their houses might be totally destroyed. Their refrigerators aren’t running. They might not have much food or clean water to last them the week.
"Where are they sleeping tonight? What are they gonna eat tomorrow? What the hell is going to happen to these kids? This is what’s running through my mind right now. We have to do something to help these kids and their families."
"Here in Puerto Rico all sports activity will be paralyzed for at least two or three months, in my personal opinion," Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization press chief Carlos Uriarte told Around the Rings in an exclusive interview from San Juan. "Yesterday I was at the headquarters of the National Olympic Committee and 70 percent of its infrastructure is seriously damaged."
While Puerto Rico has been devastated by the storm, it seems the Dominican Republic escaped such a fate. The severe rainfall did not prevent the Pan American Men's Softball Championship from concluding on Sept. 24, although the rain did cause some interruptions. The Pan-American Judo Championship has also started in Santo Domingo.
"We are well in general terms, without major problems for the sport thanks to God," new IOC member and president of the Dominican Republic Olympic Committee Luis Mejia told ATR.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló acknowledged that he cannot yet determine the full extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Maria or the cost to handle this emergency. He estimated that the cost will be greater than the relief efforts needed after Hurricane Georges in 1998.
Written by Miguel Hernandez and translated by Kevin Nutley.
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