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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico's first Olympic Gold medalist Monica Puig brought fellow tennis great Maria Sharapova to the island and brought supplies and words of encouragement.
“My mother always told me God put me in this world for a reason," said Puig. "I think the reason is to help Puerto Rico and give hope to people who have lost everything. In this moment that's what we need."
Ricardo Rosselló, Puerto Rico’s Governor, welcomed the athletes at the airport on Monday. “Thank you for coming to your home and helping us in our time of need,” Rosselló said to Puig. She got emotional as the governor played a video showing some of the destruction throughout the island.
“As you have done in your professional careers, you have encountered insurmountable obstacles and you have been able to defeat them” Rosselló Puig and Sharapova. “I’m here to tell you the people of Puerto Rico will do the same.”
Puig won Puerto Rico’s first Olympic gold medal at the Rio de Janiero games last summer. After the storm, she set up a fundraising page and raised more than $130,000.
That money has been used to buy $35,000 worth of insulin, solar lanterns, gas stoves, propane cylinders and 200 AT&T pre-paid cellphones. “ We hope the donations will help," Puig said.
The athletes visited children at the San Jorge Children’s Hospital and delivered the insulin and other medical supplies.
At least 49 people have died in the wake of Hurricane Maria and the majority of Puerto Ricans remain without power, access to safe drinking water or food.
Sharapova, who is from Russia, is donating all the proceeds of her candy company, “Sugarpova,” until the end of the year to Puerto Rico’s recovery.
After the hospital, the two women headed to the town of Loíza with the Red Cross, where they distributed water and food. As NBC News recently reported, Loíza, which is rich in Afro-Caribbean history and culture, saw much devastation.
Monday's trip was the first time Puig had been home since the storm. She said she was “nervous” to see how bad this destruction is and called it a “bittersweet homecoming.”
Puig and Sharapova played a match together in San Juan last December.
“I’m so thankful and grateful to be back on this island,” said Sharapova, who pledged to continue to help Puig in raising funds and awareness about the island's situation.
“We’re professional tennis players, but at the end of the day, were humans and we feel their pain,” she said.