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Max Garcia raising awareness for Hurricane Maria relief efforts for Puerto Rico


The Broncos' preparation for a divisional battle with the Raiders is underway. (Photos by Gabriel Christus unless noted)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** As guard Max Garcia prepares for Sunday's game against the Raiders, he'll be able to do so without as many worries as he had the previous week.

On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria swept over Puerto Rico, which is home to Garcia's uncle and aunt, his grandfather and a great-great-aunt who is about 104 years old. In the aftermath of the Category-Four hurricane's devastation in the American territory, people struggled to gain access to necessities like food, water and electricity.

Beyond those basic needs, Puerto Rico also lost almost all of its cellphone towers, meaning communication to other people and services on the island and to friends and family in the mainland United States has been either impossible or extremely difficult.

So for days after the hurricane made landfall, Garcia could do nothing but wait to hear any news from his family and friends.

"Those few days, just not knowing how they're doing, if they're OK — that was the most stressful part," Garcia said. "But after we found out they were OK, kind of, we were a little bit more at ease. But it's not getting much better, the situation, so [we're] just trying to help as much as we can with whatever we can, as quick as we can."

Now, almost a week later, communication has improved as the initial stages of recovery have begun, and Garcia's mind could be put at ease with news that his relatives were OK.

"All the communication has been going through my mom, just because using the landlines and things like that — time is so precious," Garcia said. "The opportunity to talk is so limited, so they talked to my mom and my mom kind of spreads the word to the rest of the family."

Meanwhile, in Denver, Garcia has received support from his brothers in the locker room.

"A lot of guys have been asking about my family: how they're doing, if there's anything they can do, that they're willing to donate and do whatever they can do to help," Garcia said. "That just shows right there the type of guys we have in the room, and I really appreciate that."

After weeks of relief efforts to support communities in southeast Texas and Florida, Garcia is hopeful that those endeavors can continue to support Puerto Rico.

"I just think we need to raise more awareness, more support," Garcia said. "We just need to look out for one another, just like we did for Houston, just like we did for Florida. Just get people aware of what's happening with the situation there. There's a lot of people that still don't have power, that don't have water, a water supply, food. So things like that, I think we just need to do a better job and get help there as soon as possible."

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