As he waits to hear from his parents and other relatives in Puerto Rico, Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea has launched a fundraising campaign to prepare to help people in his homeland after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
Barea and his wife, Viviana Ortiz, organized a relief fund on the same online platform used by Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt to raise more than $37 million to aid people affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Barea's fund had reached three-quarters of its original goal of $100,000 as of Thursday afternoon.
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph, causing major flooding and knocking out electricity and phone service throughout most of the island.
"It's completely dark over there," Barea told ESPN on Thursday after playing pickup ball with his teammates in Dallas. "No phone service, no power, no water, no nothing. We're trying our best right now to help, and whenever we've got contact with [family], make a plan and start helping over the next couple of days and next couple of weeks.
"Puerto Rico's completely destroyed. The water right now is the worst. The wind knocked everything down, but now the water is down and it's the worst ever. We've had some bad ones, but never like this."
Barea and his family have been through hurricanes in Puerto Rico before, and he is optimistic that his parents, in-laws and other relatives are safe and will contact him as soon as possible. He said he has heard that no fatalities have been reported in Puerto Rico due to the storm.
"What we do is just wait it out," said Barea, the only active NBA player who is a Puerto Rican native. "I've heard from some people that [his hometown, Mayaguez] is good, that there's a lot of [flood]water but it's good. I'm just waiting for them to contact me. There's nothing I can really do right now. All we can do is start raising money so when we know where to start giving, we're ready to go."
With the Mavs opening training camp on Monday, Barea has no immediate plans to return to Puerto Rico, where he maintains an offseason home. He is hopeful that he and his wife will be able to organize relief efforts from Dallas with the assistance of relatives in Puerto Rico who will identify how the money can best be utilized.
"The money is going to go straight to my foundation," Barea said. "I'm going to be the one handling it. We're going to go straight to the people that need it. We're not going to give it to anybody else. It's going to go straight to where it needs to be. I've got my people in Puerto Rico, and we'll know who really needs the most help and go from there."