The holiday season will be different this year in the Florida Panhandle, where recovery from Hurricane Michael in many places has just begun. It’s been about six weeks since Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm, bringing unprecedented devastation to the region.
Making landfall on Oct. 10 with winds tracked as high as 115 mph, Michael is considered the largest hurricane to hit the area in recorded history. So far, at least 35 deaths and $4.5 billion in property damages have been attributed to the storm, according to The Associated Press.
It was shortly after the storm cleared out that the Rays got involved in providing aid to those in need, and there was much to do. Their efforts focused on Panama City Beach and Lynn Haven, Fla., two of the most heavily affected areas, where help poured in from across the country in Michael’s aftermath.
For the Rays, it was their relative backyard. Which is why a week after Michael hit, four new trucks arrived on the Panhandle. Their starting point? St. Petersburg. Their cargo? Supplies gathered during a two-day relief drive held a few days prior at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay Rays
“I can’t express how grateful we are to all the different communities reaching out, bringing us resources to take care of our people here,” Bay County Sheriff Department Capt. Jason Daffin said. “There is no way I can put into words what this means for our community, for people like the Tampa Bay Rays to distribute resources to our community. You guys have a heart for people.”
In all, the Rays provided 125,000 supplies of food and water, 104,000 meals (per Feeding Tampa Bay’s standard calculation) to approximately 12,000 residents and funding to Feeding Tampa Bay for a 20-truck convoy set to provide 500,000 future meals to residents on the Panhandle. The efforts were part of Major League Baseball’s continuing partnership with the Red Cross.
“I think we have a real ability to touch our community that other organizations may not have,” Rays president Brian Auld told FOX 13 at the time. “This is a spot that people know how to get to. We’re an organization that regularly brings people together and that makes this a really nice fit for us.”
In coordinating the relief drive at Tropicana Field, the Rays asked the Tampa community for essentials like bottled water, sports drinks, granola/meal replacement bars, batteries, peanut butter, dry cereal, diapers and baby wipes. All who donated received a voucher for two tickets to a 2019 Rays home game. Rays manager Kevin Cash was one of the many to contribute, stocking one of the four trucks that members of the team’s front office would drive to Bay County.
“It’s amazing to see this community rally together to help out Bay County in their time of need,” Stephen Thompson, of the Rays Foundation, told FOX 13. “We are fortunate that we’re in a position that we can go up to Bay County and give back.”
Readers can contribute to MLB and Red Cross’ continued partnership in providing hurricane relief by visiting calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or texting the word MICHAEL to 90999 to make a $10 donation.