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Tampa Bay Area Groups Bringing Aid To Puerto Ricans

Groups in the Tampa Bay area are mounting humanitarian missions to Puerto Rico and holding fundraisers for victims following Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

The Tampa Bay Rays chartered a Boeing 737 loaded with supplies Wednesday and worked with Moffitt Cancer Center and other organizations to deliver relief to Ponce, Puerto Rico.

And on Tuesday, members of Tampa’s Caribbean American Civic Movement returned from a humanitarian mission to the island. The group will hold a fundraiser on Saturday for another trip in November.

"We all can make a difference,” said Daniel Thelusmar, leader of the civic movement. “It doesn't have to be big or small, whatever you choose to contribute. Even be a volunteer with us. Even writing a letter to somebody. It's you being a part of this movement." 

The group brought more than 600 pounds of food and supplies to victims in a small town near the coast.

Thelusmar said his group may have been the first to reach the town and the provisions were gone in an hour.

Meanwhile, the Rays filled an airplane with about 30,000 pounds of supplies, including food, water and other basic necessities. Most of the supplies were collected during a donation drive held by Moffitt.

Rays pitcher and Puerto Rico native Xavier Cedeño and his family are aboard the flight and will remain on the island. The brother and cousin of Rays’ bench coach and Puerto Rico native Charlie Montoyo are also on the flight. They plan to bring Montoyo’s parents back to Florida from the island.

Two cancer patients, who will receive treatment at Moffitt, and their caregivers will also be on the return flight.

The hospital is working closely with Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico to provide medical support. It is also preserving about 3,000 cancer tissue samples that were in peril due to a lack of power at the Puerto Rico Bio-Bank.

The Caribbean American Civic Movement is holding a fundraiser from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at the Temple Terrace Town Center on 56th Street. For more information, visit the group's website or Facebook page.

Newspapers were my first love, but public radio stole my heart from the moment I tuned in during college.
Hafsa Quraishi is a WUSF Public Media digital news intern for fall 2017.