Compassion International Aims to Feed and Care for 70,000 Vulnerable Children at a Time of Urgent Need
July 6, 2021
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Summer Olympics in Tokyo kick off in mere weeks—and Alyssa Naeher, the number-one goalkeeper for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, will be the starting goalie for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team as it goes up against its global rivals. Recently, Naeher was named to the Olympics roster—one of only 18 players in American women’s soccer to achieve the honor. This will be her second Olympics roster appearance after Rio in 2016.
Naeher, a standout pro player with the Chicago Red Stars, was the starting goalie for the 2019 World Cup-winning team. Aside from her athletic commitments, she plays another vital role: She is part of the distinguished effort by Compassion International and its Fill the Stadium (FtS) initiative to provide essential food, medical care, and support to children living in extreme poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other top athletes from other sports are part of this extraordinary team effort, too.
Said Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, CEO of Compassion International and leader of this effort, “There are kids in crisis all around the world. These children aren’t dying of COVID-19. They’re dying of starvation.”
A former Olympian himself, Mellado recruited pro athletes and leaders—including Naeher—to help Fill the Stadium’s initiative of saving 70,000 children in crisis in the developing world. To date, this top-notch team has raised well over $28 million for some 57,500 children and their families who are living in extreme poverty. But they haven’t “filled” the stadium yet. They must reach all 70,000 children in crisis.
Said Naeher of the urgent effort, “There’s a lot of people hurting right now and needing help at an extreme time. When I hear the number 70,000—it’s a big number. For me, I compare that to a specific event of playing the World Cup final in Lyonnais in 2019 in a sold-out stadium. It was energetic. It was loud. And it was an experience people chose. Now, we can reinsert Compassion International and children into that environment. Since 70,000 kids worldwide can benefit from this project and live a better life because of our help, I’m challenging youth soccer clubs and others to help ‘fill a seat’ in the stadium for a great cause.”
As a standout decathlete, Mellado competed in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, representing his birth nation, El Salvador. Mellado placed 26th of 42 athletes who qualified in Seoul. During that competition, he 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 the school record in that same year. The disciplined pursuit of significant goals has always been an internal driver in his life.
Alyssa Naeher was named to the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team roster for the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio, Brazil, in which the team placed fifth. She’s since become the team’s number-one goalkeeper. This past weekend, Naeher played in a pair of exhibition games in Connecticut as part of the team’s preparations for the Olympics in Tokyo (which will be quite a bit different than other Olympics, given the pandemic; for example, organizers have set a limit of 50 percent capacity for each Olympic venue, and all fans in attendance must be Japanese residents and must be masked). Naeher was also a four-year soccer standout at Penn State.
Along with Naeher, those holding co-leadership roles in Fill the Stadium’s efforts for kids are 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—and a former NFL quarterback himself—is also playing a lead role in this 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. That’s why this effort so desperately needs a caring, prayerful, and thoughtful community to join together in this critical relief.”
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 Alyssa Naeher; 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.