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Compassion International Is Focused on Helping 70,000 Kids Amid Hunger Inequalities at a Time of ‘Empty Stadiums’ and Renewed COVID Concerns

July 26, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The 2020 Tokyo Games have begun—and, oddly, no fans are in attendance at most Olympic events given the current COVID state of emergency, due to rising new infections and the highly contagious delta variant. Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, a former Olympian himself, knows well how challenging the “empty stadium” effect will be during these Games—and well beyond.

Mellado is CEO of Compassion International, whose Fill the Stadium (FtS) initiative has been hard at work providing essential food, medical care, and support to children living in extreme poverty amid the pandemic. Mellado recruited pro athletes and other leaders to achieve Fill the Stadium’s goal of helping 70,000 children in crisis in the developing world. To date, the team has raised over $28 million for some 57,500 children and their families. But as pandemic-driven hunger makes the world more unequal—global hunger shot up by some 118 million people last year, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization—Mellado and his dedicated team are determined to “fill” the stadium. They must reach all 70,000 kids who are at risk of hunger or worse.

Says Mellado, “There are children in crisis all over the world, and I will not forget them. Many are suffering as a direct result of the ‘empty stadium’ effect caused by the global pandemic. The state of emergency in Tokyo is a stark reminder of desperate hardship. We must keep working on behalf of the neediest.”

Mellado is experienced at setting goals and staying focused to achieve them. 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.

Mellado 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” for the neediest. Those holding co-leadership roles in this charitable team 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 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, 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.