Local soccer standout spearheads charity project

Tribune Staff • Jul 6, 2018 at 11:14 PM

Former Grand Haven boys soccer standout and current Butler University student-athlete Ethan King has always taken it upon himself to inspire change in the world around him.

Since he was a child, King and his family have been involved in community outreach programs that have helped those less fortunate around the globe find resources such as running water and clothing.

During a trip to Mozambique, Africa, in 2009, King and his father helped restore broken water wells in rural communities. King, a soccer enthusiast to the core, brought along his soccer ball in hopes of playing a few pick-up games with the locals.

When King began kicking around his soccer ball with the children of the village, he quickly realized how much joy he could bring to their lives with a simple act of sharing. King then remembered all the extra soccer balls he had at home.

"As I watched them play, it dawned on me that I had several soccer balls in my garage at home just sitting there," King said in a statement on his website, charityball.org. "These kids didn't even have one. I thought to myself, ‘they need to have this ball.' So, I did what anyone else would do — I walked over to them and presented it as a gift.

"As we finished the well and began packing up, one of the boys saw us, grabbed the soccer ball and brought it back to me. All the kids followed. I said to him with a smile, ‘No, this is now yours. I've given it to you.' Immediately, they ran, cheered and celebrated like they had just won the lottery. I was moved by their response. I loved seeing and knowing that they had a real ball to call their own. I was also blown away at how something so small and simple could have such a big impact."

Upon his return back home, King decided he wanted to do more to help similar impoverished villages. At that moment, King founded his Charity Ball organization, which has helped provide soccer balls to children to 45 countries.

"I've been doing this since 2010," King added. "I've been at the helm now for eight or so years and I've been able to do a ton of good work with people like Johnson & Johnson and Continental Tire."

Three years ago, Continental Tire donated 1,000 soccer balls to Charity Ball. That sparked another idea for King.

"We wanted to do something special for the World Cup in Russia," he added. "Continental and I have been planning it for a couple months and we decided to co-brand a soccer ball and hand those out. "My father and I are taking over 200 balls to Russia next week and going to five or six places like rehabilitation centers and orphanages and dropping those off. It should be an awesome experience, and I'm excited to see it finally play out.

"This is something that I've been passionate about ever since I was a little kid. We want these kids to know that they matter. A soccer ball has the power to unlock potential beyond the poverty they are faced with. To see their faces light up and to kick the ball around with them for a while is so rewarding.

"Soccer has the power to unite races, awaken self-worth and help children cope with hardship and loss. It can empower big dreams and give the next generation a reason to pursue a more beautiful life and world."

On top of his efforts with Charity Ball, playing collegiate soccer and hard work in the classroom, King is also launching a campaign to raise $25,000 in a project called A Reason To Believe. The goal of the project is to provide clean drinking water to 7,500 people in Kenya this winter and help source a youth soccer tournament for more than 500 kids in the area, as well.

"These kids live in poverty with nothing but the clothes on their backs," he added. "They lack hope and they live in fear. A simple gift of a soccer ball can change that. It's a $25,000 goal, so I'm recruiting different firms and seeing what we can do. We want to give 75,000 people in Kenya clean drinking water by the end of the campaign."

To keep up with King's Charity Ball efforts this month, follow the organization's Twitter account, @TeamCharityBall.

For more information on Charity Ball, visit www.charityball.org.

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