Tim Duncan was 13-years-old when Hurricane Hugo ripped through his home of St. Croix.
He huddled in a small bathroom with his family while they prayed for the roof to stay over their heads. He remembers living off cans of Chef Boyardee in the months afterward, while most of his island was still without power.
Twenty-eight years later, Hurricane Irma has hit the U.S. Virgin Islands with just as much force as Hugo.
This time around, Duncan is in a place where he can provide some relief to his home, and he’s asking for help.
Duncan is asking for donations to support Hurricane Irma relief on the U.S. Virgin Islands, as early reports of devastating damage to the islands of St. John and St. Thomas have come in.
Duncan has set up a relief fund at YouCaring where he pledged to match the first $1 million given, in addition to an initial $250,000 donation.
He’s also collecting donations in San Antonio and will charter a plane filled with supplies and head to the Virgin Islands later this week.
“I’ve been through it,” Duncan said. “I’ve lived through it. I know at some point, somebody was doing this for me. I don’t know who it was, but somebody was. Now, I can be that guy. So why not do it?”
San Antonians can donate non-perishable items on Monday and Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at two H-E-B locations, 17238 Bulverde Road and 4100 S New Braunfels Ave.
There are also volunteer opportunities to collect the donations at the San Antonio Food Bank. For more on volunteering, visit SAFoodBank.org.
“We were spared from hurricane Harvey so that we could respond,” said Eric Cooper, President and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas two weeks ago, Duncan donated supplies through his foundation and the BlackJack Speed Shop.
Duncan has often given back to the Virgin Islands in private over the years. There’s a famous story from Duncan’s youth that he took up basketball after Hurricane Hugo destroyed St. Croix’s only Olympic-sized swimming pool. A few years ago, Duncan donated money to restore the pool.
Having lived through the devastation of a hurricane, Duncan used his first press conference since retiring to make a public plea for the islands.
“It’s pretty decimated, especially in St. Thomas and St. John,” Duncan said. “A lot of destruction, a lot of homes down, power is out everywhere. I’ll see more when I get down there, but it’s pretty devastating.”
Since Duncan posted his fundraiser online on Friday, more than 10,000 people have donated and he’s near the goal he set of $1 million. It’s a dollar figure he will match himself.
On Friday, Duncan wrote “Don’t forget about the Islands” in The Player’s Tribune, telling the story of how Hugo affected him and why the Virgin Islands need help now.
“Islands like ours tend to get forgotten after storms,” Duncan wrote. “We’re remote, which makes it hard to deliver supplies quickly, cheaply and adequately. A lot of people don’t think of the Virgin Islands as someone’s home, but as more of a getaway — it was only when I got older that I figured that out.”