Washington Wizards all-star Gilbert Arenas was among the locals waiting to greet about 200 Hurricane Katrina evacuees who arrived at the D.C. Armory yesterday.
Like many across the country, Arenas watched in horror as the hurricane ripped through the Gulf Coast last week. When Arenas heard over the weekend that some evacuees would be temporarily housed in Washington, he decided to help.
On Sunday, Arenas delivered $18,000 worth of toiletries and clothing to the armory, and yesterday he was on hand when the evacuees arrived following a one-day delay.
Arenas said he hopes that his involvement will lead others in the Washington community to do what they can to help out.
"I know that everyone has been watching and they feel bad for all these people so I was hoping that by seeing a face, someone they recognize, doing something to help, it will encourage everyone to come up with ideas for how they can help," Arenas said. "We all can do something. If you're sitting on the couch watching TV, you can do something. Even if it's just donating a few dollars or some clothes, you can make a difference. These people lost everything they had in the world. They need our help."
Arenas, who has been in Washington training for the upcoming NBA season, shook hands, signed autographs and talked with evacuees for approximately three hours. He invited them to attend a Wizards game if they are still in Washington when the preseason tips off Oct. 10 with a game at MCI Center against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"Some of them seem happy and some are still kind of in a state of shock over everything they've been through," Arenas said. "I think they are just happy to be on solid ground. Get a meal. Take a shower. Just catch their breath after what they've been through the past few days. I just wanted to be here to say: 'Welcome to D.C. We're here to help you however we can.' "
Meantime, Washington Sports and Entertainment and the Wizards announced a fundraiser for hurricane victims. For a minimum donation of $5, fans can order a team car magnet. All proceeds will be sent via the American Red Cross to help the victims of the hurricane.
-- Ivan Carter