Nearly 50 years ago baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente died while attempting to deliver supplies to the earthquake victims of Nicaragua.
Thirty three years later a Bronx nonprofit, Project Club Clemente, reenacted that failed flight and delivered the promised aid to Nicaragua in a project called “The Flight for Humanity.”
Dec. 31, 2020, marked the 15th anniversary and last week, Eliezer Rodriguez, founder of the nonprofit, hosted a ceremony to remember the flight and introduced a screenplay, “The Light in the Shadow–In Darkness there is Hope,” about a dream he had and how that led to “The Flight for Humanity.”
“My goal throughout the project was to complete the promise Mr. Clemente made to Nicaragua,” Rodriguez said to the Bronx Times. “It was never about getting publicity for myself. Ffiteen years later, it’s time to tell my story and to remind people that we must love thy neighbor. That is why I wrote the screenplay. And just like everything that happened coincidentally since I started this project many years ago, they continue to happen and it serves to remind me of my goal.”
In attendance at the event were Senator Luis Sepulveda, Councilmen Fernando Cabrera and Mark Gjonaj, Ray Negron, bestselling author, NY Yankees executive, Assemblyman Jose Rivera, Judge Fiordaliza Rodriguez, retired Judge Eugene Oliver and Sharlene Brown, executive director for the Castle Hill YMCA.
The Bronx based nonprofit was created in 2000, to educate, promote and celebrate the memory of Clemente.
Despite mechanical failures, hours before the scheduled departure, the aircraft took off from Puerto Rico, and landed in Nicaragua at 10:57 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2005 and a 33-year-old promise was fulfilled. Assemblyman Jose Rivera greeted The Project in Nicaragua and President Enrique Bolaños honored the organization with an unforgettable celebration.
“I was glad that Roberto Clemente, Jr., accepted the invitation to join us in The Flight,” Rodriguez said. “Completing Mr. Clemente’s last promise was not easy. We faced many challenges including the tsunami of 2004 and Katrina in 2005. But my faith in God and my commitment to The Project, made our success possible.” The distribution of the aid in Nicaragua began on “Three Kings Day” through ODAS, a social service program run by, at that time, Nicaragua’s First Lady Lila T. Bolaños.”