Tampa Bay Rays send charter plane to Puerto Rico to pick up cancer patients, caregivers and nuns

2 cancer patients taken to Moffitt

TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Rays said they are more than just a professional baseball team in Florida and today they proved they care about the community they represent.

The humanitarian mission to Puerto Rico was charted by the Rays but there were a lot of different community leaders and organizations that made the life saving flight to Ponce, Puerto Rico possible.

Working with the Moffit Cancer Center, Ponce Health Sciences University, the University of South Florida, State Representative Janet Cruz and Course of Action Puerto Rico the plan operated by Swift Air picked up cancer patients and nuns from a local church.

Passengers on the trip included St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Xavier Cedeno, the Rays' pitcher who's a native of Puerto Rico.

Anxious family members waited in the lobby of Signature Flight Support at Tampa International for their loved ones to land. Lizette Rios said she’s been worried sick about her 90-year-old mother who lives alone on the island, doesn’t drive, and hadn’t eaten in the past three days.

“She has high blood pressure and last night she told me please get me out of here because I can’t do it anymore I am alone I have nothing,” Rios said.

Rios said seeing her mom land in Tampa was a blessing from God.

Rays bench coach and Manati, Puerto Rico native Charlie Montoyo's brother, Luis, and cousin, Jose, will also fly to the island to pick up Montoyo's parents and bring them back to the United States. 

The team took in 22,000 pounds of supplies that included medical supplies from USF headed to Ponce Health Sciences University.

The plane didn't just bring back people, it was also carrying thousands of tissue samples from Hispanics diagnosed with cancer.

“There were thousands of tissues that were at risk there,” Dr. Daniel Sullivan said.  Sullivan is the senior member of Blood and Marrow Transplant at Moffitt Cancer Cancer Center. “They are really irreplaceable and if we didn't get these it would have set us back many years.”

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