NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The earthquake in Haiti hit home for one student at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville and now the school is trying to help him get back to Haiti to find his family.
Basketball player Elija Brice is a junior at Trevecca.
He is from Port-au-Prince and left his family behind in the capital city three years ago to come to Nashville.
"Elija is a big, tall gifted athlete. You look at him, he's always got a broad smile on his face, but he's still a young man," said Michael Johnson, an administrator at Trevecca. "It's hard for me to differentiate being an administrator at the university and what it's like to be a father to a son who is dealing with a very real sense of loss, so my heart goes out to him on a personal level."
The past week has been an emotional journey for Brice.
After the earthquake hit the Haitian capitol last Tuesday, he didn't know whether his family was alive or dead.
Brice wants to get back home as soon as he can.
Johnson said, "I walked out to the bus with him, and I put my arm around him and said, ‘What can we do for you Elija? We're praying for you,' and it was just so real and honest. He said, ‘Help me find my family.'"
Brice said he tried to call home last Thursday, but he wasn't able to find any answers.
This week, he finally got the news he'd been dreading. His grandmother, who raised him, didn't survive the earthquake.
Brenda Patterson, Trevecca's Director of Athletics, said, "He found out the house she lived in, on the lower level, it collapsed on top of her so she passed away."
Unfortunately, Brice has not heard any new details about his other relatives. His father, brothers and cousins all still live in Port-au-Prince.
"It's just so difficult for him to even talk about it. It's a news story for everybody else, it's a personal loss for him," said Johnson.
Monday night, the school began efforts to raise money to help Brice go home.
The athletics department set up collection tables outside the gym during the men's basketball game and took up an offering to try to raise enough money to buy Brice a plane ticket.
Brice said he misses his home country, and would go back tomorrow if he could. He hopes to return to Haiti when possible to renew his passport.
The school hopes to raise enough money to help him get there.
"There's a sense in which the whole campus is sad with him and yet tonight, at a basketball game, we have the opportunity to cheer for him, and that makes this a little more palatable for us," University President Dan Boone told the crowd.
Sophomore Michael Lewy told News 2, "We found out yesterday that he's lost some family down there, so he really does need to go down there and see them if he can."
More than $1,500 was donated at Monday night's game and the university is still accepting donations.
Donations can be made by sending a check, payable to Trevecca Nazarene University to Director of Athletics Brenda Patterson.
For more information, call the athletics office at 615-248-1271, or visit the TNU athletics' Web site.