Nuggets lend hand to Haiti
What started out as a leisurely lunch near the top of a Tokyo hotel turned into one of the most unsettling moments of Carmelo Anthony's life.
On the eve of a semifinal game against Argentina at the 2006 World Championships, a 4.8-magnitude earthquake rattled the building as members of Team USA dined on an upper-level floor at the Four Seasons.
"I wanted to come home," Anthony said. "We all wanted to come home."
Other than some unnerved athletes, there were no reports of damage after the small temblor, but the memory came back to Anthony as he watched footage of the 7.0-magnitude quake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12.
"It's sad," Anthony said. "We had Katrina over here, but we're the United States. For a third-world country like Haiti to have to go through something like that, it can be a decade before they rebuild all that stuff. Look at New Orleans. They're still rebuilding and that's been five years."
As the death toll in Haiti is estimated near a quarter-million and rescue workers and humanitarian groups from across the globe continue to sift through the rubble, Anthony is one of several Nuggets players contributing to the recovery effort.
Through the "Athletes Relief Fund for Haiti" co-founded by former NBA center Alonzo Mourning and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, Anthony and teammates Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith donated to the cause.
Martin then gave an addition $21,000 following a 14-rebound effort against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 21. He also was active in contributing to relief efforts following Katrina and the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004.
"I watch CNN every day," Martin said. "It's definitely a tragedy. I'm doing all I can."
The same can be said of Smith, who made an added contribution to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund through the Wasserman Media Group that serves as his agent.
"Even though it doesn't have anything to do with the U.S., it's just about us as a race – the human race," Smith said. "I think it's everybody's obligation to help out."
For Nuggets center Johan Petro, the earthquake literally hit close to home. The 24-year-old was raised on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, which is about a 90-minute flight east of Haiti.
"We didn't feel anything over there (in Guadeloupe), but it's still sad what happened and you try to contribute as much as you can," Petro said. "Even just sending a text message is going to give them a few dollars. It's not something that anybody can control, but it's something that everybody can help try to get them through the situation."
Petro said he remembers an earthquake hitting nearby St. Martin when he was about 8 years old. As was the case with Anthony, the memory remains to this day.
"You don't know what to do or where to go because everything's moving all over the place," Petro said. "It was crazy."
Not all contributions to the relief effort have to be monetary.
Nuggets coach George Karl and his daughter, Kelci Karl-Robinson, are hoping to connect adoptive parents in the United States with Haitian children in need of home. Karl-Robinson works in foster care in Seattle, so she is familiar with the adoption process.
"I don't know how many children there are, but the faces of the kids almost make me cry," George Karl said. "My (5-year-old) daughter (Kaci) actually sat with me and she was scared of what she was viewing on TV. Usually you get scared of monsters. She was getting scared of a human disaster."
The Nuggets coach initially considered adopting a Haitian child himself but said he probably will work with Karl-Robinson to support adoption programs and help streamline the process of placing children with families.
"Adoption is somewhat bureaucratic," Karl said. "There's a process there that I wish we would simplify."
The formula for helping Haiti doesn't have to be complicated. It doesn't take a multimillion-dollar salary to donate a few bucks. Kroenke Sports Enterprises last month matched employee contributions to the Red Cross, UNICEF and Project Cure.
"The earthquake that devastated Haiti has made us critically aware of the most basic challenges facing the people of Haiti – food, shelter, water, clothing," said Deb Dowling Canino, vice president of community relations and fan development.
"We're heartened by the response of people throughout the world and specifically our Denver Nuggets and NBA family. We pledge our resources to help our neighbors in need."
Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups and teammates Anthony, Martin and Smith are exploring further contributions through their individual foundations.
"My wife and I are looking at a couple different things," said Billups, who launched his foundation last fall. "We're getting involved. My heart's been hurting for the Haitians."