Robertsons continue to aid with disaster relief

Yankees reliever began fundraising after tornado hit hometown in 2011

September 30th, 2017

As Hurricane Harvey ripped through Houston in late August, watched from afar as the fourth-largest city in the United States dealt with massive flooding. Days later, Hurricane Irma battered Florida, leaving many people with significant damage to their homes and thousands more without power.

Robertson doesn't reside in either of those regions, but the Yankees reliever -- who is hoping to win his second World Series ring with New York this postseason -- wasn't about to sit by idly while so many people struggled to get their lives back on track.

"Once you see how quickly people's lives are disrupted, you want to try to step in and help as much as you can," Robertson said. "Seeing these latest hurricanes come in, I knew exactly what it was like."

Robertson's view on natural disasters changed on April 27, 2011, when a violent tornado ravaged his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala. The tornado, with winds reaching as high as 190 mph, devastated parts of Tuscaloosa before making its way into Birmingham, Ala., wrecking an 80-mile stretch of the state in the process.

"I lost places that I knew my entire childhood," Robertson said. "They were just gone."

Robertson and his wife, Erin, wanted to help. They established a fund to raise money, calling it "High Socks for Hope," a play on the way Robertson wears his socks when he pitches.

The response was overwhelming. Fans and teammates alike helped the Robertsons raise a couple hundred thousand dollars, all of which went directly to the tornado victims as they tried to rebuild their lives.

"Dave is such a hometown boy," Erin said. "He grew up in Tuscaloosa and went to high school and college there; it's such a part of him. We wanted to do something that would make an impact on Tuscaloosa, to make sure the donations went to the right place. We decided to take donations ourselves, created a fund and made sure that 100 percent of the money went where it was intended -- to the people that needed it -- and not to a larger organization's overhead."

The Robertsons reached out to furniture companies and bought in bulk, helping outfit new homes. They gathered volunteers to help feed the hungry or clean out houses, chipping in anywhere they could.

"We were just thinking in the moment; we had no idea how much money we would raise. Then, all of a sudden, it was hundreds of thousands of dollars," Erin said. "We realized how much of a difference we could make. Once we went down there and helped people first-hand, we saw the impact we could make without that much money. Being able to buy a family a new bed and seeing the difference it could make in their lives, it motivated us to do more and more."

The fund eventually became The David and Erin Robertson Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting victims of natural disasters and helping homeless veterans restart their lives.

During its six years in existence, "High Socks for Hope" has provided furniture and supplies for new homes in Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois, Louisiana, New York and New Jersey. Victims of Hurricane Irma in Florida and Hurricane Harvey in Texas will join the list in the coming weeks.

"We're there to help and get what's needed for them," David said. "Whenever we get to go to Alabama and we meet a family that we helped out, just seeing the joy and happiness on their faces makes it all worthwhile. Being able to build somebody a house that wouldn't have been able to, that's an incredible feeling.

"That's why we kept the charity going; events like this keep happening, and there are always people that need help."

The foundation has only one full-time employee, keeping the overhead costs to a minimum. That means that nearly all of the donations the Robertsons receive can go directly toward the purchases of beds, dressers, nightstands, kitchen appliances, bedding, sofas and dining room tables and chairs, giving those that lost everything a chance to begin the long road back to normalcy.

Robertson has always been reluctant to ask teammates for help, yet when he's held fundraising events, the majority of them have always been there to lend a hand.

"It's important to him, and important to us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It brings perspective, too. There are a lot of people that need a lot of help and need a lot of hope, and that's what he's providing."

Robertson is cognizant that the foundation can only do so much in the wake of tragedy, but having seen first-hand how impactful their work has been since they embarked on this journey in 2011, he and Erin plan to keep raising funds and providing assistance wherever they can.

"It is nice to have that platform to speak on and to raise funds, but I'm not doing this for personal recognition or to make myself look better," he said. "I'm doing this to actually help the people in those communities. Every donation we get, we stretch it as far as we can. As long as people keep donating, we're going to continue helping people."