Bombers' Bernard lends hand to Haiti

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

It’s been nearly five months since the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti, killing more than 225,000 people.

The country is no longer in the news, even though it's still reeling in the wake of the 7.0 magnitude quake. One person who won't forget about Haiti is Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Yvenson Bernard.

He is unlikely to ever forget about Haiti, especially after the off-season he had.

The 25-year-old Bernard has a younger half-brother, eight-year-old Sebastian, who lives in the Port-au-Prince area with his mom. Bernard learned several days after the tremors that Sebastian and the rest of his family members had survived the quake, but the former Oregon State star still felt compelled to help.

He put out the call for donations in Manitoba and in Oregon, and the public responded with a flourish. More than $10,000 was raised, and 24,000 pounds of supplies were donated. Bernard took it all to Haiti in March, when he also met Sebastian for the first time.

“Thankfully everybody’s OK,” Bernard said Sunday after the first day of Bomber training camp at Canad Inns Stadium. “We went down there for the trip, checked out two youth programs and donated all the money that we raised and the 24,000 pounds of clothing.

“… It was good to see my brother for the first time, and my grandma was good. She looked good. The house was a little torn up, but it’s all right.”

Bernard could hardly believe the devastation. When he showed pictures of Haiti to a friend who had served in Iraq, the soldier said Port-au-Prince looked just like Baghdad.

“Dusty, grey, buildings collapsed,” Bernard said. “It’s crazy. It’s something to see. Pictures don’t really say much.”

Bernard spent a week and a half in the Caribbean nation, calling it “the longest week and a half ever.” There was no electricity, so everyone usually went to bed just after the sun went down at 6 o’clock.

He took his own bottled water on the journey, but he made a mistake when he was able to locate ice cubes to cool it. The ice was made from the local water supply, which wasn’t good to begin with.

“When I got back I was a little sick, but not too bad,” he said.

Bernard raised funds through the International Sports Agency Children’s Foundation, and an Oregon family donated a truck to help him transport the supplies to Miami.

Bernard, who was born in Florida to Haitian parents, was overwhelmed by the support he got from Manitobans, even though he had only one season under his belt with the Bombers in a backup role.

“I got a lot of word from Winnipeg, and they did a lot of stuff,” said Bernard, who had 53 carries for 336 yards and 153 receiving yards last season. “I was pretty amazed how Winnipeg got behind me and helped out.”

Bernard’s work for Haiti isn’t just a one-time deal, either, as he plans to keep doing whatever he can to help get the country back on its feet.

“Next off-season I’ll do the same thing and go out there and just continue it,” he said.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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