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This Boy Has Given Away More Than 4,000 Soccer Balls To Kids In Need Around The World

06/26/2014 10:01 am ET | Updated Jun 26, 2014

When the glory and the heartbreak of the World Cup is shining through flatscreen TVs in our living rooms, it's easy to forget that the sport reigns supreme in many areas of the Earth where people can barely afford to play the game.

When Ethan King left his home in Michigan to visit Mozambique with his father in 2009, he saw children playing soccer with balls made from plastic bags wrapped in twine. Ethan also saw, for the very first time, kids raising kids because older generations had died of disease. Although the reality before him was jarring, he saw an opportunity to help through a simple object: a soccer ball.

"When I left [Mozambique], I gave away the soccer ball," Ethan, now 10, said in a video featuring his story produced by the I Like Giving campaign. "And the kids went wild, started cheering. It was crazy."

He realized then that soccer balls could spur a lot of positive change.

Five years after his visit to Mozambique, Ethan's nonprofit, Charity Ball, has delivered about 4,000 soccer balls to underserved communities in 22 countries, according to Fox 11 News. When supporters donate $25 to the organization, a soccer ball is donated to children who wouldn't have one otherwise.

Ethan celebrates another Charity Ball donation to a village in South Africa on his Twitter account.

But when so many of the same communities that Charity Ball serves are grappling with humanitarian crises -- such as a lack of clean water or quality education -- why give soccer balls?

"There's something about a soccer ball -- it can bridge ethnicities, it can give a kid who has a mom or dad on a death bed some hope, give them a coping mechanism," Ethan's dad, who helped launch the nonprofit, said in the video. "I think it's really cool when you can take what you love doing and use it to make the world a better place."

According to the nonprofit, allowing kids to play soccer also reduces crime, gives children a sense of value and promotes friendship within a community.

Launching Charity Ball wasn't easy. The first cold call Ethan made to solicit ball donations resulted in quick, hard-to-swallow rejection. But he kept trying. Eventually, major athletic equipment producers, like Franklin, Rawlings and Wilson, jumped on board.

It's no secret that soccer's positive influences reach far beyond the playing field, and the World Cup has created the perfect opportunity to change lives through the sport.

The Football for Development Project is utilizing the global event in Brazil to highlight all positive developments soccer has brought to underserved communities -- not only in the World Cup's host country, but around the world. The initiative works with local organizations to strengthen community ties by using a common interest in soccer. Regular meetings and local projects promote youth leadership, gender equality, peace-building and health education.

"Once they are on the [soccer field], it is easy to transform their passion for the game into meaningful life skills, boosting their employability, teaching them about health risks or fostering peaceful reconciliation between rival groups," Street Football World, of which the initiative is part, states on its website.

As far as soccer's positive effect on those who play, Ethan believes it comes down to equalizing the athletes -- it's all about having a good time, after all.

"When the ball's on the ground and everyone's playing," Ethan said in an interview with Fox 11 News. "It doesn't matter where you're at, as long as you're having fun."

To learn more about Charity Ball, visit the organization's website.

Related on HuffPost:

  • 1. First off, it's a global sport.
    Phillipe Lopez via Getty Images
    Soccer is the sport played most consistently around the world. It's not sectioned off or dominated by one particular country. According to FIFA's most recent Big Count survey, there are 265 million players actively involved in soccer around the world, roughly about 4 percent of the world's population. Sports like American football, on the other hand, are predominantly played and watched in only one country.
  • 2. And the rules are pretty damn simple.
    Goldmund Lukic via Getty Images
    Give or take a few offsides, corner kicks and yellow versus red card rules, it's just about getting the ball into the net without using your hands. What could be easier to understand than that?
  • 3. Plus, minimal equipment is required.
    Associated Press
    No, seriously -- set up some cones, get a ball and you're good to go. Shoes are nice, but definitely not a necessity.
  • 4. Meaning you can play anytime, anywhere.
    Mario Tama via Getty Images
    There's never a bad time for a quick match.
  • 5. Size matters less than agility and speed.
    YouTube
    Soccer may just be the professional team sport where size matters the least. Some of the best players, like Messi, Maradona and Romario, have been an average height of 5'5" or 5'6".
  • 6. But it's still athletically rigorous -- you have to be in amazing shape to keep up.
    Giphy
    Because you're basically sprinting up and down a field for 90-plus minutes. Don't be fooled, this game is not for anyone who tires easily.
  • 7. Most sports get an "offseason" -- soccer doesn't.
    Armend Nimani via Getty Images
    For most top-flight players, there's a league season, a league cup, a club championship and international games all going on at once. If that's not enough, almost every summer there's an international cup or competition of some sort, not to mention friendlies and World Cup qualifying.

    It's the sport that never ends.
  • 8. Meanwhile, World Cups bring the entire planet together.
    Jasper Juinen via Getty Images
    And basically give everyone one VERY important reason to party. The FIFA World Cup is the world's most widely viewed sports event. Around 715 million people watched the 2006 final match in Germany, while the 2010 South Africa event was broadcast to 204 countries on 245 different channels.
  • 9. And with all the international friendlies taking place, you can see top teams play without spending a fortune.
    Joern Pollex - FIFA via Getty Images
    A friendly is exactly what it sounds like: two teams playing "for fun" without any real consequence to their current standing. Because not everyone can afford World Cup prices.
  • 10. Mostly, it's just beautiful to watch.
    YouTube
    If you're a true fan, you remember Nike's Joga Bonito, or "Play Beautiful," campaign like it was yesterday.
  • 11. Especially when players master incredible tricks.
    YouTube
    Your early "career" probably involved a lot of futile attempts at trying to make this happen.
  • 12. Soccer chants prove just how passionate fans are about this.
    YouTube
    And they may, at times, even bring a tear to your eye. And you know that "Seven Nation Army" chant everyone does at sports games now? Guess who started that?
  • 13. It's truly a team sport: Every person counts and anyone can score.
    Associated Press
    Each team fields 11 players. Each one has a specific duty, but every position -- even goalies -- can push forward, help defend a play, take a free kick and even score.
  • 14. Women kick ass in the game -- there's a women's World Cup that also gets crazy viewership numbers.
    And the women's game is just as exciting to watch as the men's. The 2011 Women's World Cup smashed viewership records, drawing hundreds of millions of viewers around the world. Soccer is also a huge draw in the Summer Olympics, and many countries have women's pro-leagues. The skill of these women isn't lost on their fans -- female footballers are some of the biggest celebs abroad.
  • 15. Sportsmanship is an important part of the culture.
    Getty Images via Getty Images
    And even though there are rivalries, players usually respect one another for their individual talents and love of the game. This becomes no more apparent than when you see players exchange jerseys after a good match.
  • 16. Soccer announcers are far superior to all other announcers in the sports world.
    YouTube
    I mean, come on. You can hear the excitement in their exhausting "gooooaaaaal." If you need any more proof that they are by far the most passionate for their sport, just get to know Tiziano Crudelli.
  • 17. There are always new superstars whose fancy footwork or goal-scoring prowess seems to be a gift from the heavens.
    Messi & Beckham via Associated Press/Ronaldo via Adam Pretty for Getty Images/Zidane via Andalou Agency for Getty Inc.
    Many great ones have come and gone. This year, everyone will be watching Argentina's Lionel Messi, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Brazil's Neymar Jr. in hopes of witnessing the magic they'll most likely conjure up on the field.
  • 18. And there is nothing more amazing then watching a goal effortlessly hit the net.
    Giphy
    Especially when they show the replay in slow motion approximately a jillion times. It takes skill and precision to hit a shot from distance right into the corner of the net.
  • 19. Mini celebrations after a player scores are the best.
    Giphy
    What's that, NFL? You give 15-yard penalties for "excessive celebration?" That's cute.
  • 20. But most importantly, more people watch soccer than any other sport in the world.
    Associated Press
    We're three billion strong and the most passionate fans on the planet. We can also be pretty damn coordinated, so be prepared for some craziness this summer.



    So, we have just one question for you...
  • ARE
  • YOU
  • READY
  • ... for the World Cup?
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