Ravens organizing outreach for Katrina victims

OWINGS MILLS – Emotionally affected by the death, devastation and chaos wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Baltimore Ravens veteran cornerback Deion Sanders challenged all professional athletes to donate at least $1,000 apiece to benefit victims in the Gulf Coast.

Flanked by two Louisiana natives in safety Ed Reed and fullback Alan Ricard, Sanders called for NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball players and other pro sports to collectively reach a goal of raising $1.5 million to $3 million for the cause through payroll deductions.

"The recent devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the aftermath of her wrath, there has been a loss of life, property, finances, homelessness and a multitude of atrocities. The people affected by this disaster is astronomical," Sanders said Friday at the Ravens' training complex. "As citizens of this country, we need to unite to help our brothers and sisters in their time of need. We must all stretch the boundaries of the giving as far as we are able to, knowing we will enrich the lives of others."

Sanders, Reed and Ricard called for not only athletes, but for as many people as possible to donate money, clothing and supplies to the besieged in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

"Through unity, we can touch thousands," said Sanders, who applauded the efforts of Atlanta Falcons running back Warrick Dunn and Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal "This is in our own backyard. We feel this. Ed, Alan, feel this. I have friends, relatives that feel this pain.

"Help in any way you can. We want the response that America had for the tsunami victims, and I don't know what that hasn't happened yet."

Days prior to the epic natural disaster, Reed and the Ravens were in New Orleans to play the Saints at the since-damaged Superdome. Reed's high school jersey was retired at St. Rose, La., in suburban New Orleans a week ago.

"This is my backyard, this is a city we walked on just last week to play a game we love to play," Reed said. "This is real. Football is something we get to do, basketball, baseball. We're reaching out to other athletes."

For Reed and other Louisiana natives on the team, including return specialist B.J. Sams (Mandeville), Ricard (Amite) and kicker Wade Richey (Lafayette), it's been a difficult week to focus on football while their hearts are elsewhere.

"It hurts us to talk about it," Reed said. "We know how bad it is in New Orleans, Alabama and Mississippi. These families don't have things to eat. Me being from down there, I know it's a lot worse than what we see on television.

"I encourage us to continue to pray for the police officers and people who are trying to join everyone together because it's hard emotionally and spiritually. People see dead bodies around. There's a lot of crime and looting. It's horrific."

The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Reed has established a Web site, http://www.reedhurricanerelief.com/, to donate funds to the American Red Cross.

The Ravens organization, which plans to donate $25,000 to the American Red Cross in addition to their players' efforts, will collect donations for victims of Hurricane Katrina on Sept. 11 when they open the season against the Indianapolis Colts.

Reed and Ricard said they have both been in contact with family members, but not all of them. Reed said he's had some success getting in touch with his younger brother, Edwin Reed, through text messaging.

"It hurts your heart to see New Orleans, the place where I'm from, looking like a Third World country," Ricard said. "It makes your stomach turn. I want to let my family members that I haven't been able to get in contact with know that I love them, my prayers are with them and I will do everything in my power to help."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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