Players raise money for long-term needs

Updated: February 12, 2005, 1:03 PM ET
Associated Press

LAMNO, Indonesia -- The children in the remote coastal town of Lamno had never heard of American football or New York Giants quarterback Kurt Warner until Saturday.

Warner and teammate Amani Toomer visited here to help raise money for the long-term aid needs of tsunami victims in Aceh province, where the Dec. 26 disaster left more than 200,000 people dead or missing, and many more homeless.

The kids seemed to enjoy their time with the NFL stars, chasing Warner and Toomer around a soccer field.

"I don't know who they are, but they are really nice," said Saledulah, a grinning 9-year-old in tattered shorts and a T-shirt who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name.

Warner and Toomer, along with their wives, were flown in on a helicopter by the United Nation's World Food Program. Warner, a two-time Most Valuable Player who led the St. Louis Rams to victory in the 2000 Super Bowl, said the devastation was simply impossible to imagine.

"To actually think of lives and homes and the community as a whole and then to see all this -- unbelievable," Warner said. "People think that when the media leaves, things go back to normal but that is not the case."

The four helped unload a helicopter full of rice, bottled water and cooking oil destined for camps and feeding centers elsewhere on the island's west coast. They also visited the USNS Mercy, a U.S. Navy hospital ship treating tsunami victims off Sumatra Island.

The disaster has prompted a massive global outpouring of aid, from governments and individuals. More than $4 million has been raised by the NFL, its teams, owners, players and fans to support the tsunami relief efforts, but Toomer said it's still not enough.

"People are going to need a lot more help in the future," he said.

President Bush plans to ask Congress for $950 million for tsunami relief efforts -- up from $350 million committed so far. The pledge would put the United States at the top of the donor list.

But despite the incredible loss and devastation in the area, the children of Lamno proved they still know how to have fun. Warner's wife, Brenda, taught them to chant a few phrases in English while her husband looked on grinning.

"Football is silly!" they cried, and "Kurt Warner is old and fat!"


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press