March 13, 2007
Saints' quarterback praises Purdue students helping Katrina victims
NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is thanking more than 50 students from Purdue University residence halls who are spending their spring break helping to rebuild homes damaged by hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding in 2005.
"The devastation of Hurricane Katrina was so vast," Brees wrote to the student volunteers. "You can never fully appreciate it until you see it in person, and then you realize what the people in this region have been through and the work that is still left to be done."
The former Purdue Heisman Trophy candidate last month was named Walter Payton National Football League Man of the Year, largely for his efforts to help rebuild the New Orleans community, where he moved last year. Brees was unable to deliver the message to students in person because he is in San Diego preparing for the annual charitable golf tournament sponsored by the Brees Dream Foundation that features fellow NFL stars.
"Drew has been a winner on and off the field for as long as I have known him," said Jim Vruggink, the director of special projects for Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics who befriended Brees shortly after he arrived on campus nearly a decade ago. "He is inspirational in word and deed. The people of New Orleans are fortunate to have him as a neighbor."
The students are in New Orleans as part of the 2007 Ultimate Spring Break Challenge. Daniel Burch, 20, a junior from Fishers, Ind., who is studying to be a civil engineer, said he could think of no better way to spend spring break than helping the people of New Orleans.
"We're encountering people who have lost everything and people who are still hurting. People here are amazingly grateful and thankful that we have come down," said Burch, who plans to use his education and lessons learned during this experience to help people in developing nations. "I'm ready for hard, manual labor. I hope to get my hands dirty."
Dozens of other Purdue students also are in New Orleans repairing homes, many with church-related groups.
"It will be a long process, but with people like you and with the resolve that the people in this community have, it will be achieved," Brees wrote. "Thank you again for you efforts in our community and know that you are making such a tremendous impact."
The students with Ultimate Spring Break Challenge began work Monday morning (March 12) gutting, drywalling and painting houses at four locations around New Orleans.
"This is hard work. These students are to be commended because there are so many easier ways they could have spent their vacation," said Tom Paczolt, director of residential life at Purdue who is supervising a student team of drywallers. "Having their efforts recognized by a guy of Drew's caliber is a real motivator."There are a total of about 150 volunteers from Purdue helping in the New Orleans area over spring break week. In addition to students from University Residences, other affiliated volunteer groups include University Church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Wesley Foundation, Purdue Christian Student Center and homeland security class, and the Purdue School of Nursing Senior Leaderhip Project.
Writer: Jim Schenke, (765) 404-2275, email@example.com
Sources: Jim Vruggink, (765), 494-2086, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Paczolt, (765) 430-4932, email@example.com
Daniel Burch, (317) 363-9513, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
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