Tucson, AZ (KOLD) – The earth started shaking at 4:53 p.m. on Tuesday January 12, 2010.
Up until that moment, it had been a good few hours for future FC Tucson striker Wedner Delmonte. For one, he was cooking. Wedner hadn't eaten all day, which wasn't unusual given the poverty in his home country of Haiti. He and his friends, Frantdzy, Berdy, and Villarson had finally gotten their hands on some food. Rice, beans, and a little bit of chicken. All courtesy of the humanitarian organization Convoy of Hope. Not much but good enough to stifle the hunger for a little while.
The food was simmering in some water on the stove. There was laughter. There was fun. Then the room began to move.
At first, they thought it was a big truck outside. Then they realized it wasn't a truck. It didn't take thirty seconds for a truck to pass. And that's how long the earth shook. Thirty seconds. Long enough for the world they knew to come crumbling down.
The Haiti earthquake measured at 7.0 with a force 35 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Its epicenter was about an hour and a half southeast of Wedner's small village of Minotrie. By the end of it, Minotrie was in ruins.
The building they were cooking in collapsed but Wedner managed to walk away with nothing more than a cut foot. He ran to his family's home. Before the quake, Wedner had lived in a humble house made out of blocks. Nothing fancy but good enough to keep rain off their heads. When he arrived, the house was destroyed. His family, however, wasn't there. They had left much earlier to spend time with his sister. His sister's house was sturdier. It survived the quake. His family survived as well.
The days that followed were a mess. While his immediate family was okay, his aunt had lost a niece, a toddler whose body had been found under the rubble. Wedner had also lost some friends. On top of that, Minotrie had lost its primary food source. The building that housed Convoy of Hope was destroyed. Over the next week hundreds of Haitians would die of starvation.
Wedner did the only thing he could think of. He went to the top of a mountain and prayed. Prayed for himself. Prayed for his family. Prayed for his village. Prayed for Haiti.
Three years later, some of Wedner's prayers were answered.
After graduating from Mission of Hope High School, Wedner was working at his alma mater as an English translator. There, he met an American volunteering at a soccer camp he'd helped run, a gentleman by the name of John Feely. Wedner made an impression. When John returned home he made a suggestion to his brother, Arizona Cardinal kicker Jay Feely. Jay should also volunteer in Haiti and, while there, he should look up a particular young soccer player.
Feely followed his brother's lead and met Wedner. Wedner had no knowledge on the American version of football. Had no idea about Jay Feely's career. But he knew he'd found a friend. When Wedner told Feely of his dream to play professional soccer, Feely put in a phone call to Petar Draskin, head coach at Grand Canyon University.
On February 26th, 2013, Wedner arrived in the United States for the first time – en route to a tryout with GCU. It was the first time he'd seen a highway. The first time he'd seen tall buildings. The first time he'd tried ice cream.
The tryout went well but his GPA was terrible. So Wedner worked. He studied. Soon he was brought into the program as a student-athlete. A soccer player for Grand Canyon University. The Feely's were his host family.
Four years later, Wedner will prepare to suit up for his senior season but not before playing this summer for FC Tucson here in the Old Pueblo. His dream of playing professional soccer is closer to becoming a reality. But Wedner remains grounded. He knows for whom he's pursuing these dreams. He knows the children in Minotrie look to him as an example. That they can achieve whatever they want to achieve. He also knows who he's indebted to. That without the Feely's none of this would be possible.
The 2010 Haiti earthquake turned Wedner Delmonte into a survivor struggling to find hope. Now, he's the one bringing hope. After the earth shook, Wedner Delmonte refused to stand still.