INDIANAPOLIS (BVM) — Ethan King grew up with a soccer ball near his foot at all times. But when he was 10 years old, he discovered that there were a lot of kids who didn’t. Just a decade into his life, King started his own non-profit organization called Charity Ball, and it has taken off in the years since.
Currently a Division I college soccer player at Butler University, King has had a special career on the pitch. But what he has done off of it is even more impressive. With COVID-19 impacting various countries around the world this year, King decided to create another initiative called 19 United to help educate those in Africa about the dangers of the virus.
King first played soccer at 6 years old in a local rec league in his hometown of Grand Haven, Mich. Just two years later, his family would end up moving to South Africa, where King learned to grow a passion for soccer.
“If you live in South Africa and you’re not a soccer fan, I’m not sure what you’re really doing,” King said with a laugh. “Soccer is their game. All the kids play it and I got exposed to that and just really got into it.”
The 21-year-old soccer star was drawn to the fluidity of the game right away, but also the team aspect and discipline the sport requires.
“It’s a beautiful game,” King said. “It brings people together no matter what religion you are or what language you might speak.”
Admittedly, King was not a star player right away, noting that he was not very good during his time playing in South Africa. But it didn’t take long for him to adapt and develop, and his soccer career has only taken off from there.
Back home in Michigan, King would enjoy a special prep soccer career at Grand Haven High School. A two-year starter and three-time letterwinner for the Buccaneers, King holds many fond memories of playing high school soccer with his friends.
One of his favorite moments at Grand Haven was scoring a game-winning goal late in a district finals game in his junior year. The win resulted in Grand Haven’s fifth consecutive district title.
But as King grew up, what he was doing on the soccer field wasn’t always his top focus. At 10 years old, King traveled to Mozambique, Africa — tagging along on a business trip his dad was on. Mozambique is a very rundown and poor country that does not have much. But they do have a passion for the sport of soccer.
King brought a soccer ball along on the trip to kick around and practice with. Once the local kids saw he had a brand new ball, they quickly came over to play with the Michigan native. It was at that moment King realized he should give the ball to them, and that gesture changed his life forever.
“It was just a really surreal moment of being exposed to the pure joy and happiness of these kids,” King said. “I had several soccer balls in my garage back home so I thought I could give this ball away and it will change these kids’ lives. I gave it away and the response was overpowering. It really changed the trajectory of my life and I discovered the power of generosity.”
Inspired by that moment, King realized he had the opportunity to do more. Just a decade into his life, the ambitious soccer player created his own non-profit organization called Charity Ball. With some help from his parents among others, the organization took off, with the main goal being to deliver soccer balls to those who are less fortunate around the world.
Through the years, King has been able to travel back to Africa to hand deliver soccer balls to kids. Being able to see the impact he has had first-hand could not be more rewarding.
“Knowing that you were able to make a difference is the coolest thing,” King said. “For a small amount of money, you can make a difference in someone’s life anywhere across the planet. Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces is the most rewarding thing because that’s what you put the hours in for and work for. We’re trying to help kids and give them real hope and this provides them with a little key to unlock their potential.”
The gift of a new soccer ball can change the entire world for a child.
— Charity Ball (@TeamCharityBall) July 29, 2020
The impressive organization has given King a lot of publicity over the years, but more importantly, created more attention for Charity Ball. When he was a teenager, King was even interviewed by Katie Couric.
“Never in a million years did I think I would be on Katie Couric’s talk show,” King said. “That was super humbling and I had the opportunity to shed light on what I was working on.”
Over the past few years, Charity Ball has grown even more, and has been a catalyst for change beyond soccer. The non-profit has been developing several different initiatives to help better the world on and off the soccer field. One current initiative the program is working on is called, “Level the Field,” which seeks to help equal the playing field for women in the sport of soccer.
The organization has also seeked to give clean water to poverty stricken countries who may not have it. To do so, they have had the help of Vox, a program run by King’s father.
“Vox has been huge and is a parent company of Charity Ball,” King said. “My dad is a huge mentor for me and is one of my heroes. He’s been instrumental into molding me into the person I am and has helped me learn the organizational side of things.”
Before the pandemic, Charity Ball was also looking to build a brand new soccer pitch in Kenya.
But the initiative that has garnered some of the most significant focus recently has been 19 United. The project was launched in the spring as a response to COVID-19, with a goal to slow and stop the spread of the virus in African communities that the organization works with. Working alongside Vox for clean water, the project has been a huge help and success.
“We’ve transitioned from getting kids soccer balls to saving people’s lives,” King said. “The results of the project have been incredible and it’s just been an awesome project.”
As COVID-19 continues to impact the world, King and Charity Ball are working on a new campaign called 19 Forward, the details of which will be revealed in the near future.
In addition to the work he puts into Charity Ball, King is also a student and Division I college soccer player at Butler University. The 21-year-old saw the school as a perfect fit for him, and always imagined playing Division I soccer.
“Butler was the best opportunity for me,” King explained. “Since I started in the game, it was always my dream to play Division I soccer and I couldn’t pass that up.”
King has thoroughly enjoyed his time as a Bulldog, and the overall team experience he has had as a part of the Butler soccer program. Although he admits it can be a challenge at times, King would not trade the thrill of being on a college soccer team for anything.
Unfortunately, the Butler soccer player received difficult news recently when the Big East announced they would be postponing fall sports to the spring. While King is disappointed he can’t play this fall, he is just hoping for an opportunity come spring.
“It was tough and super unfortunate,” King said about the Big East’s announcement to postpone fall sports. “Everyone looks forward to their senior year and it kind of being a farewell tour. It’s heartbreaking to see the season go but hopefully we can get a spring season in.”
While at Butler, King has studied entrepreneurship and hopes to go to grad school to obtain a law degree. Whether he gets back on the soccer field at Butler or not remains to be seen, but regardless, King will continue having a positive impact on the people he meets, something he has strived to do for over a decade now.
“To whom much has been given, much is required,” King said. “I’ve been given a lot and I have the ability to give back. It’s really a question of ‘why not?’ The impact I’m able to have with everything I do is tremendous.”
King plans to keep Charity Ball growing in the years to come. The impact the organization continues to have is impressive, and there’s no telling how far it might end up going. But the impact has gone both ways and King — an incredible athlete, student, and person — doesn’t know where he’d be without Charity Ball in his life.
“I’m incredibly proud of this but it’s more rewarding to see the results of everything that’s happened,” King concluded. “I’m continually motivated to do everything I can to make a difference. It’s so easy to get caught up in daily things but at some point in time you have to ask, ‘what am I doing and what impact am I going to leave on this planet?’ Going the extra step and thinking about making a difference allows us to all unlock something special for society.”