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Compassion International Aims to Reach 70,000 Kids at a Time of ‘Empty Stadiums’ and Emergency Conditions

July 20, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Given the COVID-19 spike in Tokyo, there will be no fans in attendance at Olympic events within the city because of a new state of emergency, which went into effect on July 12 and will remain until Aug. 22. The Olympics take place July 23-Aug. 8—and Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, a former Olympian, knows exactly how restrictive and difficult the “empty stadium” effect will be.

Mellado is CEO of Compassion International, whose Fill the Stadium (FtS) initiative is striving to provide essential food, medical care, and support to children living in extreme poverty during the pandemic. Mellado recruited pro athletes and other leaders to help achieve Fill the Stadium’s goal of providing food and other support for 70,000 children in crisis in the developing world—and to date, he and his team have raised over $28 million for some 57,500 children and their families. But they haven’t yet “filled” the stadium. They need to reach all 70,000 kids.

Says Mellado, “There are children in crisis all over the world and we cannot forget them. We must show support for those who need it most—and many are suffering as a direct result of the ‘empty stadium’ effect caused by the pandemic. The state of emergency in Tokyo today is a stark reminder of desperate hardship.”

Mellado is experienced at setting goals and working hard to achieve them, no matter the odds. As a standout decathlete, Mellado competed in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, representing his birth nation, El Salvador. He placed 26th of 42 athletes who qualified in Seoul and set six national records for the highest performance in the decathlon, 400 meters, high jump, 110-meter high hurdles, pole vault, and javelin.

He also competed in the Pan Am Games in 1987—placing fourth in the decathlon. As a collegiate athlete, he was a member of Southern Methodist University’s 1983 NCAA Division 1 Indoor and Outdoor National Championship team, setting the school record that year. Today he serves on the Board of Directors of Art of the Olympians. For Mellado, the disciplined pursuit of significant goals has always been an internal driver.

It’s why Mellado’s Fill the Stadium initiative is pushing harder than ever to “win” on behalf of the neediest. Those holding co-leadership roles in this team effort are Alyssa Naeher, recently named to the U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster this year; 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, defensive backs of New England; 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.

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. That’s why this effort so desperately needs a caring, prayerful, and thoughtful community to join together in this critical relief.”

To learn more, visit the Fill the Stadium website, and 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.