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Former Olympian Santiago ‘Jimmy’ Mellado and His ‘Fill the Stadium’ Team Are Determined to Assist the World’s Neediest  

September 7, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The 2021 NFL football season kicks off in days—and after a disjointed schedule last year because of the pandemic, fans are understandably eager to see their favorite teams compete. As NFL teams make final adjustments to rosters and as the NFL commissioner anticipates stadiums filling to capacity this fall, there nevertheless remains another type of “stadium” that must also be filled. 

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on poverty-stricken children around the globe. Compassion International, through its Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative, has been providing essential food, medical care, and support to the impoverished—but the effort is not complete. Compassion’s CEO Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado is determined to achieve Fill the Stadium’s stated goal of helping all 70,000 children in crisis. The team has raised over $31 million so far for 62,000 kids and their families, but they must still “fill the stadium” and reach all 70,000 kids at grave risk of hunger, or worse.

Says Mellado, “We are committed to caring for 70,000 children who were not sponsored due to the pandemic, which is enough children to fill an average NFL football stadium. At Compassion, we believe the empty stadiums at the Tokyo Olympics this summer and at NFL games last season were a sobering reminder of those who still need essential food, health care, and support as this crisis continues.”

Mellado is familiar with striving to “win” on behalf of others. As a standout decathlete, he competed in the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, representing his birth nation, El Salvador. Mellado placed 26th of 42 athletes who qualified in Seoul and set six national records for the highest performance in the decathlon, men’s high jump, 400m, 110m high hurdles, pole vault, and javelin. Thirty-two years later, his decathlon record still stands. Mellado also competed in the Pan Am Games in 1987, placing fourth in the decathlon.

Now, Mellado has a far more pressing mission: to “fill the stadium.” This is why his Fill the Stadium initiative is pushing harder than ever to feed and support the world’s neediest.

In the COVID-19 era, “We have all experienced the reality of empty stadiums,” says the Fill the Stadium team. “The average NFL stadium holds 70,000 seats. We need to reach that many kids. This effort desperately needs a caring, prayerful, and thoughtful community to join together in this critical relief.”

Those holding co-leadership roles in this charitable team effort are Alyssa Naeher, a member of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team (which won a Bronze Medal in Tokyo); Nick Foles, professional football MVP quarterback; Adam Engel of the Chicago White Sox; Sam Burns, PGA TOUR golfer; Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks; Jordy Nelson, former professional wide receiver; Carson Palmer, former professional quarterback; Devin and Jason McCourty, NFL defensive backs; Nate Solder of the New York Giants; Jaccob Slavin of the Carolina Hurricanes; Brock Huard, FOX sports broadcaster and former professional quarterback; and many others. Steve Stenstrom, president of Pro Athletes Outreach, is also playing a lead role in the effort.

To learn more about this effort, visit the Fill the Stadium website, as well as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Founded in 1952,Compassion International is a Christian child development organization that works to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Compassion revolutionized the fight against global poverty by working exclusively with the Church to lift children out of spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty. Compassion partners with more than 8,000 churches in 25 countries to deliver its holistic child development program to over 2 million babies, children, and young adults. Its child sponsorship program has been validated through independent, empirical research.


To interview Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, president and CEO of Compassion International, or another Fill the Stadium spokesperson, contact Hamilton Strategies, Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.