Nothing But Love: Notre Dame Rolls Up Sleeves for Post-Katrina Aid

by Sean Jensen

Every hour counts.

Last week, on their first full day in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, Notre Dame shuttled three busloads of players, coaches and staff to provide hope at a home for troubled children.
They were at the Hope Haven Center in Marrero, across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, for an hour, clearing furniture and file cabinets, and signing autographs and posing for pictures.

Only an hour, you ask?

Paul McCann said the Fighting Irish inspired kids with a fighting chance to overcome behavioral disorders and assorted problems at home.

It was just a very exciting atmosphere,said McCann, the business director at the center.It really did spark a lot excitement throughout the organization. They came in and took care of something that would have taken us a couple of weeks to do.

Notre Dame identified the Hope Haven Center through Catholic Charities. Although Hurricane Katrina devastated the region nearly a year and a half ago, the centers school suffered wind damage to the roof that resulted in flooding. With the goal of fixing the structure for the start of school in September, the center needed help clearing out the problematic rooms.

Who better to handle the heavy lifting than a bunch of football players? McCann said the team — he estimated 120 in all from the school — developed a long chain of people, linking up a stairway and spilling into a storage container and the facility gymnasium.

They didnt stop,McCann said.The entire football team was very gracious. It was most impressive for young men to say they were happy to help. They were not forced to do that.

Currently, about 63 children reside at Hope Haven, although that figure fluctuates daily, McCann said. But the kids present on Dec. 28, when the football team visited, were thrilled to meet the Fighting Irish.

It was good for them to see some good role models,McCann said. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said he wanted his players to geta little taste of the devastation that actually occurred in this area.

Sometimes when you hear about it,Weis said at a recent press conference,it is a little different than when you see it.

But this isnt Notre Dames only commitment to the community.

Weis and 12 of his leaders, including quarterback Brady Quinn and receiver Jeff Samardzija, attended West Jefferson Hospital Monday morning. The group visited the pediatrics and rehab wings, where they handed out T-shirts and hats.

Then, separately, more than 300 students, staff and alumni participated in three service events around the city, and the school has raised more than $314,000, much of it coming from collections at Notre Dame Stadium, for Katrina charities.

Underdogs to LSU, Notre Dame understands their being in New Orleans is more than about what happens at the Louisiana Superdome.

It was a human crisis and it was an American crisis, and it was crazy thinking about seeing the pictures of all the people sitting and trying to sleep and live in this building and all the stuff that happened here,defensive tackle Trevor Laws was quoted as saying in the Chicago Tribune Monday.What went on in (the Superdome), you need to take a step back and realize we’re just playing a football game in here.

2007 America Online, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
2007-01-03 15:28:07

TopicID: 20384