RENTON Cliff Avril’s late father emigrated from Haiti in 1982, four years before Avril was born.
The younger Avril visited the Caribbean island nation as a kid every summer, to see his grandmother. That was until she passed away when he was a teen. He still has three cousins living there.
That is largely why he is donating money for each sack he is getting this season to build one home in Haiti.
And after a devastating earthquake in 2010 then Hurricane Matthew roaring across the island last week, so many homes need built and rebuilt.
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"Just the earthquake," the Seahawks defensive end said Wednesday, shaking his head. "For one, it’s one of the poorest countries in the world…it’s nothing similar to what you expect here – from electricity to clean water to just the way they are living.
"Most people are still living in tents from the earthquake, and whatnot."
On Jan. 12, 2010, a magnitude-7.0 earthquake flattened Haiti. More than a quarter of a million people died. More than 1.5 million people lost their homes. More than five years later, 65,000 were still displaced.
Then last week, Hurricane Matthew killed more than 1,000 on Haiti’s southern coast before it headed north to Florida and the southeastern United States. Cholera is among the many critical humanitarian issues the island is facing in the storm’s wake.
Avril has decided to donate some his four-year, $28.5 million contract extension that runs through 2018 plus his time to two organizations for Haitian relief. Mission of Hope Haiti is a Haiti-based organization which is providing food, water and medical services in the wake of the hurricane. New Story charity pledges 100 percent of donations go to rebuilding homes and buildings in Haiti.
"That’s where I pledged every sack I get this year I will build a home in Haiti," he said.
He has two sacks, with a chance for more Sunday against pass-happy Atlanta. Two sacks is roughly $12,000 to the island; an estimated $6,000 builds a home in Haiti.
Baltimore Ravens pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, also of Haitian descent, introduced Avril to New Story charity and its home-building program.
Avril’s cousins live in Haiti’s capital of Port au Prince, north of where the hurricane hit hardest.
In April, Avril, retired running back Marshawn Lynch and other NFL players flew into that city. They helped build an elementary school, hosted a mobile medical clinic and put on a football clinic. Avril said what they built this spring withstood last week’s disaster, "but they are actually built (to withstand) hurricanes and earthquakes."
It had been 15 years since he’d been to Haiti. He called his return in April "very eye-opening."
"When you are 15 and you go to an island and you see what’s going on, you don’t process it the same way as when you process it at the age of 30," the now-husband and father said. "You have kids and your vision of life is completely different, you know?
"It was very eye-opening. Very humbling.
"And it makes you grateful for everything you have here."
Avril spent much of his bye week fielding calls from organizations that wanted him because of his heritage to donate money and his name to their cause.
He was discerning on which two calls he took.
“Unfortunately when a disaster like this happens, a lot of these foundations aren’t really … a lot people are pocketing the money, instead of actually helping," he said. "It really opened my eyes to what the right organizations are to work with.
“Once we did, I’m all in.”