As the Tokyo Olympics Conclude, Hunger Across the World Continues—and Fill the Stadium ‘Fights On’ for the Less Fortunate

Compassion International Will Not Stop Working on Behalf of 70,000 Kids as Vast Inequalities Drive an ‘Empty Stadium’ Effect

August 10, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Viewers of the Tokyo Olympics this summer were taken aback, at virtually every event, by the mostly empty stadiums amid the pandemic—but Compassion International and its Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative know the dramatic “empty stadium” effect too well. Empty stadiums are a stark reminder of struggle as people all over the world go hungry. Inequality has worsened as poorer people and nations lose their hard-fought battle against starvation and poverty. Sadly, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization recently reported that global hunger soared by some 118 million people in 2020.

This is why Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, a former Olympian and the CEO of Compassion International, has been leading a robust effort to provide essential food, medical care, and support to children living in extreme poverty amid a time of coronavirus. Mellado recruited pro athletes and other leaders to assist in Fill the Stadium’s goal of helping 70,000 children in crisis. To date, the team has raised slightly over $30 million for some 61,000 children and their families, but the task isn’t completed yet. The team hasn’t yet “filled” the stadium. They must still reach all 70,000 kids who are at risk of hunger—or worse.

Says Mellado, “We are committed to caring for 70,000 children who were not sponsored, due to the pandemic. That’s enough children to fill an average NFL football stadium. The empty stadiums in Tokyo were a stark reminder to us of 70,000 children who are still in need of essential food, health care, and support as this crisis continues on in the developing world.”

Mellado adds, “The Olympics may have ended, but the battle against hunger continues—as does our commitment to care for our stadium of children in need.”

Mellado is experienced at setting goals and going all-out to achieve them. As a standout decathlete, he 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. Mellado also competed in the Pan Am Games in 1987, placing fourth in the decathlon. And as a collegiate athlete, he was a member of Southern Methodist University’s 1983 NCAA Division 1 Indoor and Outdoor National Championship team, setting a school record that year. Today, he serves on the Board of Directors of Art of the Olympians.

For Mellado, the pursuit of significant goals is an internal driver. It’s why Compassion’s Fill the Stadium initiative is pushing harder than ever to “win” on behalf of the neediest. Those holding co-leadership roles in this charitable effort are Alyssa Naeher, a member of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team 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, 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 team 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. This effort desperately needs a caring, prayerful, and thoughtful community to join together in this critical relief.”

To learn more, 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,, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.