Soccer is a passion for millions worldwide, and Butler University junior Ethan King has enhanced that global love—and the lives of thousands of children overseas—by supplying them with new soccer balls and clean drinking water.
Through his nonprofit organization, Charity Ball, King has coordinated donations of hundreds of soccer balls to children in 50 countries. Most destinations are impoverished, including villages where children play the sport by kicking around makeshift balls of garbage wrapped in plastic and twine. Charity Ball recently expanded its reach, thanks to Level the Field, a program within the organization that supplies balls to girls’ soccer teams and clubs. Half of Charity Ball deliveries now go to girls.
Today, however, soccer fields from Indianapolis to India are mostly empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Beautiful Game” is on hold, but King is drawing on his Charity Ball contacts for his latest initiative, United 19. This program will educate African villages on the dangers of the coronavirus and how to slow its spread, especially in areas with high rates of immunocompromised individuals already suffering from HIV, dysentery, and other diseases.
“These places don’t really have hospitals or healthcare systems to help them stay healthy,” says King, an Entrepreneurship and Innovation major and forward on the Butler Men’s Soccer team. “We’re trying to take preventative action. We’re trying to give people the resources and advocacy they need and deserve.”
In collaboration with his father Brian King’s clean water organization, Vox, King is setting up prevention programs for workers from Vox to implement in the villages. He is identifying communities he has worked with for Charity Ball as areas in need of clean water, which assists in proper handwashing to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s essential for people to have clean water to wash their hands,” King says. “When the water wells are broken down, they’re having to get water from the rivers they bathe in or other sources of contaminated water. That’s not going to help them in the fight against the coronavirus.”
Stephanie Fernhaber, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, had a frontrow seat to King’s development of United 19. The program began as King’s project in Fernhaber’s Social Entrepreneurship course, which addresses social issues and problems in business development. Fernahber says United 19 can be an effective weapon against COVID-19’s spread.
“I think our students and younger people have great ideas, and we need to rely on their untapped potential,” she says. “What King has been trying to do has been a great example to incorporate into the class. I think everyone, especially nonprofits, needs to be responsive to the crisis. You have to respond and figure out how to incorporate it into your mission.”
As Head Coach for Butler Men’s Soccer, Paul Snape says King’s work on the field has improved each season. In 2019, King played 17 matches for the squad, registering an assist and 4 shots on goal. King’s work off the field impressed Snape, too.
“Ethan seems to find that extra layer of motivation to grow,” Snape says. “He’s growing into a leader on the team. He’s becoming a leader, and Charity Ball has helped him achieve that.”
Snape grew up in soccer-crazed Liverpool, England. As a child, he only had one soccer ball, and he knew other neighborhood kids whose families couldn’t afford that luxury. Through Charity Ball, Level the Field, and now United 19, Snape is thrilled to see how King is using the sport of soccer as a channel to help children.
“He got me thinking about how soccer can be a vehicle that teaches more than kicking a ball,” the coach says. “It can educate communities and bring them together.”
United 19 is accepting donations. Click here to give and to learn more about the international program.
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