A blue Lincoln Town Car pulled into a parking lot just outside RFK Stadium yesterday and came to a stop. Maji Jones of Southeast turned down the stereo, poked his head out of the car's window and dropped money into a bucket held by Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman.
"I don't have a lot but I felt I had to come out and give something just for the simple fact that so many people need help," Jones explained. "I was watching last night and saw them talking about this little girl in San Antonio who can't find her family. I haven't been able to get that out of my head all day, man. I had to do something."
That was the prevailing sentiment expressed yesterday as players and personnel representing the Nationals, D.C. United, Wizards, Mystics and Redskins took turns collecting money to aid Hurricane Katrina victims for the American Red Cross.
The program raised more than $35,000 yesterday thanks to a steady stream of people like Jones. Athletes like Zimmerman, Wizards forward Etan Thomas and United's Kenny Arena took turns collecting money, signing autographs and posing for pictures from 7 a.m. until just after 3 p.m.
One family arrived in a minivan. A man and woman in front dropped money into buckets held by Nationals outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Brandon Watson while in the back, three children giggled as the Nationals' mascot, Screech, reached through the window and gave each a high-five.
Mystics center Murriel Page, a Louin, Miss., native whose family home suffered damage from storms caused by Katrina, emphasized the importance of donating whatever she could.
"Most people when they hear about giving and donations think they have to give thousands of dollars but in this case, anything people can give will help out," Page said. Also yesterday, the Wizards announced they will hold a lunch on Tuesday to benefit the team's Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. The hot dog lunch, which will require a $5 minimum donation, will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at MCI Center. Fans can enter through the F Street entrance.
Personnel and players representing the Wizards will include President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld, Coach Eddie Jordan, center Brendan Haywood, guard Jarvis Hayes and rookie Andray Blatche.
-- Ivan Carter