Brett Favre

The football star lost his childhood home to Katrina. Now, he's helping other victims

Quarterback Brett Favre may live in Wisconsin – the three-time NFL MVP plays for the Green Bay Packers – but he grew up in Kiln, Miss., and still has close ties to the region. He owns a home on 460 acres in nearby Harriesburg, and eight years ago he started The Brett Favre Fourward Foundation to helped disabled and disadvantaged kids in Wisconsin and Mississippi (it’s already donated more than $1.5 million). So when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, destroying his childhood home and thousands of others, he launched an effort to raise money for the victims through his organization. Favre, 35, spoke to PEOPLE about how the storm affected his family, and what he’s doing to help.

How’s your family? Is everyone accounted for?
Some cousins or uncles or aunts, we haven’t been able to get in touch with them. The communication system down there is completely wiped away. (But) all the people who were in my mother’s house (in Kiln) were fine. They were lucky – the house is about three miles from the Bay of St. Louis. They had eight feet of water in the house. Been down there 35 years and never seen water even come close to the yard.

Who was at your mother’s house when the storm hit?
I would say 15 to 20 people: My mother and my two brothers, my younger brother’s wife and three kids, my grandmother and some friends of the family. And my wife (Deanna, 36) and two daughters (Brittany, 16, and Breleigh, 6) were at my house in Hattiesburg, which is 60 miles north of where my mother lives.

Were you able to stay in contact with them?
I was able to talk to (the people at my mother’s house) until about 9 a.m. Monday. We’d figured (the phones would go out,) but when I didn’t hear from them for two days, I was concerned. I was just worried, with each passing minute, an hour, and before I knew it, it was Tuesday. Eventually, when the water had receded and they were able to get out, my mom found a (TV news) van and asked if she could make a call. It was the first time I had heard from anyone down there. I wasn’t even able to get in touch with my wife, who was much more inland, until late Tuesday night

How are you feeling now?
Terrible. Not only does (the devastation) affect me and my family, but everyone I grew up with. The high schools I played against, the stadiums I played in, the restaurants we ate in are completely destroyed. It’s going to take time to rebuild, and some people don’t have time: My grandmother’s 87. She can’t swim. She was up in the attic. She told me, “I thought that was it. I’ve lived a good life and to think it was going to go like that. I lost everything, your momma lost everything and so did everyone else.”

What are you doing to help in addition to the Favre Fourward Foundation campaign?
When I got to Tennessee last week to play a preseason game, (Tennessee Titans quarterback) Steve McNair and I did a public service announcement and talked about what people can do financially. I’m just trying to keep the pressure on. With each day that passes, people will forget. They’ll say, “Aw, that’s a shame.” And, “I hope they get their lives back together.” But that in itself won’t help.

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