Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Garcon, Other Haitian Athletes Anxiously Await Word On Relatives

By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer (AP)Pierre Garcon waited for word as his mother frantically tried to reach relatives in Haiti.

Three days before what is expected to be his first career playoff game, the Indianapolis Colts receiver was without his trademark smile.

“Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews. We still have not heard much from them, and my mom is still trying to call them,” Garcon said. “I’m keeping in contact with my mom. It’s tough to get in touch with people down there because of the phone lines.”

Garcon and other athletes of Haitian descent were devastated Wednesday by the powerful earthquake that struck the capital of Port-au-Prince a day earlier and is feared to have killed thousands—perhaps more than 100,000.

“I heard from my father and got an e-mail he was OK. That was a relief,” Philadelphia 76ers center Samuel Dalembert said. “There are so many other people I don’t know about, relatives and friends. I’m getting new information all the time. It’s just really hard.”

The 76ers planned a moment of silence and the organization is in the process of assembling funds, team spokesman Mike Preston said.

“It’s kind of hard to fathom a situation like this because those people didn’t do anything wrong,” Dalembert said. “It’s so hard to watch the TV. I feel helpless.”

The parents of WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto are from Haiti, and he has many relatives on the island.

“Like many other Haitian-Americans, my family and I are working to reach my loved ones,” Berto said. “From what we have learned to this point, some of my family members are still missing, and we have already been informed that members of my family have passed away in the earthquake.”

The Miami native fought for Haiti at the Athens Olympics after barely missing the U.S. team. He’s scheduled to face Sugar Shane Mosley on Jan. 30 in Las Vegas in the biggest bout of the undefeated fighter’s pro career, but his training was interrupted by the tragedy.

Berto (25-0, 19 KOs) has been heavily involved in charity work and relief efforts in Haiti for years. He’s working on another charity initiative to help Haiti’s recovery from his training camp in Winter Haven, Fla.

On his Twitter account, Berto wrote: “Haiti is the first black republic since 1804. Haitians are strong, powerful, prideful people but this a tough blow (to) endure,” and “My heart bleeds for my people.”

Garcon, a second-year player from Mount Union in Ohio, was born in Carmel, N.Y., and attended high school in Florida. But his parents immigrated to the United States from Haiti and most of his relatives still live there. Garcon said there are too many to count.

Last season, Garcon went back to the country for his grandmother’s funeral, and he planned to return in April with his charitable organization, the Pierre Garcon Foundation.

But when the 7.0-magnitude quake struck Tuesday, devastating one of the world’s poorest nations, Garcon changed the plan. Instead of waiting until spring, Garcon jumped onto his Twitter account and started asking fans for help.

At one point, he tweeted: “We need the US military as soon as possible n haiti We need the 4 million Haitian that live out side of haiti to Act now, we need da world!”

Later Wednesday, he said he’d autograph items as a thank you for people who donate—$20 gets fans an autographed photo, for $100 and up, Garcon said he’d personalize the item.

Garcon’s team has already joined the cause. The Colts announced in a news release Wednesday that they will donate donating $10,000 to the American Red Cross relief effort and they’re asking fans to pitch in, too, by text messaging “HAITI” to 90999. A $10 donation will go to the Red Cross and the charge will appear on the user’s cell phone bill.

Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong foundation pledged $250,000 to Partners in Health and Doctors Without Borders and the cyclist posted a video message on his Web site from Australia, where he is preparing for the Tour of Australia.

As he prepares for Saturday night’s playoff game against Baltimore, Garcon intends to use the NFL’s stage as a pulpit to seek more assistance in the recovery effort.

“That (Twitter) is how we got the pictures out, the word out; that’s been really helpful,” Garcon said. “Spreading the word and helping others is really what it’s all about, and this is the best situation to do that now.”

Coach Jim Caldwell and teammates offered their support, help and prayers for Garcon, who is coming off a breakout season and is expected to play Saturday despite missing the last two games with a bruised hand.

“It’s hard, not knowing what’s going to happen,” he said. “The rebuilding process is going to take forever.”

AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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