Ravens moms huddle up, lead hurricane relief blitz

November 03, 2005|By DAVID STEELE

Michael McCrary's mom and Mark Clayton's mom would like you to keep something important in mind that has nothing to do with how their sons performed or will perform for the Ravens.

Sandy McCrary and JacQuetta Clayton would like you to remember the victims of the two Gulf Coast hurricanes, even though more than a month has gone by since the latter storm hit. McCrary is president of the Professional Football Players Mothers Association, and Clayton is an extremely active new member.

Between them, they have sparked the organization of NFL moms -- a support network and nonprofit charitable group -- to give hands-on aid to dozens of families forced from Louisiana into Texas that they otherwise wouldn't have received.

And it will only get worse the further Katrina and Rita recede from memories.

"Thanksgiving is coming," JacQuetta Clayton said yesterday while driving around her suburban Dallas neighborhood. "It's going to be tough. Families are still split up. They're in a strange place. I met someone on Monday who had just heard about a cousin of theirs for the first time."

So next for the NFL moms will be turkey dinners for the more than 40 families they've helped house in the Dallas area, the 20 they've helped house in Houston, and some 150 evacuees they helped place at a Salvation Army shelter in the Houston suburbs. They have secured the first three months' rent for each family, plus furniture, clothes, food, toiletries, gas for those with cars, school supplies for children and prescriptions.

"I feel like pretty soon it is going to sort of fall back," JacQuetta Clayton said of the focus on the storm victims. "But it doesn't need to."

Help has continued to roll in largely because of the efforts of a Baltimore-based group whose founders in 1998 included Jonathan Ogden's mother, Cassandra, and whose driving forces are the mothers of a star of the Ravens' past and (potentially) future. The drive, dubbed Operation Transition, got a $200,000 assist from the Ravens (out of the money raised during the regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts) and from Clayton, the rookie wide receiver, who helped his mother get things off the ground with $20,000.

As a Dallas-area resident, JacQuetta Clayton dove into the relief effort immediately, volunteering to cook for those relocated to Reunion Arena. She met a family there, including a 92-year-old grandmother, that had been put into housing but had no furniture, so she gave her living room furniture to them.

That was when she called Mc- Crary and suggested that the NFL mothers get involved officially; several already had responded to her calls or gotten involved on their own. McCrary helped get the Salvation Army involved, helped coordinate efforts in Houston, and helped get Campbell Soup Co. to donate $5,000 and 32,000 cans of Chunky Soup, the brand endorsed by Donovan McNabb's mother, Wilma.

"This is a direct helping hand to those families, on the ground, without overhead. Everything goes to the families," said McCrary, who also helps run her son's Baltimore-based charitable foundation.

McCrary also traveled to Houston and saw there what Clayton was seeing in Dallas: almost overwhelming, unrelenting need. McCrary met a family whose mother had jumped from a rescue boat and swam through the filthy, disease-ridden floodwater in New Orleans in search of juice and water to save her children from dehydration. A nearby boater had a case he shared.

Clayton met a family whose mother was in labor when Katrina hit, whose rescue boat carrying her to the Superdome capsized and tossed her three young sons into the water, and who spent her first few weeks in Texas in a hospital intensive-care unit to treat a postpartum blood disorder. Her husband and family lived in the hospital with her before Mrs. Clayton found them a place to live.

The mother, Katherine Kiper, was grateful. At the same time, though, she and her newborn haven't gotten proper postpartum medical care because she is not insured, and the family needs a place to live after the three months are up. "It's been a horrible experience, period," she said. "We don't know what we're going to do."

The NFL mothers admit that their actions are only a start.

"This helps now," Clayton said, "but now we have to help make sure everything goes well for them for the next 12 months."

At least. To ensure that, people can't forget the human toll of Katrina and Rita after the reporters and cameras and sympathy move elsewhere. The NFL mothers are making sure it's not forgotten soon.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Donations can be made to Operation Transition online at www.pfpma.org; by mail to 3710 Commerce Drive, Suite 1005, Baltimore, MD 21227; or by calling Sandy McCrary at 571-220-0364, Andrea Bateman at 443-543-7830 or JacQuetta Clayton at 405-204-4409.

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