NCAA & partners provide hurricane relief in St. John Parish

Published 1:59 pm Wednesday, October 13, 2021

LAPLACE — Members of the NCAA and their partners worked with local volunteers and St. John Parish staff to distribute more than 800 meals, drinks and supplies to hurricane-impacted residents Tuesday morning at REGALA Gym in Reserve.

While the 2022 Men’s Final Four is scheduled to take place April 2-4 at the Caesar’s Superdome in New Orleans, Director of Championship Engagement Ellen Lucey said the NCAA strives to positively impact local communities in the months leading up to the national championship.

“We partnered with our local organizing committee, and they have made us aware of the need. We don’t want to just come in for the weekend. We like to make an impact. It’s important to be a part of the community and not think of it as just three days,” Lucey said. “We’re thankful to shine a light on the need. It’s part of our values.”

AT&T, Coca-Cola and Turner and CBS were among the NCAA corporate sponsors who contributed to Tuesday’s distribution. According to Lucey, several partners have expressed a desire to make Hurricane Ida recovery a continuous effort.

Packaged hot meals were provided by the New Orleans School of Cooking. The distribution also gave families access to baby wipes, diapers and cold drinks.

The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation is the local organizing committee for the 2022 Men’s Final Four, along with Tulane University and the University of New Orleans.

Jay Cicero, president/CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, said it was important to share the story of Hurricane Ida’s impact with the NCAA and sponsors.

He said the NCAA was very responsive to the idea of hosting a day of service in the St. John the Baptist Parish.

“There are folks here from around the country from New York to LA representing the NCAA and their corporate sponsors, and they might not have ever seen anything like this. New Orleans is doing great. Areas West and South of New Orleans still need a lot of help, but you can’t tell that story until you see it for yourself,” Cicero said.

Cicero is hopeful that this exposure will share the needs of residents in the River and Bayou Parishes with sponsors across the country, opening the door to new partnerships and resources benefitting local communities.

The NCAA representatives and sponsors got a glimpse into St. John Parish’s hurricane recovery when Parish administration took them on a tour of the devastation Tuesday morning. A month and a half after the storm, Ida’s impact was still evident from blue tarps on roofs and splotches of dead grass where piles of debris were recently picked up.

The tour canvassed areas devastated by wind damage and flooding, including but not limited to Spring Meadows, Cambridge, Riverlands, Carrollwood, Indigo Parkway and Derek Lane.

It was an eye-opening experiencing for Lucey.

“It’s sobering to see in person,” she said. “You see it on the news, but the perspective is not there. The context is not there.”

St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard participated in Tuesday’s distribution, along with other state and community officials.

She expressed her sincere thanks to those who are coming together to support the community in a time of need.

“I want to thank the NCAA staff and partners, the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, and the New Orleans School of Cooking for their vested interest and support in helping St. John during this difficult time,” Parish President Hotard said. “It is truly an honor to partner with these valuable organizations as we work together to provide much needed supplies and meals to residents as they recover from Hurricane Ida.”