By Greg Mescall
On September 20 as Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, USA Women’s National Team captain Maggie Steffens was worried thousands of miles away in Stinson Beach, California. Steffen’s parents had recently moved from Danville, California to San Juan. While her mom Peggy was back in California after Hurricane Irma just two weeks prior, her father Carlos--a native of Puerto Rico, was in San Juan with extended family as the island nation was battered with a ferocious storm.
Despite growing up in Danville, California in Northern California’s East Bay, Maggie Steffens had been visiting Puerto Rico for years and has nothing but fond memories of her part-time home. Sitting on the beach with her mom and sister in California they knew they wanted to help with what was sure to be a lengthy recovery effort, whenever the storm did move on.
“It was a very scary time, especially because we could barely get a hold of my dad to see how everyone was,” recalls Steffens. “We were at Stinson feeling so disconnected - literally, Puerto Rico was disconnected from power and from the world. We wanted to find a way to help and feel connected to our family and to Puerto Rico, our HOME. We wanted to help the TEAM, but didn’t exactly know how. That’s when we came up with Push Ups 4 Puerto Rico (a call to do push-ups and lend support similar to that of the ice bucket challenge). It was a way for us to tie together things we are passionate about (like fitness and Puerto Rico) to help the home island we love and our many friends and family. We weren’t sure what it would lead to, but knew we wanted to make an impact.”
Just a day later a GoFundMe was launched with a goal of 20,000 dollars and donations came in from all over. The two-time Olympic champion shared a video on her social media channels featuring her fellow Olympic gold medal winning sister Jessica and their mom starting the push-ups parade. Then they worked feverishly to get the word out. As the donation amount hit $5,000 and then $10,000 it became clear they needed to find a good home for all this generosity. As they closed in on the $20,000 goal, they settled on the Impact Fund at the Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico.
“We wanted to make sure the money we raised was going somewhere it would KEEP giving. Somewhere that would make all the donors proud as well as a place that had a special connected to what our family values and what Puerto Rico values. For us, we found that in the next generation. We discovered the Impact Fund for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico and right away knew it was the EXACT fit.”
In a fun piece of irony, the final 2,000 dollars raised came from an elementary school in California that held a push-up campaign/fundraiser. Fitting that one community’s future leaders were helping out the future leaders of another community in need. “I had the chills when I heard about this,” says Steffens. “Giving back to the youth and specifically youth sports, where my Dad as a kid in Puerto Rico was able to develop, learn, and truly be where he is today, felt full circle. After Maria, families were devastated, land was devastated, and power is still devastated. The $20,000 we raised is a hope to bring smiles back to those families, help rebuild the places that bring those smiles, and to bring some LIGHT into their world!”
The moment when the Steffens family was able to deliver the money to the staff at the Boys and Girls Club was a special one. “As we went to the main office of BGCPR and handed over the check, we all had chills. Their faces were so gracious and so happy, it was one of my most favorite moments,” said Steffens.
With Maggie’s parents living in Puerto Rico full time and the rest of the family visiting often they plan to build a larger relationship with the Boys and Girls Club. The club will be holding a pool opening soon which Maggie and her family hope to attend and there is of course talk of a water polo team at the facility.
For now, the focus is on the support the Steffens could offer Puerto Rico and all the people that came together to pitch in however possible. “We are so, so grateful for all the people who donated and helped make this happen,” added Steffens. “There is so much love in the community we share and this money will go further than it is worth. It has showed compassion and teamwork and although there is still much work to be done, it was beautiful and full of energy. Puerto Rico se levanta!” (Puerto Rico Rises!)