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Major League Soccer raises awareness about malaria campaign at Disney resort

Major League Soccer raises awareness about malaria campaign at Disney resort

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Major League Soccer raises awareness about malaria campaign at Disney resort

Jan. 31, 2008  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0791}

An e-Review Feature
By Sarah Alsgaard**

ORLANDO — Every 30 seconds, a child in Africa dies from malaria, making it the leading killer of children on the continent.

Chicago Fire midfielder Diego Gutierrez talks with fans as he signs autographs during the Major League Soccer skills demonstration Jan. 19 to raise awareness for the Nothing But Nets campaign. Photo by Sarah Alsgaard. Photo #08-0739.

To help raise awareness of how United Methodists can prevent the spread of malaria in Africa, the Nothing But Nets campaign organized a Major League Soccer demonstration at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando Jan. 19.

The Nothing But Nets campaign is working to prevent malaria in Africa through donations that purchase life-saving bed nets. Each $10 donation buys one bed net treated with an insecticide that kills the mosquitoes that transmit malaria, thus preventing the disease from spreading.

The United Methodist Church is a partner in the Nothing But Nets campaign, which also includes Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association, VH1, Sports Illustrated and the United Nations Foundation.

The Nothing But Nets campaign is just starting to gather steam in the Florida Conference, said the Rev. Larry Rankin, director of Global Mission and Justice Ministries for the conference.

“Our conference has a covenantal relationship with the East Angola Conference,” said Rankin. “However, Nothing but Nets does not currently disperse nets in Angola. They may be able to if we convince them that we can fund a significant amount of nets.”

Even if the contributions don’t go directly to Angola, Rankin said, it is still important for local churches to get involved with this campaign.

“Our conference recently adopted a missional focus of children and poverty,” Rankin said. “Nothing But Nets is an easy way for churches to get involved in this important ministry.”

Players, spectators commit to making a difference

At the soccer demonstration, Major League Soccer (MLS) players Dwayne De Rosario, Houston Dynamo; Kevin Hartman, Kansas City Wizards; Bakary Soumare, Chicago Fire; Jose Burciaga Jr., Colarado Rapids; and Diego Gutierrez, Chicago Fire, each demonstrated their various soccer skills in a small, fenced-in field, while Nothing But Nets staffers handed out wristbands and an announcer explained the campaign to spectators.

“It’s something that I felt Major League Soccer needed to be involved with,” said Gutierrez, the Nothing But Nets spokesperson for MLS. “As a parent, I felt that I could give a voice to something that’s geared toward (preventing something that affects) mainly women and children. It’s a massive campaign. It’s very important.”

Nothing But Nets raffled autographed soccer balls and a personal meet-and-greet experience with MLS players. They also handed out free wristbands and information about the campaign.

A Nothing But Nets volunteer discusses the campaign and raffle for an autographed soccer ball with two spectators at the Major League Soccer skills demonstration. Photo by Sarah Alsgaard. Photo #08-0740.

“I bought a couple of those nets for my mom for a Christmas gift in honor of her,” said Sandi Shilling, a volunteer at the Nothing But Nets event tent. “To give up a little bit of time to help people in another country, I think, is kind of a cool thing to do.”

“I think it’s going really well,” she said. “I mean you look around all the fields and you see orange wristbands everywhere, and a lot of people have taken the time to stop and talk and learn about it.”

The event coincided with Dick’s Sporting Good’s “Kick It! 3 v. 3 Tournament,” a national soccer tournament that also took place at Disney’s Wide World of Sports that Saturday, said Adrianna Logalbo, deputy director of Partnership Campaigns for the United Nations Foundation.
The United Nations Foundation and Measles Initiative use contributions to buy the nets and distribute them in Africa, according to the Nothing But Nets Web site. Visitors to the site’s home page can see where the nets are currently being distributed. The Measles Initiative works with the various African governments to determine where measles vaccinations will next be distributed. The nets are distributed along with the vaccinations.
“It is just $10, which is the cost of going to the movies, and that $10 will actually be a net,” Logalbo said. “One-hundred percent of your funds go to purchasing the net, and it will get to a child in Africa.”

Getting involved

Individuals who would like to contribute to the campaign can do so at The Nothing But Nets campaign is a General Advance Special (#982015), or second-mile giving, of The United Methodist Church. United Methodists are encouraged to contribute $10 or more, download materials, such as posters to raise further awareness, and sign up to volunteer at upcoming events.

Another way to raise money for the campaign is to create or join a “netraiser team,” in which church groups can set a financial goal and ask for sponsors to help reach that goal. Churches can also sponsor other netraiser teams on the site, Logalbo said.

“We have a lot of youth groups who hold basketball tournaments and soccer tournaments as fundraisers,” Logalbo said. “You know, anything that helps raise the awareness, as well as raise money for nets.”

The Nothing But Nets campaign was inspired by a Sports Illustrated column written by Rick Reilly in 2006. In the column Reilly asked every reader to contribute $10 to buy a net. That one column alone generated more than $1.2 million. Since then, thousands of people have donated money, and the United Nations Foundation decided to create the grass-roots campaign, Nothing But Nets.
Reilly wrote a thank-you column Nov. 27, 2006, describing his trip to Nigeria, where the first nets were distributed. “Everywhere you went, people mistook you for King Tut,” he wrote. “Women got down on their knees and kissed your hand. Whole towns threw festivals.”

To date, Nothing But Nets has distributed 1,816,302 nets, according to its Web site,


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is a freelance writer based in Lakeland.