SAN ANTONIO -- Retired San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan called the response to his plea Friday for donations toward Hurricane Irma relief efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands "amazing," adding that thousands of donors, including the Spurs, local grocery store chain H-E-B and the San Antonio Food Bank, have contributed.
"I'm blown away by it," Duncan said Sunday during a news conference at the San Antonio Food Bank. "In this day and age, it's a little easier to reach a lot of people, and people have come out from everywhere. I've looked down the list of donors, and I've recognized some names. I've gotten support from the Spurs, H-E-B and the food bank -- all across the board. It's just been an amazing response."
Duncan penned an impassioned plea for donations toward Hurricane Irma relief efforts Friday in The Players' Tribune, and by Sunday afternoon, he had reached his $1 million goal. Duncan promised that every dollar donated would go directly toward relief efforts on the ground. Duncan kick-started the fundraising effort with a YouCaring account and an immediate $250,000 contribution, and he pledged to match all donations up to the first $1 million.
Later Sunday, the fundraiser's website said it had increased its goal to $2.1 million.
"We continue to be blown away by the responses to this ask," the fundraiser's website said in a statement. "To have this funding be almost achieved with 11,000 individual contributions is beyond words! With that said we are making our first delivery of supplies this week and think we should challenge everyone for a goal that represents this ask best. ... let's go for $2,100,000 to show #21 the continued love and support for the US Virgin Islands."
One of Duncan's best friends in the Virgin Islands, Rashidi Clenance, is working with the former Spurs star to "coordinate everything" to "help us kind of distribute all that we get and collect here and get it to the right people."
"It's pretty decimated, especially in St. Thomas and St. John," Duncan said. Duncan's hometown of St. Croix "got off a little easier," he said. "But a lot of destruction, a lot of homes down. Power is out everywhere. I'll see more when I get down there to actually put my eyes on it. But it's pretty devastating."
Local grocery store chain H-E-B will take donations at two locations, 17238 Bulverde Drive and 4100 South New Braunfels, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, as Duncan works to charter a plane to deliver all the goods at the "back end of this week, coming up," he said.
The San Antonio Food Bank and Duncan are seeking nonperishable food items such as flour, rice, beans, peanut butter and granola bars; basically any food that can be prepared without the use of electricity. In addition, Duncan seeks supplies such as detergents, powdered soaps, bar soaps and paper goods.
"Obviously, without electricity down there, we're gonna need things that are nonperishable, canned foods, cleaning supplies," Duncan said. "A lot of homes are down, so things to sleep on, cots or tents, water. People are in need of everything."
After Duncan helps deliver the donations later this week, the plan is to continue to collect supplies and charter more flights to the Virgin Islands. Duncan plans to handle the deliveries "as much as I can," he said.
One of four players from the U.S. Virgin Islands to play in an NBA game, Duncan wrote in his plea in the Players' Tribune of the importance of immediate and sustained aid in the wake of disaster. Duncan learned firsthand from his experiences in 1989 as a 13-year-old in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, a Category 5 storm.
"I've been through it. I've lived through it," Duncan said. "And I know, at some point, somebody was doing this for me. I don't know who it was. But they did it for me. So I can do it now. I can be that guy. So why not do it? There have been people like J.J. Watt. There are people who are doing things for their areas. I've chosen [the U.S. Virgin Islands] because it's such a small area, and it can go overlooked. I've chosen to focus right now on the Virgin Islands. When somebody puts something up, and they start raising funds [for] recovery in [another] area because they know they're going to need it, I'll absolutely jump on board with that as well."