As Hurricane Irma ramped up to be the largest recorded hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of residents across Florida were encouraged, and in some areas ordered, to evacuate. Florida Governor Rick Scott urged able-bodied volunteers to help out in pop-up shelters across the state.
As many hustled to prepare, the evacuation shelters filled up. In Jacksonville, a shelter dedicated to individuals with special needs welcomed a visit from the governor and former NFL star turned professional baseball player, Tim Tebow.
The make-shift shelter appears to be inside a school gymnasium. Unlike typical evacuation shelters, this one has space for people’s medical equipment.
Tebow, a Florida native, spent his time visiting evacuees. He told reporters at the shelter that he thinks “people have rallied together and I think that speaks volumes about my city and my state.”
— Tim Tebow (@TimTebow) August 9, 2017
As Irma loomed closer, no one knew exactly how its powerful impact would affect those caught in its path. The warm waters of the Caribbean caused it to grow in power each time the storm left land and headed back out to sea.
With the destruction from Hurricane Harvey fresh in everyone’s minds, the devastation that Hurricane Irma caused to the Caribbean islands horrified U.S. mainlanders. Where evacuation orders often go ignored, this time more people left their homes, retreating to safer ground, unsure of what would greet them when they returned.
Hoping his visit would brighten the spirts of stranded evacuees, Tebow was instead touched by the resilience of the shelter’s inhabitants. One particular temporary resident, a WWII veteran, captured the heart of Tebow, and as the exchange was caught on video, the rest of the internet as well.
The elderly man sat propped up on a cot, covered, with his dog resting comfortably on his lap. From the side of the shot, a woman handed the veteran a harmonica then left, announcing “he’s the harmonica man.”
A kneeling Tebow cannot hide his astonishment when the seemingly frail man, who by all accounts should feel down on his luck, begins a skillful and spirited melody on the old-fashioned instrument. With a tender pat on the shoulder, Tebow gets up, where he is hugged by a grateful shelter resident.
Where Tebow came to brighten anxious evacuees, he, instead, was brightened by their inner strength in the face of this unimaginable danger. They became a real-time reminder that despite the doom and gloom needed to motivate the masses to protect themselves, their current situation and relative misfortune did not define them.
Tebow is no stranger to showing up and lending a hand where it is needed. A devout family man of faith, Tebow has been seen reaching out to victims of horrific circumstances, including the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016.
Tebow spent the rest of his visit helping the volunteers, chatting, and tossing a football around with displaced residents. “I’m just so proud of the governor and the work that he’s done and all the volunteers because I really feel like there’s a lot of people that don’t feel like they’re alone tonight because of all the volunteers,” he commented.
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