On Wednesday, September 20, 2017, my life changed forever. That is a statement that has to be followed by an explanation. It was the day that Hurricane Maria rocked our beautiful island of Puerto Rico. I was there for one of those hurricanes in 1979, as I was studying at the UPR-Bayamon, but this one was different. It absolutely destroyed everything in its path. Many of my family members have no homes. Even almost 2 months later, many of them still have no electricity and I have struggled to make contact with but a few. Clean water, food, battery fans, and money are needed for survival.
I am therefore starting a gofundme page after making as much of a difference as possible by volunteering at the local firehouse and sending packages and money almost every weekend to those most in need. I can report that my sister and niece have a new stove and bed as a result, but no home yet, as it must undergo inspections before they are allowed back in. They are currently staying at mom’s place, which was not severely damaged. Others have received packages with food (usually in 7 – 10 days). I have 2 cousins who have relocated to NYC due to the high crime rate – this is from a person who never left his community in Mayaguez (Minimas) and at the age of 47, had to leave.
For those who might wonder why it has affected me so gravely, I’ll give some background: I was born here in Spanish Harlem, but spent most of my infancy in the island. Every year mom sent me to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, for the entire summer. It was always the highlight of my year because most of my family still resided there at the time. (And many still do) I loved the culture. I could run and climb trees and eat mangos and go to clean beaches! It was a dream. Mom sent me there for 6th Grade because I was acting up, so I learned to read and write fluently during that stay. Then it was back to NYC, as my grandma couldn’t keep running behind me all day! I loved the freedom and nature, but it was back to New York. Then fresh off of my High School signature performance at Penn Relays, the University of Puerto Rico recruited me -- with the promise of winning many titles and becoming a big star in my island. It had great appeal to me and although I am a city kid at heart, I jumped at the opportunity to go back. I had a great year and did win titles and established myself as one of the best junior runners in their history, capturing a junior title at 800 meters. I’ll never forget standing on the podium, as the announcer proclaimed me the Junior National Champion at 800 meters. My chest filled with pride. The 1980 Olympics were boycotted by Puerto Rico and my fate was to come back and become a member of CPTC in 1981. While I’ve enjoyed every minute, I always went back to visit, as so many of my family are still there. They have always supported me and are proud of the person I have become. Now it’s my turn to give back, but I need help and if I have somehow had an impact on your life and you want to fund me, then I will continue to give support to my people, who need me more than ever.
Your donation will help me continue to give back to my family and my family's communities. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what they need, because the real question is what don't they need - food, water, building supplies, appliances, housing supplies - you name it, it's a need in Puerto Rico today. You may know me primarily as a track runner, but after the hurricane, I started increasing my distance - I was inspired but I also needed quiet times to think, reflect, and, honestly, grieve. As part of that, I've decided to take on the NYRR Pete McArdle Cross Country 15K on December 3, 2017 in Van Cortlandt Park. 15K is not just my running goal, it's my fundraising goal - help me raise $15K for my 15K!
I'll keep the donation open well after the race, but this lets me combine some of my passions - running, cross country, and Puerto Rico. Since I know that the needs in Puerto Rico extend well beyond, I will donate 10% of all money raised to United Way of Puerto Rico
Please help me help Puerto Rico in its recovery?