- Burnett School College of Medicine
Luis Reichard saw the devastation that Hurricane Sandy and a follow-up storm did to his hometown of Rockaway, N.Y. And so the systems administrator for the College of Medicine’s IT Department took time from a medical leave for cancer treatments, collected donations of warm clothing, non-perishable food, blankets and toiletries and headed north to help.
After a 22-hour drive with his 18-year-old son, Luis III, Luis delivered a truck filled with supplies to his hometown church, St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, November 11.
“I am just so grateful,” he said. “Just to see a lady wrap up her child in a warm blanket was overwhelming. You have to have a sense of community, no matter where you are in the world.”
Luis recently underwent surgery for prostate cancer and said he organized the donation drive in gratitude for his recovery, which happened with the help of College of Medicine physicians. In just a day’s time, College of Medicine faculty, staff and students filled a hallway with donated coats, sweaters, boots and canned goods. Several local businesses literally filled Luis’ home with donated bread and bottled water. Dr. Cristina Fernandez-Valle, professor at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, filled a giant plastic bag with clothes her teen-aged sons had outgrown. She said she had suffered through Hurricane Andrew in Miami, which struck when the weather was warm. “I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be hit by a hurricane and then face freezing temperatures,” she said.
Luis and his youngest son Isaiah came to the College of Medicine to load up the truck, which eventually was filled to the brim and was so overweight Luis couldn’t drive any faster than 55 mph all the way to New York.
“There is total devastation in my neighborhood,” he said. “Homes imploded. There is sand and dirt everywhere. People need so much. I felt like I was just putting a drop of water on a volcano, but people were so thankful. I didn’t know how to say you’re welcome.”
In addition to handing out materials at the church, volunteers delivered some of the donated food and blankets to elderly and ill shut-ins who could not get out. And Sunday’s service, in which Luis was asked to speak, came with an appropriate and moving theme: giving from the heart.