“A January trip to the Dominican Republic provided Chris and Jill Davis a homecoming of sorts, a return to a country neither had visited since Chris played in the Dominican Winter League in 2010. It also laid the groundwork for the Orioles first baseman and his wife to make a global impact amid a pandemic that would shut down baseball two months later.
The visit was in partnership with Compassion International, a Christian humanitarian nonprofit focused on helping children in poverty, to see firsthand the impact of some of their previous donations to the organization. After coming home, the Davises decided to make a donation specifically to Compassion’s efforts in the Dominican, but with the coronavirus pandemic leaving thousands of children in need, they’ve redirected their $1 million gift to Compassion’s “Fill the Stadium” initiative.
‘When I found out how many people and how many kids specifically were going to be affected by this — Jill and I had been talking about doing something globally on a large scale,’ Chris told The Baltimore Sun, ‘and I feel like God just really put this on our hearts, in our lives.’
Much like the cancellations it prompted throughout sports, the pandemic canceled about 1,200 events Compassion had planned to connect children and sponsors. Typically, the organization serves more than 2 million children in 25 countries, but the lost events left 70,000 children unsponsored. Some athletes who work with the organization pointed out that the figure is about the number of seats in an NFL arena, and with the virus keeping fans out of most sports venues, Compassion hoped those who would normally spend hundreds on tickets, concessions and merchandise to attend games might instead support the children in need. Other athletes involved in Fill the Stadium include former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Nick Foles, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed.
‘In a time when stadiums are empty, it’s a stadium’s worth of children,’ said Ken McKinney, Compassion’s Director of Pro Athlete Partnerships. ‘It’s a stadium-sized problem, and you can imagine 70,000 kids right now in need. So we’ve come up with this idea, let’s fill the stadium, and that means raising support really just to stand in the gap for these families to get through the COVID crisis.’
The Davises’ gift will support 2,000 families, as every $500 provides a year’s worth of food, hygiene products and COVID-19 medical screenings to a child and his or her family. In many communities where Compassion operates, workers make only enough money in a day to buy food for that night, then repeat the process, but the pandemic has caused the jobs, the markets, and sometimes both, to dry up, McKinney said.
The World Bank estimates that the pandemic could push as many as 115 million people worldwide into extreme poverty in 2020 alone, while a recent study from the United Nations Children Fund and others found that pandemic-related hunger could cause 10,000 child deaths every month.
McKinney is unsurprised by the Davises’ desire to curtail that through Fill the Stadium.”