U.S. captain Christie Rampone, a resident of Manasquan, N.J., was right smack in the middle of Hurricane Sandy. She saw her beloved Jersey Shore get battered and broken but was inspired by how the community responded. In the true spirit of Thanksgiving, during this holiday she has brought a family into her home that had lost their own.
U.S. Women’s National Team captain Christie Rampone has lived in and around the Jersey Shore her entire life.
She grew up in Point Pleasant, attended Monmouth College, lived in Hoboken for a while during her 20s and currently lives in Manasquan, a picturesque small New Jersey town about 75 minutes south of New York City.
She’s been through some tough weather before, but nothing could have prepared her for what happened to New York and New Jersey over a few days in late October.
The massive storm caused what New Jersey governor Chris Christie called “incalculable” damage, with some estimates putting the cost at $50 billion.
The Point Pleasant boardwalk, which embodies many of Rampone’s fondest childhood memories, was virtually destroyed. It will cost millions to rebuild.
“I don’t know what kind of summer we’ll have,” said Rampone. “We’ll see how the shore is going to be for the summer and years to come. It may never be the same, but we’ll rebuild and we’ll make it as close as we can with the spirit people have around here.”
Thankfully, Rampone’s house was not damaged, but many families in her area were not so fortunate. Rampone said that on a drive through the most stricken areas, she saw some people with their entire water-damaged first floors out on their front lawns. Approximately 120 homes in Manasquan are uninhabitable and 75 percent of those will probably have to be totally rebuilt.
One of those was families was Amy and Rick Stainton. Amy, a former college teammate of Rampone’s at Monmouth, and Rick, an assistant women’s soccer coach at Seton Hall and former assistant coach for Sky Blue FC in Women’s Professional Soccer, are family friends of the Rampones. Like the Rampones, they have two young daughters (one in preschool and one in second grade) and they suddenly found themselves homeless. They lost both their cars to the deluge water, as well.
The first floor of their home was totally flooded as was part of the second floor. There wasn’t any hesitation on Rampone’s part.
“I told Amy we have the space and I’ll be traveling with the national team a bit,” said Rampone, who was also set to induct Amy into the Monmouth Athletic Hall of Fame before the storm cancelled that event. “I told her that I’d be in and out, it was not too far from their daughter’s school and it was the best fit. Lots of people reached out to them and she was a bit overwhelmed with everything. They didn’t know where to go so we basically made the decision for them. I told her, ‘You are coming here.’”
Anyone who has ever seen Rampone play during her many years on the national team knows about her competitive spirit, and that spirit transferred over to the recovery from the storm.
Sandy left the Rampones without power for 12 days. She and her husband, Chris, acquired a generator about three days post-storm and powered some lights in the living room, the hot water heater for showers and her gas stove to allow her to cook. A gas fireplace provided heat. They charged their iPads with their car battery for a week.
During the first few days after the storm, and with no cell phone service, Rampone was so cut off from the outside world that she was one of the last to know that U.S. Soccer had announced the hiring of Tom Sermanni as the new head coach. She had to drive a few towns over just to check her email.
She never let any of the adversity slow her down.
“Our town was awesome,” said Rampone. “Everyone really rallied around each other. We brought food and coffee and hot chocolate for the National Guard, and we made a ton of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until we starting getting power back on. Everyone worked together, supporting each other, helping everyone dig out, just taking care of people that needed it.”
Rampone will spend the morning of Thanksgiving Day in a parade in Philadelphia with U.S. teammates Nicole Barnhart, Carli Lloyd and Heather O’Reilly and then have dinner with her in-laws. The Staintons will also spend the day with in-laws, but the Rampones and Staintons will come together over the weekend to share a turkey dinner and sincere thanks that they have friends to help them through the hard times.
“In the first week, it was just, get your boots on, get your gloves on and go from one job to another,” said Rampone. “It was about who needs help and you’d go help them. It was so impressive. Even people who lost things are helping others who lost. Everyone was opening their homes, doing what they could do. There were emails every day giving us updates, where to volunteer, and everyone was doing something. I give credit to the town and all the volunteers. Everything was organized and it was so amazing to see people helping each other out so much.”
Rampone, America’s No. 1 Soccer Mom, was very inspired by her own daughter Rylie and the lessons she was able to learn from the experience. At Manasquan Elementary, where Rylie attends first grade, 71 families and 105 children along with 16 teachers were displaced.
“As it turned out, Rylie had an unbelievable experience of helping her friends move, getting their toys, moving their lives,” said Rampone. “Half the kids at her school no longer have homes. She got her clothes ready to donate and you really got a positive takeaway from such a negative thing. She never complained about not having TV or anything. She just wanted to help her friends.”
The Staintons will be staying with the Rampones for at least six to eight months, or as long as it takes to navigate their insurance and government assistance to rebuild their home.
“We’ll figure it out,” said Rampone. “At Christmas, there will be four piles under the tree instead of two and we’ll have to make sure the kids do their homework instead of playing together all the time, but all this makes you realize how important your friends are in times of need.”
Count in that group the players of the U.S. Women’s National Team, who will be signing numerous items for charity auctions to raise money for families in need in Rampone’s area. If you want to help, you can donate at http://www.manasquan-nj.com/hurricane-donations.html and for more information on how to help, email firstname.lastname@example.org.