Keeping pace with the natural disasters ravaging communities around the world is devastating. Most recently, Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas, decimating the country. But a little over two years ago it was another Category 5 hurricane whose immediate, catastrophic effects were being felt in Puerto Rico.
To this day, recovery is an ongoing effort — an effort that Carmelo Anthony has committed himself to being a part of, using his foundation to donate everything from basketball courts to hygiene products.
For Anthony though, his support for the island did not begin with Hurricane Maria. The son of a Puerto Rican father, that connection and the contributions that came with it was something he started to understand early in his NBA career.
“I just found my connection (to Puerto Rico) probably three years into my NBA career,” Anthony said during an appearance on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time.
“I started going back to the island, I started getting back in tune to my roots and my family, and then I started my foundation down there — the Carmelo Anthony Foundation… Then we started donating basketball courts.”
Through his Foundation, Anthony donates at least one court every year to neighbourhoods in Puerto Rico — something that began before Hurricane Maria hit but has continued since. To Anthony, the courts are about more than just basketball.
“It’s a connection. I think sports brings a lot of different things, a lot of different people together,” he told Cuomo. “When I did it, I didn’t know what to expect. I just wanted to go back to that particular neighbourhood — one of the roughest neighbourhoods on the island — and give back.”
The list of causes Anthony has given back to is a long one. In 2006, Anthony ranked eighth on The Giving Back 30‘s list of largest charitable donations by celebrities.
When Hurricane Maria hit, however, financial aid and facilitating community connectivity was not enough. The people needed more and Anthony, in turn, decided he needed to be more involved.
“We sent planes down there — we teamed up with UNICEF and Feed the Children — and we (donated everything), basketball courts, hygiene kits, my (foundation) team was on the ground and in the trenches doing the whole after the hurricane and post-hurricane. We just wanted to give back, I just felt like something in my heart, in my soul, that I had to do something.
“Just to see the images that was going on from afar, the way the island was being disrespected, the way that Puerto Ricans were being disrespected. I think it was just something that, like for me as an individual, I felt like I had to do something during that time. But also it brought me closer to my Puerto Rican roots.”
When a new natural disaster is always potentially on the horizon, ongoing needs of places in recovery can find themselves overshadowed by the spectre of more imminent threats. Anthony, though, is determined not to let anyone forget about Puerto Rico.
“We need everything,” he said. “We know that Hurricane Maria put us back years and years and years. But we also see what’s going on from a government standpoint and the politics and things like that, so we’re just in a very, very tough situation right now and a tough moment and a tough environment. But as all Puerto Ricans, we come together, we stay strong, we keep our head up.”