Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Reds rally for Katrina relief

Sean Casey sat in the Batter’s Eye Pavilion at Great American Ball Park and autographed copies of the Oh Say Can You Sing CD prior to a Reds/Brewers game last week.

“Can you sing for us?,” asked one eager Reds fan.

“No, I’m more of a studio guy,” quipped Casey.

Casey, who was one of several major leaguers to perform on the CD, sings Toby Keith’s hit song How Do You Like Me Now.

But, the autograph session was not an attempt by the Reds first baseman to further his musical career.

Rather, all of the proceeds from the sale of the autographed CD’s went directly toward Matthew 25: Ministries and the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

“I had planned on doing a (CD) signing this year,” Casey said. “I decided to put the money toward the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. We've gotten together as a team and decided to raise some money. We can’t give our time but we can put some money toward helping out.”

Disasters such as Katrina bring out the best and worst of humanity.

For every looter and criminal terrorizing the streets of New Orleans, there were thousands of other examples of compassion and support among those looking to help people in need on the Gulf Coast.

The Reds and other local sports teams have responded generously in the wake of the hurricane’s devastation in New Orleans and in other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Casey convinced each of his teammates to donate one day’s salary to the relief effort. The Reds players’ total donation was estimated to be more than $200,000.

This past Saturday, Raquel Aurilia, wife of Reds infielder Rich Aurilia, lent her beautiful voice to the cause by agreeing to give a copy of her CD single, The Need, to the first 300 fans entering Great American Ball Park provided they agree to donate $5 or more to hurricane victims.

“We wanted to help in some way, to not only seek help from others, but to give people a little something in return,” Raquel said. “Music is so therapeutic. By sharing the song with others, maybe it will leave them with a sense of hope when there are so many devastating things going on in the world today.”

At each of the Reds remaining home games at Great American Ball Park, barrels will be located at each gate. Fans can drop off canned food, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products which will then be forwarded to the relief effort by Matthew 25: Ministries.

The Bengals also helped out by teaming with the Salvation Army and Clear Channel to raise more than $62,000 during their final preseason game against the Colts at Paul Brown Stadium.

Major League Baseball expected to generate more than $3 million in relief through various initiatives.

“We in Major League Baseball express our sorrow to those who have lost loved ones, and we pray for a swift recovery for those whose lives have been so tragically and unbearably disrupted,” said baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

It’s natural for sports writers and athletes to attempt to put things into ‘perspective’ when world events supersede the importance of runs, hits and touchdowns. Come to think of it, when don’t they?

As Casey patrolled his hotel in Houston, home to thousands of evacuees from the New Orleans area, he was afforded constant reminders of the dire reality of their situation.

Hurricane Katrina challenged our country in a manner not experienced since 9/11. But, this is very different. There was no terrorist steering Katrina toward the Louisiana coastline with the intention of killing thousands of Americans to forward a religious and political agenda. Katrina was a natural disaster; an act of ‘God’.

Hurricanes have been rolling across the globe for millions of years unimpeded. If the storms could talk, they’d probably tell us to get off the beach. To build our million-dollar mansions, luxury resort hotels and tourist destinations elsewhere.

Much like volcanoes, tornados and earthquakes, hurricanes are a necessary and, in many respects, beneficial force of nature. It’s the price we pay for living on a rocky planet with an atmosphere and a sun. Hurricanes enrich our coastlines and provide new resources for wildlife. They also, on occasion, bring death and destruction to populated coastline communities.

As hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana and Mississippi deal with the loss of property and loved ones, many folks in other parts of the country were just as concerned about their stock options and rising gas prices.

Disasters such as Katrina come along once or maybe twice a century. When they do occur, our faith and even our trust in one another are put to the test.

There’s an age-old saying that God gives us only what he believes we can handle.

Amid all of the political posturing over who’s at fault for the failed levees, and why it took more than four days for adequate federal assistance to arrive, Hurricane Katrina offered many examples of how Americans can rally for each other.

“We need for our whole country to open up their hearts and their wallets and give these people what they can't get,” said Casey.

Now, that’s a tune we can all sing.

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