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Published: Sunday, 1/17/2010

Haiti tragedy personal for Lions' Cherilus

ASSOCIATED PRESS

ALLEN PARK, Mich. - Detroit Lions offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus had a helpless feeling when he learned of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

A few days later, those feelings have turned into a quest to do whatever he can for the people in the island nation where Cherilus spent the first decade of his life. He said yesterday his foundation, gosdercherilusfoundation.com, is working with Save the Children and AmeriCares to organize donations to help with the relief effort.

"It's something very personal to me," Cherilus said. "We have lives being lost over there and our job is to get them clothes, food, money, whatever. This is just a small step in what I plan to do."

Cherilus was at a gym near his offseason home in Massachusetts when his mother called to tell him something had happened to his brother, who lives in Haiti.

"She called me and was freaking out," Cherilus said. "At the moment it was happening she was on the phone with my brother. She said he was saying, 'Oh my God, oh my God,' and then she lost the connection. She thought it was some kind of car accident or something."

As soon as Cherilus arrived at his mother's home he turned on the television and saw the damage from Tuesday's earthquake. Cherilus' grandmother and other relatives live in Haiti.

"We tried to call everybody and couldn't reach anybody, so we just worried," Cherilus said. "You can imagine how my mother felt, her mother's there, her son's there. I turned off the TV. I didn't know what we were going to see on TV. I didn't want her to see her mother's body or my brother's body on CNN. I told her to go upstairs and I tried my best to help here stay positive."

Cherilus finally got in touch with his grandmother late Thursday and found out that she and his brother were all right. Other family members weren't as fortunate. His grandmother's cousin lost two of her children and his cousin's husband lost both of his legs.

Other family members still haven't been found.

"We still don't know for sure who we've lost and who's still alive," Cherilus said.

The first thought that crossed Cherilus' mind was to leave immediately for Haiti, but he decided that he could accomplish more by staying at home for now and doing what he could to raise money.

The Lions are making a $10,000 donation to the American Red Cross International Relief Fund in the name of the three Detroit players - Cherilus, Cliff Avril and Louis Delmas - who are of Haitian descent.

Avril has several cousins living in Haiti and he said he received word that they survived.

Avril said that he has been working closely with Cherilus and hopes to get other NFL players with ties to Haiti involved in a fundraiser.

"Getting supplies is a concern for the whole country. There's no clean water," he said.



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