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Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Please visit Save-A-Thon For Africa for updates on our exciting project to do volunteer soccer missions, put on the Bridges Soccer Cup, and build a world-class soccer academy in Nigeria, Africa by 2017. Thanks! See you soon!

Any questions? You can always send an email to

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Next Trip

While I am not ready to announce all of the details quite yet I can tell you that there will be a Save-A-Thon For Africa 2014! We will be going back to Africa to deliver much needed aid to hundreds of needy kids there around May or June 2014.

The big change this time will be that we are expanding the mission to include 10-15 young women from the USA who want to join us to learn valuable leadership skills while serving others.

Stay tuned here for more information in the coming days. If you are unfamiliar with Save-A-Thon For Africa click here to see what we did in 2012.

Can't wait to expand our mission and all the good we can do with the help of others and YOU!

If you are interested in joining us email to be included in our upcoming announcements with more information on how you can get involved.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 3: Video

Here is a new video of our day in the second village with lots of footage of what it was like there.  We all miss it and can't wait to go back.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day 3: Gratitude

The previous day (Saturday) was a huge day with the long car ride out to Borges' village, the anticipation of finding, then meeting Borges, the craziness of the crowd, etc.  So for today (Sunday, Dec 23) we decided two things:

1.  Keep the trip close to home base (no long car rides), and;
2.  Visit a village where the need was great and the expectation was low.

When Eric told us he found a village less than an hour away where the kids had very little we were so excited to get there.  Apparently, this village didn't get too much attention from humanitarian visits and yet it was less than hour away from the capital, Accra.  I will tell you why I think this little village gets little attention in a second.

Here are a few photos of the sights from the car as we headed to this little village.  We weren't bringing food this time so we had a little more room in our trusty compact SUV, carrying the remaining balls (about 50?) and little gifts.

Apparently the best ice cubes you can buy makes drinking sensual.
I did NOT know ice cubes had that effect!  ;-)

Love the impact of color in this country!
Decorated for Christmas on Dec 23, 2012
Chicken coop by the side of the road.  I don't think too many of these chickens were
still alive by the time we passed by later in the day.

This little guy is helping push a medium-sized fridge to a
location where used appliances are for sale.
Just pushing and smiling!
He carried the door from the cart on his head.  Nice work!

The roads started to get rough as we neared the village.

I love the mix of colors in this photo of this girl taking a break
from selling bags of water, in the bowl on her head.

So, as we reached the halfway point to the village we pulled off to a different village and picked up Auntie Comfort.  The reason this village doesn't get much attention is because it's very difficult to find and the roads there, as we would soon find out, are rough.  Not just unpaved, rough!

So, Auntie Comfort hopped in a cab (there wasn't room for her in our car) and we followed the cab for about 25-30 minutes to the village.  I will just say here, though I think it's probably clear just by looking at Auntie Comfort, that she was an absolute angel!  So helpful in getting us through the protocol of visiting the village with the village chief and then keeping things going smoothly the entire day.  We miss her!

Auntie Comfort

Our arrival was fairly low-key initially, despite Vincent getting our SUV stuck in a ditch as we parked the car.  Sort of comical as like 50 guys emerged suddenly to help rescue us.  We got out and then walked through most of the village--which is ALWAYS fascinating--to find the chief and make sure he was OK with us giving gifts to his villagers.

One of the many beautiful children curious about these strange visitors from far away.
The Animal Control guy had't quite made his daily rounds yet.  Lovely!

Very nice Village Chief with his wife (at least one of his wives). 

I love this picture.  These sweet children with mine walking back to the soccer field to distribute gifts.

Once we had clearance from the chief we headed back to the SUV to start the distribution process.  I have to tell you that for me, and I know Marissa and Kylie feel the same way, this visit was more fun and touching than even visiting Borges village because these kids A) had no idea we were coming so the element of surprise made it more exciting for them and us, and B) rarely see visitors and they were touched and grateful that we came to see them.

So, same drill as the day before.  We had the kids form 3 lines so we could have some order as we handed out the gifts.

Here are the boys lined up, half of them in jerseys, not yet knowing why they are lined up.

Same deal for the girls.  Notice the tiny one in the front.  Wrong line sweetie!

Kylie and Marissa handing out suckers and fruit chews in purple gift bags.

These boys got used balls from our local soccer club in Logan.  Amazing to see
their grateful faces for something that most American kids would be looking to replace.

Pink is her color!

Sweet little face.

Marissa with one of the many smiles we had on this day, and this entire trip!

After handing out most of the gifts we had a few leftovers and that's always where things get tricky.  The girls wanted to give extras to the kids that tugged on their heartstrings but as much as we tried to discreetly give them out, it seemed like 50 other kids would notice and wonder why they weren't getting more.  Tricky but we managed.  I can't blame the children for thinking of the SUV where we had the gifts as though it were Mary Poppins' bottomless bag.  I distracted the kids by having us all play a HUGE game of soccer on their field.  It was chaos but distracted everyone long enough to give out the remaining few gifts to the kids.

A MUCH older "kid" hamming it up with a new jersey set.  I asked him what he did for work, he's 26,
and he said "I play soccer."  I asked if he got paid for that and he just repeated: I play soccer.  

It was such a rewarding day for us and how thankful we are to Eric Peasah and Auntie Comfort for making this trip happen!  We just showed up but they were the ones to connect us to this great group of children and adults.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Promise Kept: Part 2

Imagine being left out of the gift giving! You can understand some of these looks.
For the next part of our adventure I think it might help you to imagine being a group of just five people bringing in goods for over 250 children (onlooking/ supervising adults made the number closer to 300+ people.) These gifts weren't exactly extravagant or expensive, in fact, to most people in the world they were really sort of basic: soccer balls, a warm meal of chicken and rice, a bottle of soda, pens & notebooks, and candy for the little kids.

But the cool thing about these gifts is that to the children we visited they were rare and extremely hard to come by.  So, the scarcity of these items and the response by the kids (and the adults) turned out to be a tricky combination of gratitude and joy mixed with fear of being left out and maybe a dash of greed.

We tried to organize the kids into groups (in addition to a meal and soda for all we put the boys in a line for soccer balls, girls in a line for school supplies, and little ones in a line for some fruit snacks and DumDum suckers) to make the distribution process efficient but you can only have as much efficiency as the kids will allow.  Some of the older boys who earnestly volunteered to help Marissa and Kylie (see last photos at bottom) with the tasks ended up shooing away some of the kids when it wasn't their turn or barking at them to keep them in line.  I must say that for the most part, at least at first, the kids complied and it was fairly orderly.

On my previous visit we had encountered a mentally ill woman who didn't understand that the gifts were for the kids and made a bit of ruckus so I was on the lookout for her and advised the girls to keep their distance.  Well, this time she was a bit more lively as we politely tried to ignore her and focus on the kids.  She didn't like that and actually picked up a large rock and acted like she was going to throw it or come at us.  I instinctively pushed myself between her and my girls and then turned my back to her so that if she was going to attack us a) the girls wouldn't be hit, and b) I would get hit in the back and not the front.  I knew she would only have one shot and it probably wouldn't hurt that badly but I was also trying to avoid the confrontation as I thought a wrestling match between a mentally ill village woman and a big white American man would sort of put an unwelcome mark on the day's effort.  Thankfully she backed down and went her way without incident.  However, it did shake us up slightly and I tucked it into the "Don't tell Mom" mental envelope (until now) and got back to work.

One additional complication was that on this day there was a certain group of the village kids who were all dressed up for pictures because they had been sponsored by an international charity group called Compassion.  This group's village representative saw that we were there to give gifts and informed us that the Compassion kids didn't need anything and should be excluded from the festivities.  It appeared that we had enough for these kids too (30 kids?) but this individual took a hard line and we followed suit.  But the ironically-named Compassion kids just had to linger and watch these other kids get things and frankly the girls and I felt badly about it.  But my attitude was: "When in Rome...don't make waves."  Or however that saying goes.

However, I had almost forgotten who I had brought with me: my big-hearted, compassionate 17 year-old daughter, Marissa.  In all the commotion of passing out gifts, keeping an eye on my girls, and trying to take pictures I looked up and saw Marissa crying hard.  I initially panicked having no idea why she was crying (was the mentally ill woman back?!) and hurried over to find out what was wrong.

This one little girl (white dress below) was beside herself that she didn't get anything and started crying.  Marissa saw this little girl and felt so sorry for her.  This little girl's tears on top of Marissa's tender feelings while helping so many kids that had nothing was too much for her and she "lost it."  This caused Kylie to cry as well.  Wanting to help someone so much and being told you can't was just too much, and I understood.  So, my dear Marissa asked me if it was OK to give her a soda and I said: Yes!

The photos below tell the rest of the story...

Marissa can't stand the tears of one little left-out girl.
Disobeying instructions, Marissa makes sure this little girl gets a soda anyway.  Look at those tears!
All better now.
Can I just interject a little fatherly note here?  How rewarding for me to see my 17 year-old daughter have her heart touched in this way!  Secretly, or maybe not so secretly, I had hoped for this type of unforgettable experience that would occur for both of my girls, but especially my teenage daughter about to head out into the world as an adult.  She has had a materially abundant life, like nearly every other American teenager I know, but I believe that abundance of the heart and spirit is what lasts and helps shape these kids for future greatness and peace in this life.  Here in the USA we have SO much.  But maybe we have so much that we sometimes (often?) lack the richness of the heart that can only come from the tears of a child, a $0.50 bottle of soda, and a hug and smile that bond two people from very different worlds.

So, we continued on with the effort until we had distributed the balls and gifts.  Here are a few pictures of the sweet children who received the various gifts we gave out that day.

Holding his own box of chicken and rice.

Here are some of the boys who received balls posing with Kylie for photos we gave to the donors of these balls.  Some seemed to enjoy the moment more than others.


Marissa with one of the few girls who actually got
a ball.  Culturally the boys got the balls and the
girls got school supplies.  Maybe next time we will focus more on the girls playing soccer.

As the day moved along the children, like any children will do, got a bit restless holding their food and wondering what else these white people may have brought to them.  The older boys started to ask for things on the sly in hushed voices.  "Mister--I need a ball.  What about shoes?  Do you have any shoes?"  This is when the day started getting harder.  Saying "no" is very difficult on the spot.  

I had told the girls beforehand that we would never be able to meet the need in this one day and would have to leave some of the kids wanting and that it would be hard.  But each of us had one or two kids we connected with in the short time we were there and naturally wanted to do something more for them.  The problem was that we were completely exposed in the middle of the large crowd and could barely make it back to the car, let alone open it and discreetly hand something special to just one child. 
I should have known better but the fatigue, the heat, the commotion, and my heartstrings all combined to make me at least attempt to try and give away all we had left in a fair and calm way.  What else was I going to do with the items we brought?!  Kylie had brought an old pair of goalie gloves and a personal jersey or two and directed me to give them to certain kids.  I did all I could do distract the other kids but before I knew it I was literally surrounded by at least 40-50 kids in front of the car door.  I tried my best to give the extra gifts to the intended recipients but was literally "mobbed" by these kids.  I used my height to hold the items out of reach but as soon as I moved to hand it to the child pairs and pairs of hands started grabbing me to the point that my hands actually got scratched and I almost fell down.  I was not at all prepared for that sort of pushing and grabbing so handed off the goods and made my way out of the crowd for some fresh air.  Thankfully the girls weren't mobbed like that.

I was disappointed by this behavior but wrote if off to my lack of expertise in doing this sort of gift-giving and to the thinking these kids must have had in their heads: "We rarely get visitors with such unusual and rare things that I just have to get something out of this golden opportunity!"  I don't really blame the kids but will be smarter next time in the logistics of generosity.

One quick funny story.  Due to the heat we certainly were dancing a bit with dehydration but after none of us having had to empty the bladder all day that urge snuck up on all of us and I asked someone for assistance in finding a toilet or somewhere to take care of business.  So, this young man escorted me, with the girls close behind, about 30 yards from the big group to a VERY exposed spot one foot off the road.  I sort of looked at him, looked around, looked at him again, looked at my girls, then moved off the road to a tree about 5-10 yards for a little privacy, but still in view of at least 20-30 seemingly disinterested villagers.  Talk about stage fright!!

The girls returning from the bush-room, er "bath-room."
While I was trying to take care of business our escort turned to the girls and pointed to "my spot."  The girls made an expression like "You have GOT to be kidding me!"  He laughed at them and then took them to more discrete location.  Marissa was a bit more committed to the effort than was Kylie and was able to find some semi-private relief.  Kylie actually declined the opportunity which I found quite shocking given my knowledge of her usually small or weak-ish bladder.  I am not sure when she actually did go  but I think she didn't take care of things until that night back in Accra.  At 12 hours she may have set some sort of personal, if not world, record for "holding it."  Yikes!

Group shot towards the end of the visit.  Smiles all around!
Some of the girls' main helpers for the day. Sad to see us go
(and by "us" I mean the girls.)
Thanks to good thinking and a generous effort made by Kylie's soccer coach's wife, Katie Hollingsworth, we were able to collect and deliver over 60 sets of reversible soccer jerseys for the village to use for team games.  These jerseys for the new Northern Utah United Soccer League would have otherwise gone unused.  So glad to know they are being used right now by aspiring soccer greats in this village in Ghana.

Our host, Eric, explaining how the jerseys work
and asking the village chief to be sure they are
shared and put to the best use.
Kylie handing over one set of 15 jerseys to the village
councilman already wearing a Save-A-Thon For Africa T-shirt.

See you next time guys!

As the day grew dark we got back into the car, suddenly much more spacious, and headed for home.  Traffic wasn't quite as bad on the way back so we made it "home" in about 2 hours.  We were hungry and hit good ol' KFC for some chicken and Coke.  Then off to bed to prepare for the next amazing day in an entirely different village and another amazing experience.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Day 2: A Promise Kept

So with the day essentially starting in the wee hours of the morning I wasn't exactly sure what to expect and I knew the girls really had no idea.  Yes, they knew this was the day we were going to the village, hopefully find Borges there and meet hundreds of other children.  But, as with some things in life like the birth of a child, a wedding, your first job, etc. you just can't be fully prepared for an experience with words alone.  I was anxious for the day and frankly it started to feel surreal.

As I was coming out of my awful night's sleep I began to notice our air conditioner started to work less effectively and was making a strange noise.  This was followed by a drip-drip-drip sound.  Through my groggy morning eyes I bolted awake as I realized that the air conditioner was leaking water on the bedside table on which I had placed the laptop with which I am writing now.

Actually it was leaking a steady stream of dirty A/C water on my laptop which was on the bedside table.  Lovely! Thankfully my awesome brother had given me a laptop case made by Incase (brilliantly yet sincerely placed promotion here) months earlier and it protected my laptop from what would have been an otherwise complete disaster.  (For the record I was then able to leverage this damage into a $50 discount on the price we paid for our room there.  They weren't too happy with my request but I was happy to introduce them to a higher level of customer service than perhaps they were quite ready for. :-)

Anyway, after we left the Erata Hotel we moved our stuff and the 6 full duffle bags of balls and goodies for the kids to the temple about 20 minutes away--traffic was light since it was early morning.  Once we settled in the girls took a nap while we waited for Eric and Vincent (our driver) to re-pack the car with the 10 cases of soda, 250 small bowls of hot food, 3 duffle bags of balls and goodies.

As we "settled in" to our new dorm room at the temple we discovered that the A/C was really not working AND the toilet wasn't flushing.  We were then given the option of two other rooms nearby to see if they were a bit more ready for their American guests.  One of the rooms had working A/C but no working toilet and the other had no A/C but a toilet with a powerful flush.  So, we debated what was more important: A/C or working toilet.  I pointed out, as the only guy in our party, that working A/C would affect every minute of our time in the room and we really only needed a working toilet maybe 1-3 times a day (albeit for a few precious moments).  I did also point out that there were public restrooms one floor down that could be utilized as needed so we opted for the room with the working A/C.  (Don't tell anyone but being the resourceful, clever dad that I am I noted that a) the room with the working toilet was actually accessible via a connecting door
and b) the place was very much not busy for the weekend since the temple was closed until the following Wednesday.  (The dorms we stayed at are meant for people coming to attend the temple from far away to have affordable and convenient housing so since the temple would be shut down I knew the room would also be quiet.) Soooo, with a strategically placed hanger in the bottom of the doorway leading to the other room we had access to a working toilet during our stay.

As that got settled we then hopped (more like crammed) into the car for our journey East out of Accra to the village previously known as Never's village. Never is the name of the boy who was once a trafficked child and was featured on an Oprah show exposing the dangers and realities of the life of the "fishing children."  Our host, Eric, facilitated Never's release and he has become a bit of a celebrity.  However, for us I think we will always think of this village as Borges's village since he really is the inspiration behind Save-A-Thon For Africa.

Due to some of the worst traffic I have ever seen the journey was about 3.5 hours there.  We sat cramped in the car that long time with bags of food or soccer balls in our laps.  I have to admit that the anticipation and great sights of Ghana made the trip go by fairly quickly and all of a sudden: there we were.

You can sort of tell by the look on the girls' faces that they were a bit hesitant in this sea of humanity and the associated sights, smells and sounds.  But they did about the only thing we could do: dive in and get to work!
I think the girls were thinking: Umm, where do we start?
Shockingly we had a nice young man very willing to help my girls. ;-)
As we started to organize the chaos--or try to at least--all three of us scanned the crowd of 300 people or so looking for the boy who catalyzed this whole effort: Borges!  Kylie said multiple times on the trip over, "I really hope Borges is there.  I hope we can find him!"  Truth be told there was no guarantee he would be there.  As we learned last March kids are trafficked into the fishing industry, or worse, more often than you might think, and the line between dead and alive in Africa is always thin so you just never know what might happen over the course of nine months in these villages.  Plus, nobody but the girls and I even knew his name and that he was the one who inspired us to do this.

So, imagine our relief and happiness when we spotted Borges toward the back of the crowd and his beautiful smile welcomed us.  His smile grew even more when Kylie asked him. "Do you know why we are here.?"  He answered with that same humble voice that asked me for a ball nine months earlier: "Me?!!"  Yes, Borges, we were there for you!  But given all of the food, balls, and gifts we brought 9,000 miles we thought we would share with 250 of your closest friends in the village.  He was proud and very happy with that.

More details on our visit to Borges' village in the next post.