Athletes team up to bring renewable energy to Puerto Rico

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Solar panels set up by Tesla Industries at a hospital in Vieques, Puerto Rico, following Hurricane Maria.

Surfer Quincy Davis, a native of Montauk, New York, has ridden many a wave off the shores of Puerto Rico. The island serves as a second home for her, and now she's worried about keeping the lights on.

"I was at my family's place in Rincon, Puerto Rico, right before the new year," Davis says. "And we were still without power in December. Bringing solar energy to the island is smart. It's needed."

Davis, 22, who won the 2014 Corona Pro Rincon women's competition, is still in shock over the sheer devastation of Hurricane Maria, which reached the island in late September. The storm brought winds of up to 155 mph and went on record as the strongest to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years. The road to recovery has been rocky for the island, with more than 400,000 electricity customers still without power.

Davis, like many others, just wants Puerto Rico to be whole again. And bringing power back to the island's residents is essential in doing so.

Viktre, an online platform for pro athletes to connect, is hoping to help sports figures crowdsource funds that will be used to restore power in Puerto Rico. Dubbed the Viktre Challenge, which started on Jan. 22 and will be ongoing through Wednesday, the fundraising campaign has pro athletes team up, categorized by sport, to compete to raise for money for power restoration.

Courtesy Viktre

The winner of Viktre's "Team Surf" challenge will get to hang out, and possibly surf, with Quincy Davis.

The athletes, including Davis, Hall of Fame tennis player Gigi Fernandez, short-track speed skating competitor Apolo Ohno and soccer player Kaká, among others, have been promoting the fundraiser on their various social media channels. The money will go to the Foundation for Puerto Rico, a local nonprofit, which will coordinate with companies like Tesla to install solar panels and other energy-generating tools throughout the island.

"There has been a bunch of fundraisers, but I think people get discouraged when they don't really know where the money is going. With the Viktre Challenge, it's very clear," says Fernandez, a native of Puerto Rico, now runs her company, Gigi Fernandez Tennis, which offers tennis bootcamps and Doubles.TV, an online doubles instructional portal.

And according to Alma Frontera, director of strategic projects for the Foundation of Puerto Rico, this sort of "challenge" can help develop an ongoing shift in the island's energy infrastructure.

"This isn't just a Band-Aid on the problem. The island was already suffering from a bad electric grid. Our technology was way behind. There is no reason for us to go back to that," says Frontera. "We need something that will be storm-resistant in the future."

Courtesy of Viktre

Gigi Fernandez on a damaged tennis court in Puerto Rico.

But, why athletes? Frontera, who lives on the island, had an answer for that as well. "These athletes have a platform, and Viktre allows them to give back in a progressive way. They can inspire people and, in turn, create change."

Fernandez, the first Puerto Rican-born athlete to win a gold medal, which she did at the 1992 Barcelona Games for women's doubles (with Mary Joe Fernandez -- no relation), agrees. "I've done traditional fundraisers, but this brings true awareness to a problem, and in a smart manner."

An added bonus: Fans have the opportunity to meet their favorite athlete as part of the donation campaign. For each dollar contributed, the fan earns an entry to win some one-on-one time with members of each sport-based team. For example, if you donate via "Team Tennis," you may get a chance to meet Fernandez.

"The people of Puerto Rico are very excited about this challenge and the technology it will bring. We have hospitals, community centers and wastewater pumps that all need energy," Frontera says. "This is a step in the right direction."

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