MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A University football team is stepping up to help the victims of Hurricane Irma, and one of the players has a personal connection to an island devastated by the storm.
Ugel George is a defensive lineman for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls football team. His family lives in the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas that was hit by Hurricane Irma.
George takes his share of hits out on the field, but they don’t compare to the pain he felt seeing the images of his home of St. Thomas after the hurricane.
“It’s a serious situation,” he said. “A lot of people not talking about it, but it’s pretty bad.”
Many are without power or fresh water after the Category 5 storm. Now, just a few weeks into the Falcons’ new football season, George and his teammates are turning their attention off the field to help.
“I don’t take this as all about me,” George said. “This is about people back home.”
After practice Tuesday night, Ramer Field became a donation site as fans and strangers dropped off clothing, shoes, and blankets.
“It just feels really good to be able to give back to family members of one of our football family members,” UWRF football head coach Matt Walker said.
Jason Caballero is George’s roommate and a senior defensive lineman on the team.
“Being so far from your family, it’s already hard enough,” he said.
Caballero’s family lives in Houston and went through Hurricane Harvey. The two have bonded over the impact of mother nature.
“I told him, ‘hey man, I know how it feels. You just gotta be positive,'” Caballero said.
Now they’re bonding over giving back. Taking hits on the practice field isn’t always easy, but they’re grateful to be playing under sunny skies.
“We say we’re going to use that privilege of being a college football player to help others who are maybe not as fortunate as us,” Walker said.
Both George’s and Cabellero’s families are safe. The team will be having the donations brought down to St. Thomas once the airspace is deemed safe and no other hurricanes are coming through.