SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A Sacramento State student is raising money for his family members who are trapped in Puerto Rico after surviving Hurricane Maria.
“I lose connection with my family for at least like three or four days,” said Raul Ortiz. “It was terrible.”
His parents, both sets of grandparents and five brothers were on the island when the storm hit back in September. With the help of his girlfriend, Ortiz set up a GoFundMe page, and in just one month, he’s raised nearly $10,000 for his family.
“It’s not that much, but it’s enough,” he said.
The 22-year-old moved from Puerto Rico to Sacramento five years ago to chase his dream of playing baseball. But now between the innings, his mind is 3,500 miles away in his hometown of Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria hit on Sept. 20, and his family has been trapped on the island without power ever since.
“Right away, I tried to call my brother, my friends, my mom, my grandpa, and, you know, I didn’t have any luck,” he told CBS13. “I didn’t know what was going on. I was very worried.”
He turned to Facebook and sent messages he hoped at least one relative would see. He finally heard back after four days of thinking the worst.
“I was like ‘How are you guys doing? You guys need something? I’m ready, just let me know!’” Ortiz recalled.
Life on the island is not easy right now. Every day, Ortiz’s parents, cousins, and siblings wake up before dawn and spend hours just waiting to buy gas for their generator. Sometimes the lines last for hours but the stations run out of gas, and they have to start the process over again the next day.
The money raised was meant to repair his parents’ destroyed garage and his uncle’s roof that blew away in the storm. But after receiving the money, Raul’s mother decided others needed it even more.
“A couple of co-workers that lose everything- they had nothing, not even a home to stay and my mom’s helping them too,” Ortiz said. “So the money is helping a lot of people.”
But he told CBS13 he couldn’t have done it without the support of his team.
“He’s just an incredible person,” said Reggie Christiansen, head coach for the Sacramento State Hornets baseball team. “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s just a great human being, very caring, very kind, and we’re just glad we could help out. A team is a family, you know?”
“I feel blessed,” Ortiz said.
Without power, Ortiz said theft is common, and food and water are becoming harder to get. He believes the island is too unsafe for his family and hopes to be able to fly his relatives to Texas, where they can wait for power to be restored at home.