A couple of weeks ago I stumble across a Twitter handle called Charity Ball that helps get soccer balls to impoverished kids. I think this sounds very cool so I start following them. Shortly after I get an email saying that the organization is interested in seeing if there is a way that Bumpy Pitch and Charity Ball could do something together. I say of course and tell him to give me a call.
A few days later I get a phone call from Ethan King. He introduces himself and then asks that I give him some more info on Bumpy Pitch. After my overview, he gives me a similar rundown of what Charity Ball is all about. He tells me this great story of being in Africa with his dad helping repair water wells. How he brought a soccer ball with him on the trip and what that soccer ball meant to the local kids. He points out how the act of giving his soccer ball to the locals when it was time for them to leave helped shape his desire to take this idea further and do something much bigger with it.
I was not only very impressed and moved by this story, but I was eager to see how we could help out.
After the description I asked Ethan how old he is. He told me that it was actually his birthday and that he turned 12. Now Ethan has become my hero.
We chat a bit further and I tell Ethan that we would like to help out and get involved. We want to help him accomplish some goals he has set out for the year. And we decide that the first thing we should do is tell Ethan’s story on TOW so the soccer community becomes more familiar with it. That interview is after the jump. You definitely want to check it out.
Tell me how Charity Ball started and the story behind it. – Charity Ball started a couple summers ago when I went to Mozambique with my dad to fix water wells. I brought along my soccer ball thinking I could have some fun with kids in the villages and play some soccer. When I got to Mozambique I got out my ball and in a matter of seconds 50 kids were playing. It was a great experience.
I looked over and saw some other balls. They looked like plastic grocery bags wrapped up with twine and I realized these kids don’t even have an actual soccer ball to play with. That just really boggled my mind. On the last day of our trip I gave away my soccer ball. It really left a big impact on me to see all the kids’ faces with smiles on them and cheering. When I got back to the United States I started thinking and I finally said to myself that I want to see more of this. I want to keep giving away new soccer balls to kids and see smiles on their faces. So I contacted some people. I contacted the former president of Wilson Sports, Jim Baugh, and he gave me some direction and helped out a little. I then contacted Wilson’s president and he gave me some balls. I contacted Franklin and Rawlings, built a connection with SoccerPro, MC Sports and the varsity soccer coach at Hope College, Dr. Steve Smith. They all helped me reach my goal last year of giving away 500 soccer balls. So this year my goal is 1,000. Last year we delivered soccer balls to Haiti, India, Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique. I had a lot of fun last year and so I thought maybe I should go for a bigger goal this year. That’s why I chose 1,000.
There were a lot of highlights from last year. We actually delivered forty new soccer balls to kids in a South African township during the US v England World Cup match. It was awesome to see the smiles on the kids’ faces while they held their new soccer balls. A lot of these kids don’t get the opportunity to play with a real soccer ball and enjoy the beautiful game. That’s what Charity Ball is all about -getting impoverished kids new, quality soccer balls.
How old were you when you started Charity Ball? – I started Charity Ball when I was ten, and I just turned 12.
Well happy birthday! A lot of people want to do something and have ideas to get involved. They talk about it but never really end up doing much about it. You had this idea to get kids soccer balls and to get involved. What was the very first step you had to take to start the process? – I returned home and I thought about it for a long time and I just kept thinking I love seeing kids being able to play the sport they love with a real ball. At first, I was a little scared because I didn’t know what to expect and how it was all going to go down. But with the support of my family I started calling up some people. Eventually money and soccer balls started coming in and it just kind of went from there.
When you started reaching out to people with your idea and asking for them to donate some soccer balls that had to be a nerve-wracking experience for you. How did it feel when you got your first yes? – Early on I called a store down in Tennessee that my grandparents recommended. I told them about what I was doing with Charity Ball and asked if they would consider donating some soccer balls. The guy replied and said “we don’t really do that.” His response messed with my confidence a little, but I didn’t let it stop me. I heard about a local lawyer that was interested in my project. I called him up and he invited me to his office. He gave me a check and encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing. It felt amazing!
Tell me how it makes you feel knowing that you are helping kids have access to soccer balls and enriching their lives? – Before Charity Ball, I never thought about doing anything like this. I just played soccer and that was all. But for a lot of these kids, to get a real soccer ball is just an amazing thing for them. Soccer is their life. When they get a real soccer ball and they get to play the game they love it makes me feel really good.
Obviously you enjoy playing the sport, but do you think your relationship with soccer has changed since you started Charity Ball? –To be honest, my relationship with soccer hasn’t really changed that much. I loved the game before the project and I love it now.
So your goal is to donate 1,000 soccer balls this year. Tell me how can people get involved to help you achieve that goal? –There are three ways people can get involved.
People can donate money on the Charity Ball website. (charityball.org) They can donate new, quality soccer balls, or they can promote the project in some way. For example, businesses might put the Charity Ball logo on their website. Soccer teams might promote Charity Ball by wearing a Charity Ball logo on their jersey. Something like that.
Anything you would like to say in closing? – I love to see people think big about what I’m doing, and I like to think big too. My dream would be for every professional soccer player to donate a ball to a kid. It would be amazing if someday the USA National Team did a soccer clinic with Charity Ball – and at the end of the clinic every kid would receive a soccer ball from one of the players. That would be sweet!
That’s amazing goal and we would like to help you achieve your goals. Let’s get you to 1,000 soccer balls donated this year. – Thank you so much!
Thank you Ethan!