Former NBA player and Tampa resident, Renaldo Balkman collection Puerto Rico donations

TAMPA - A former NBA player is collecting items in Hillsborough County to fly back to Puerto Rico.

Renaldo Balkman played for the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets. He currently plays for a professional basketball team in Puerto Rico and is a member of the Puerto Rican National Team. He has a home in San Juan and in Tampa. He has a foundation in Tampa Bay called Balkman Elite Basketball. It’s a nonprofit that gives kids a chance to play basketball.

Balkman flew to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma to help. He tried to leave before Hurricane Maria hit, but could not.

“It gives me goosebumps talking about it ‘cause I went through it,” Balkman said.

He wound up sleeping in his car nearly 10 hours as the deadly storm passed through Puerto Rico.

“I decided to leave my condo because it was getting real, real, real bad and the winds started picking up. (There was) debris flying everywhere,” Balkman said.

He recorded video of some damage outside his home.

“We had to jump the wall to get over to walk through some water just to get out, you know, and it was difficult ‘cause I started running out of food and water,” Balkman.

Balkman was able to fly back to Tampa on a private plane Tuesday.

“I didn’t want to leave because I knew in some way I could still help,” Balkman said.

His focus since landing in Florida has been on going back to Puerto Rico to take supplies.

“What I left behind is desperate people in need {of} water, food, cash -everything,” Balkman said. 

His first planned stop is a city with special meaning.

“My goal is to go where I’m from (and) where I play basketball at, Arecibo, (to) take care of those people ‘cause when I went down there they didn’t have no water. They was out of water and nobody could come to help,” Balkman said. 

He plans to go on several trips to Puerto Rico. Right now he is raising money and collecting donations so that he can take those supplies to his island. 

If you would like to help, you can drop off items at these locations:

  • The Iam Program Gym (5202 Eagle Trail Drive - Level 2 in Tampa) - Accepting Donations 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
  • Rivers of Life Church Ministries (301 Lakewood Drive in Brandon) - Accepting Donations M-F 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Hide-Away Storage (1505 US-301 in Tampa) - Accepting Donations 9:00 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
  • A Fighter's Chance Dance & Fitness Gym (1263 Kingsway Rd. in Brandon) - Accepting Donations MWF 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Designer's Way Church (3910 N US Hwy 301 in Tampa) - Accepting Donations October 7 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. & October 8 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Donation sites are accepting: toothbrushes, toothpaste, batteries, flashlights, towels, blankets, trash bags, bottled water, first aid kits, insect repellant, diapers, toilet paper, feminine products, deodorant soap, shampoo, conditioner, baby wipes, baby formula, 1 gallon ziplock bags, non-perishable foods. 

“Like they say Boricua De Corazón. It’s from the heart. It’s in your blood and that’s me and then seeing my people hurt like that I’m hurting,” Balkman said.

Balkman said he plans to fly back to Puerto Rico with supplies in two to three weeks.

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