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Athletes for Education: "Helping our Youth Help Themselves"

November 26, 2007

Athletes for Education – “Helping our youth help themselves”
AFE San Diego Wildfire Relief 2007

As witnessed time and again, tragedy and crisis bring out the best in people. Our friends from the Central Coast are no strangers to compassion. Immediately following the devastation of the wildfires in our own San Diego County, it was clear to Aaron Steed, the CEO of Meathead Movers, that there was a critical need for help. He knew that many in his community were longing to help their fellow Californians in need, and sent out a memo requesting assistance to AFE. These giving folks mobilized and answered his call, for within 2 days, more than 100,000 pounds of goods were collected. Not only did they coordinate the collecting of the items, they went the extra mile(s)!! of transporting the donations to San Diego for staging.

The general manager from Mira Mesa Self Storage, Steve & Manager Carole were gracious enough to donate space to store the hundreds of pairs of socks, cases of water and diapers, pillows and blankets, and other myriad personal hygiene items, which were so desperately needed by the displaced victims of the fires. The trucks arrived on Friday, October 26th and AFE volunteers were readily available and happy to help with the logistics of unloading.

Distribution day was held on October 30th at Cuyamaca College, where fire victims patiently waited in line as their turn was called. Families who had lost everything came to receive the most basic of human needs, as cases of toothbrushes and toothpaste, baby wipes and toilet paper arrived. The trucks pulled up replete with the 100 tons of collected goods, furnished by the caring hearts at Meathead Movers and trucked in from San Luis Obispo and Camarillo by San Diego Self Storage. The distribution volunteer group in San Diego was led by Chargers players who made time on their day off to aid the AFE Fire Relief effort. Kassim Osgood, Drayton Florence, Luis Castillo, and Brandon McKinney were accompanied by Colonel Leola McNeill, the mother of starting left tackle Marcus McNeill.

The emotional impact of losing so much in the fire was lessened somewhat by the presence of the star athletes. Children lined up for autographs and water bottles and smiles were seen on all faces. There was even a tear or two in the eyes of campus police, who were standing security duty. One officer shared his emotions while thanking the volunteers, and said that “while the campus was evacuated the week before, it had hurt his heart when he had to turn people away.” He was “thrilled” to witness the giving spirit which infused the event.

Giving back to the community is what Athletes for Education is about, as Kassim Osgood stated, “Whatever you can do, get out there and do something”, and to be there for those in need. Luis Castillo “couldn’t imagine what these people have gone through, and to lose what they’ve lost…anything we can do to help make it easier means so much.” Drayton Florence added, “Most of them have lost everything, so for us to come out and help…it’s a good feeling.” It was Brandon McKinney’s “first time to see anything like this before…it has really been a humbling experience.”

Marcus McNeill’s mom, Leola, said that their family had a house fire last year, and was “very happy to be able to give back.” At the end of the day, many people came together and gave their time to somewhat relieve the burden of starting over. AFE is grateful to the many people who worked diligently to provide the foundation of a new starting point, a point filled with hope.

A special Thanks to AFE volunteers: Tony Castro, Jesse Zazueta, Rudi & Lorena Mercado, Hank Mercado & their employees from their American Towing company for their kind support!!!


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