Football team provides relief for Hurricane Irma evacuees

FIU quarterback Alex McGough (left) and tight end Pharoah McKever visit Monroe County evacuees at PG-6 on Sept. 18. Photo by Celine Murton

By Joel Delgado ’12, MS ’17

After several days marooned in Birmingham, Alabama, thanks to Hurricane Irma, more than 100 student-athletes from nine FIU athletics programs are back in Miami. Not only are they getting back into their regular routines on and off the field, they’re giving back and helping the South Florida community get back on its feet after the storm.

On Sept. 18, several members of the football team spent the day visiting dozens of evacuees from Monroe County who are still taking shelter at PG-6, which became their temporary home after Irma passed through.

Monroe County, the Florida Department of Health, the American Red Cross, and the U.S. Public Health Service are managing the shelter and making sure the needs of the evacuees are being met.

Across town, about two dozen other student-athletes drove to the YWCA of Miami in Overtown to team up with the staff there, handing out food and water to evacuees, assisting with other tasks and playing with the children there.

Dr. Brian Lewis, a cardiologist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C., who serves as a captain with the U.S. Public Health Service, said having FIU’s student-athletes on hand was just another link in a long chain of efforts from the FIU community that have helped the evacuees feel at home.

“The people of Florida have had an opportunity to accept help and show a lot of strength,” Lewis said. “We all want to make a difference, and that’s a common theme that has emerged here.”

At PG-6, quarterback Alex McGough and tight end Pharoah McKever were able to have conversations with evacuees about everything from football to music. They handed out t-shirts and posed for pictures to help brighten the day for them.

“We were just talking about life in general, having good laughs with them, and it was great to see them still in great spirits after everything they’ve gone through,” McKever said. “One lady told me to just be happy in whatever I do, whether that’s playing football, using my degree or helping others. It was good to be out here with my teammates and to give back to the community.”