Student athletes in a community hit hard by Hurricane Irma got a major boost Wednesday from two United Healthcare of South Florida - and two NFL players - in the form of a donation for $20,000. Immokalee High School's athletic program took a big financial hit when the school was forced to cancel several home games due to the hurricane.
Edgerrin James - an Immokalee alumnus and former NFL player who played for the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals in his career - joined Pro-Bowler Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie in presenting the check at an assembly Wednesday morning.
"Football supports 90% of everything else that goes on," James said. "When I was here, we didn't have a hurricane that did any damage like that."
The timing of Irma meant that Immokalee had to miss home games against big rivals like Naples and Gulf Coast High Schools.
"The games that were canceled really had a negative impact on the revenue that the school was able raise, to fund all of their athletic programs," said Nicholas Zaffris, president and CEO of United Healthcare of South Florida.
Immokalee High School Principal Clara Calderon says that the money is a big windfall for her school.
"We're going to be able to recoup a lot of the losses, and be able to completely cover most of our expenses for all teams," Calderon said.
The check presentation was no small affair. The marching band played as much of the school showed up at the assembly in school's auditorium. James appreciated the reception - but wasn't surprised.
"They're not going to let you come here and go unnoticed," he said. "You're going to be recognized, and you're going to enjoy the feeling that you have when you come to Immokalee High. That's part of that Immokalee pride."