"Hold on, Mike, I got a guy coming in with a truck, hold on a second," said Teddy Atlas, during a Tuesday afternoon phone interview with NYFightBlog. After 10 seconds, the ESPN analyst and sometime boxing trainer came back on the line and continued to describe the relief effort to help citizens on Staten Island and in Queens who got knocked down by Sandy on Oct. 29.
For the past couple of weeks, Atlas has been collecting and distributing food, water, supplies, information and hope to people laid out by the epic storm surge.
On Thursday night his Staten Island-based Theodore Atlas Foundation will hold its 16th annual fund-raising dinner, and it almost didn't happen. Atlas contemplated canceling the dinner because he was knee-deep in efforts to do triage in the area, to help people who have fallen between the cracks. But then he decided that the show must go on, if only to help raise funds for the longer-term rebuild. To this point, the foundation has handed out more than 80,000 pounds of clothing, food, and cleaning supplies to the afflicted. The organization took over a storefront next to its headquarters and is using it as a staging and warehousing station. It has been filled and emptied eight times as of Tuesday.
"We're continuing to get to areas that got the least amount of response and help," said the son of the physician Theodore Atlas, who was known for doing house calls, pro bono, to Staten Islanders who needed help. "Some areas got a little less. I don't want to say they were forgotten, but ..."
Last week, attention shifted to Breezy Point and the Rockaways, and some of the housing projects, where people in high rises have gone two weeks without power. "You see pictures of people losing their homes, but these people in the projects, they have no home, and in their apartment, there is no elevator. We delivered flashlights, because at night, it can get scary," he said.
We engaged in no boxing talk; Atlas said he has turned down most interviews, because the relief effort is front-and-center on his mind. Mayweather, Pacquiao, all that stuff can wait. But the Sandy assault hasn't left him wallowing. He's seen some of the best of humanity in the last couple weeks. "The only thing more remarkable than the devastation of the storm is the reaction, the outpouring of help from so many people," he said. "It's the only thing stronger than the storm."
Calls have come in, day after day, from people he doesn't know.
"Teddy, we got a truck coming in from Florida."
"Teddy, there's a tractor-trailer of stuff coming from Philly."
"Teddy, I'm a fight fan, from Massachusetts. I want to help, I loaded up a truck and it's on its way."
"Through all the bad stuff, it's been uplifting to see how great people can be when they need to be great," Atlas said, and then paused. "Mike, I got two guys coming in with a truck."
I took that as my cue to let him continue the fight.
You can help Atlas in his efforts by buying a ticket to the foundation's dinner, which runs Thursday night from 7-11 p.m. at the Staten Island Hilton Garden Inn. Hall of Famers Goose Gossage and Sterling Sharpe, and many other boldface names, will be in attendance.
Call 718-980-7037, or click here for more info.