U.S. Open fans open wallets, hearts

Updated: September 9, 2005, 12:18 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Tennis fans renowned for buying pricey crepes and cappuccinos opened their hearts as well as wallets at the U.S. Open to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Instead of hawking programs, students asked fans to dig deep to help those suffering on the Gulf Coast. In just a week, a handful of juniors from Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey raised almost $50,000 for the American Red Cross.

That will supplement the $500,000 already promised by the U.S. Tennis Association. The students wanted to help and approached the Red Cross and the USTA.

"It was the perfect venue," said volunteer Michael Miura.

Some contributors were from the Gulf Coast, having left before the storm or fled in the aftermath.

Attorney Ray Solomon's son, Neil, was a volunteer. He said nearly a dozen donors were from the affected region, including a Mississippi woman who stopped by the Red Cross booth four times, donating each time, asking only one thing: Please don't forget her state.

A Shreveport, La., resident, who had Open tickets before Katrina hit, had 46 displaced people in his home before he left for New York. Students from badly damaged Tulane University, wearing their school T-shirts, stopped by the Red Cross booth, Ray Solomon said. Some were being taken in by East Coast schools.

For people who didn't know what they would face back home, of if they had a home left, coming to the Open seemed a temporary escape from a harsh reality, said USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier.

In other Katrina relief developments:

• The NFL has designated the second week of its season as "Hurricane Relief Weekend," which will culminate with a fund-raising telethon that will be part of ABC's "Monday Night Football," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said.

Under the theme of "Recover & Rebuild," the NFL, its clubs, network television partners -- ABC, CBS, ESPN and FOX -- and sponsors will use the Sept. 18-19 games to raise funds and bring attention to the massive needs of the Gulf Coast region.

"The Gulf Coast and our entire nation face extraordinary challenges," Tagliabue said. "We will continue to do our part to contribute to the recovery and rebuilding process. The weekend of what should have been the Saints' first home game in New Orleans this year is an appropriate time for a special leaguewide effort to focus on the restoration of the Gulf Coast."

• Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay donated $100,000 and bidders offered another $26,000 for jerseys, helmets and footballs autographed by Peyton Manning as part of a radio auction. Including the donation by Irsay, the Colts said the five-hour auction on WFBQ drew more than 5,000 calls and raised $311,975.

"It was an amazing event," said Tom Zupancic, the Colts' senior vice president of business development. "An unbelievable outpouring of generosity from throughout the country enabled us to provide some relief for the people who are suffering."

Shaquille O'Neal and his wife, Shaunie, are coordinating a relief effort by setting up collection boxes at eight El Dorado furniture stores in South Florida through Saturday. The public can donate items to be sent to Baton Rouge, La., where O'Neal played at LSU.

LeBron James helped load four tractor-trailers with diapers, school supplies, food and other items for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The Cleveland Cavaliers' star spent about $120,000 in two hours Thursday at a Sam's Club warehouse store in Fairlawn, Ohio, near his hometown of Akron. The goods will be sent to Houston, Louisiana and Mississippi.

• Chicago Bulls guard Chris Duhon, whose hometown of Slidell, La., was ravaged by the hurricane, has organized three supply drives in the Chicago area.

Emergency items such as hygiene products, toiletries, bottled water, nonperishable food items, new clothing, new shoes and baby products will be collected. The donations will be transported to Slidell by moving vans and coordinated in conjunction with Slidell Mayor Ben Morris.

• The Boston Celtics will team up with Habitat for Humanity International to help rebuild homes. The Celtics' players, owners, coaches and staff will match each donation made through the team's Web site -- www.celtics.com.

• Boston's David Ortiz and Los Angeles Angels' Vladimir Guerrero will donate $50,000 each to the relief effort. The Dominicans hope other major leaguers will join them.

"The United States has provided my family and me with more than we could have ever dreamed," Ortiz said. "I'll never forget the way Red Sox fans and the team's owners helped my country after the floods last year."

Red Sox fans have given nearly $185,000 to the Red Cross in six days.

• The San Diego Padres said they collected $47,252 at the gates Wednesday night and $250,000 from the Linden Root Dickinson Foundation for a total of $297,352 that will be given to the Red Cross. The Padres also will raise money at a "Beat LA" pennant push event Saturday, when fans can watch the team's road game against the Dodgers on the video board at the Park at the Park, just beyond the outfield at Petco Park. An online auction will continue through Oct. 3.

• PGA Tour star Vijay Singh and wife Ardena have donated $75,000, with $50,000 going to the American Red Cross and $25,000 to the United Way of New Orleans.

"This is a time when we all must come together to support the relief efforts of these people in need," Singh said.

• Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will donate $50 for every passing yard and $250 for any touchdown pass in Sunday's opener against Tennessee to the American Red Cross. The Steelers' autograph party Tuesday at Heinz Field raised $113,000. All-pro Alan Faneca, a former star at LSU, stayed for the entire four-hour session.

• The Tennessee Titans will host an eight-hour blood drive in the club area of The Coliseum on Sept. 17. Fans are encouraged to bring cash or nonperishable food for the Second Harvest Food Bank, which is helping area shelters. Volunteers will collect money before the Titans' home opener against Baltimore on Sept. 18.

• The Houston Texans are asking fans who can't make it to the home opener Sept. 18 against the Pittsburgh Steelers to donate their tickets to hurricane refugees.

• The Westminster Kennel Club has donated $20,000 to agencies in Louisiana and Texas to help recover and shelter lost pets.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press