Tampa man saves family from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and continues aid efforts to island

Rafael Gaztambide sending food, doctors and rat tr
Posted at 3:05 AM, Nov 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-13 06:36:31-05

ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. -- Rafael Gaztambide's brother was helpless in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September.

Even more harrowing, his brother’s wife was about to have a baby.

“My brother reached out to me saying, ‘Hey, can you help me get out of the island?’” says Gaztambide, who was born on Puerto Rico but raised in Tampa.

Rafael got to work, finding a private plane to fly his brother and family back to Florida. But he wasn’t done, especially since the storm destroyed more than 230,000 homes. 

“I have a strong connection to my island and my people,” says Gaztambide. “There are people on that island who don’t have anything now. They didn’t have much in the first place.”

To help Gaztambide's Puerto Rico relief efforts:

The USF alum reached out for help in Tampa Bay area. He received it from lawyer Jay Diaco, from Bayfront Health in Punta Gorda, and from J.J.’s Aeronautics.

Rafael’s organization is now called J.J.’s Lion Guard Foundation.

A small personal mission blossomed into give missions, not including three more last weekend. He is flying to Puerto Rico food, doctors and...

“Rats and mice have become a problem since the hurricane,” he says, “so I’m bring a lot of traps, too.”