Rescued miners showered with gifts, vacation offers
SAN JOSE MINE, Chile — Most of the 33 rescued miners were still in a hospital about an hour away Thursday. But when they feel stronger, they may return to lives filled with gifts, rich offers to tell their stories and opportunities to see the world.
Leonardo Farkas, a Chilean businessman, has already written checks of 5 million pesos, or about $10,460, to each of the miners.
“The idea is that they shouldn’t be stressed while looking for new jobs,” said Rodrigo Mundaca, a spokesman for Farkas.
Workers at the state mining company Codelco said they would chip in about $600. While a relatively high-paying profession here, a successful miner in Chile usually cannot expect much more than about $2,000 a month in salary.
Beyond the money, a range of other promised gifts have flooded in. A Greek mining company, ELMIN Hellenic Mining Enterprises, has offered a free one-week vacation to Greece for each miner and a companion, so that they could “enjoy our sun and sea” after their long ordeal.
“It was our employees’ idea, as they work under similar conditions to the Chileans and immediately felt solidarity with them,” said the company’s managing director, Lyberis Polychronopoulos.
Family members of the rescued miners said they had also been invited by two European soccer teams, Manchester United and Real Madrid, to visit their stadiums in Britain and Spain. Real Madrid had already sent 33 jerseys — signed by players and with the words “Have strength, miners” printed on them — to the miners while they were trapped below. One of the miners, Franklin Lobos, once played professionally.
Then there are other goodies, like the latest-generation iPod Touch models that Apple says it has sent to each miner. And, of course, the miners get to keep the Oakley sunglasses they wore while leaving the mine to protect their light-deprived eyes, according to Alejandro Pino, an official who helped prepare the miners before their rescue.
Edison Pena, an Elvis fanatic among the miners, may get to see the King.
Graceland and the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau extended invitations for him and a loved one to visit Elvis’ home in Memphis. Pena, 34, had officials send down Elvis music through the narrow borehole so he could lead the other miners in sing-alongs.
Pena, who earned the nickname the Runner for jogging three to six miles a day through the mine tunnels during his captivity, could also swing up to New York for the New York City Marathon on Nov. 7.
The New York Road Runners, the group that directs the marathon, said Thursday that they hoped to bring Pena to town to watch the race — or to participate, if he is up for it.
“He has taken the phrase ‘runner for life’ to a whole new level,” said Mary Wittenberg, the chief executive of New York Road Runners, in an e-mail.