Commentary

Colorado College football player brings aid to countries through Cover One

Originally Published: October 27, 2008
By Lauren Reynolds | ESPN.com

The 2005 Kashmir earthquake left about 75,000 dead, many more injured and 3.3 million Pakistanis homeless. It caused an estimated $5 billion dollars of damage and left the mountainous region of the country nearly uninhabitable.

It also inspired Colorado College football player Billy Blaustein to take action. Blaustein, who was a sophomore trying to fill time while rehabbing an injury, was volunteering at the time for his high school, Redwood (Larkspur, Calif.) High School, when he teamed up with his former coaches there to raise money and supplies -- totaling 15 tents, 35 sleeping bags, and $1,000 for aid.

For many people, that effort would have been enough. But for Blaustein, it was just the beginning.

Cover One
Cover OneAlina Ford, a Colorado College volleyball player who graduated in May 2008, leads soccer drills with children in Honduras.
"I really wanted to use my athletic background and do something more," explained the senior International Political Economics major. "As athletes, we have a specific skill set, something that in the U.S. we take for granted. Here, sports are everywhere. We forget that for most of the world, they're a luxury."

Blaustein took his idea for merging sports and international aid to Colorado College, where he launched Cover One International. It started as a local aid group, working with underserved communities in the state. Blaustein worked for two years to organize an international trip for Colorado College athletes for the summer of 2008, as he saw a significant need that was not being fulfilled by existing aid organizations and because, as he points out, athletes don't generally get to study abroad because of their demanding schedules. An international aid trip would broaden the athletes' collegiate experience while putting their knowledge and work ethic to use in an area that sorely needed it.

Cover One

For more information about Cover One, click here.
"We couldn't find many programs that do anything specifically for kids in Honduras," said Blaustein, who is minoring in Spanish. "There are a lot of [international aid organizations] that do a lot of awesome projects, but none focusing specifically on kids."

Blaustein's proposal -- sending seven students to Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the world, to teach about education, health care and water sanitation -- received the Kathryn W. Davis Project for Peace grant, a national award. The group raised additional funds by selling fair-trade coffee on campus.

The group spent 24 days working with local leaders from the Red Cross and other service organizations to create soccer teams for children in San Miguelito and teach classes about basic health care to the women in La Esperanza. Nearly 300 people showed up the first day, including more than 50 kids. Blaustein's group distributed cleats and soccer balls, and even arranged to play in a local stadium.

[+] EnlargeCover One
Cover One International Billy Blaustein and his Cover One group lead a meeting with children involved in the organization's soccer program.
The women's clinic, led by Jocelyn Corbett, a health-care and sociology major, was even more successful. Corbett saw the numbers of attendees increase daily, and she left a more empowered, knowledgeable community. Blaustein hopes to accomplish even more with the women in these communities on Cover One's next trip, which he is hoping will be in the summer of 2009.

"I'd like to bring a doctor, an OB/GYN, and run clinics dealing with HIV and depression. There aren't a lot of other options for women [there] to learn about these topics," Blaustein said.

Blaustein hopes Cover One will expand into a group with a presence on campuses all over the country. He encourages all students to take advantage of the thousands of grants and scholarships available to them to do good in the world. While the term "Cover One" is a defensive scheme in football, it can be related to Blaustein's aid organization by the idea that people are covering for one another.

"Our coaches are such big role models in our lives, and we have the opportunity to pass that on," Blaustein said. "Athletes are in a unique situation: We're already looked up to on our campuses and communities. We can take advantage of that by being role models and inspiring others to action."

Lauren Reynolds is an editor for ESPN.com.