Retired Green Bay Packer Jordy Nelson joins effort to help impoverished children during pandemic
No doubt, the COVID–19 pandemic has stressed communities to the breaking point. Shutdowns and job losses have tapped resources and drained slush funds in even the strongest regions of the world. For impoverished communities around the globe, struggling even before the pandemic, the situation is growing desperate. The impacts of COVID-19 are being felt most severely by those living in poverty due to shortages of health care and essential food supplies. As the pandemic rages in the developing world, urban and overpopulated regions with limited access to testing, treatment, and financial resources are at their knees. The situation is now extremely urgent.
Fill the Stadium, a fundraising effort launched this fall, hopes to advocate for the needs of children living in desperate poverty around the world and alleviate some of their hardships. Pro athletes including retired Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson and his wife are determined to help 70,000 children in the wake of COVID-19. The purposeful 70,000 number represents the average capacity of professional football stadiums in America. The Fill the Stadium effort aims to direct money from sports fans whose game attendance spending has been canceled by the pandemic. The effort hopes that those who would normally spend money to attend a professional sports event this year — but who can’t because of COVID-19 — choose instead to support at-risk children.
According to national data from Statista, the average cost for attending a professional football game can top $500. This cost includes game tickets, parking, beverages, food, and programs. That same amount can provide a year’s worth of essential food, nutritional supplements, hygiene essentials, and medical COVID-19 screenings for children and their families through Compassion International, a humanitarian nonprofit focused on helping children in poverty.
Ken McKinney, Compassion International’s director of pro athlete partnership, says the large problem of poverty needs big support. “It’s a stadium-sized problem, and you can imagine 70,000 kids right now in need. So, we’ve come up with this idea, let’s fill the stadium, and that means raising support really just to stand in the gap for these families to get through the COVID crisis.”
The organization works in countries including Peru, Brazil, Honduras, Ecuador, Uganda, and the Philippines. Nelson and his wife have been longtime supporters of Compassion International and they join other standout professional athletes including Dakota Dozier and Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings, Nick Foles of the Chicago Bears, and Alyssa Naeher of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. These elite athletes have put their names and leadership behind the effort to bring attention to the Fill the Stadium effort.
Compassion International CEO and President Santiago Mellado states there was an intense need even before COVID-19 stuck. “Long before any signs of a pandemic, Compassion registered an additional 70,000 highly vulnerable children into our program.” Mellado says more than 1,200 promotional events had to be canceled due to COVID-19 and the children are still waiting to be sponsored. “As these children wait, it’s our priority to provide for their critical needs.”
To date, the Fill the Stadium effort has raised more than $10.5 million, which meets over 30% of the organization’s goal. In terms of a 70,000-seat capacity stadium? You can imagine, at this point, there wouldn’t be competition for the restrooms with only 21,138 seats filled. Mellado is not giving up and with the help of pro athletes like Jordy Nelson, the effort continues to build. “We’ve got a big gap this year because of COVID-19, yet we are determined to keep our commitment to every one of these 70,000 children.”
Steve Stenstrom, former NFL quarterback — playing for the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers — is president of Pro Athletes Outreach, a partner with Compassion International in the Fill the Stadium effort. Stenstrom says it’s all about getting the ball over the line for a winning purpose. “We are approaching a tipping point moment in this movement, and we’re inspired more than ever to reach a critical mass and help tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, in desperate need around the globe.”
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