Yvenson Bernard began his day Wednesday determined to help earthquake victims in his family’s homeland.
By the end of it, he was too emotional to even talk about it, shaken by reports of horrific injuries to relatives in devastated Haiti.
Bernard, the dynamic little running back who cracked the Winnipeg Blue Bombers lineup as a rookie, spent a frantic day trying to find out if family members had survived that country’s worst earthquake in 200 years.
Among the missing or unaccounted for: his eight-year-old half brother, Sebastian Bernard.
“It’s a horrible feeling that I wouldn’t want anybody to go through,” the 25-year-old told the Sun in an e-mail exchange. “I feel useless being here in the States. I just wish I could leave now, so I could find my little brother.”
But Bernard, 25, can’t leave for Haiti for another 12 days.
So all he can do is hope he gets through on the phone or by e-mail to the many aunts, uncles and cousins he has back in Haiti.
The first Bernard to be born in the United States, the 2nd-year Blue Bomber received one piece of devastating news Wednesday.
One of his uncles was badly hurt when the building he was in collapsed.
“About an hour ago I found out that my uncle lost his legs,” Bernard wrote late Wednesday afternoon. “My uncle was e-mailing my aunt back in the States and the building just collapsed. There were three other people in the building, and they died.
“My other family members can’t be contacted. I wish I could write more, but I just can’t speak any more after hearing about my uncle.”
It was supposed to be a day of hope and positive action for Bernard.
Earlier the Oregon State product had started Yvenson Bernard’s Haiti Relief Fund, hoping to solicit donations of hygiene products, clothing and money to help victims of a country that was already the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.
“I’m just trying to do anything I can to help all of the people in Haiti,” Bernard said in a statement released by the Bombers. “They’re going to need it.”
That statement went out around 2 p.m. Over the ensuing hours Bernard was planning to do interviews to promote his cause.
Then he received the news about his uncle, and simply couldn’t bring himself to talk.
“I spoke with him directly, and he was pretty upset,” Bomber media relations co-ordinator Darren Cameron said.
A 5-foot-9, 207-pound spark plug who played for former Bomber coach Mike Riley at Oregon State, Bernard was born in Pittsburgh.
Both his parents were native to Haiti.
His mother has since passed away, and his father is in Miami with an 18-year-old brother who might be an even better player than Yvenson.
Aside from all the aunts and uncles in Haiti, Bernard also has a grandmother who lives there.
“My grandmother was luckily back in Florida, visiting,” he wrote.
As good a college player as Bernard was, it sounds like he might be a better person.
He’s heavily involved in the International Sports Agency Children’s Foundation, created to help sick kids.
He’s taking donations for his Haiti Relief Fund through that agency (www.helpisakids.com) or at this address in Oregon: 325 Valley Football Center, Corvallis, OR, 97330.
“Thank you for spreading the word,” Bernard said. “I’m going to Haiti on the 26th.”
I told him I was sure Winnipeg would be pulling for him.
But there’s no doubt this will be the hardest run of his life.