St. Mark parishioner speaks international language of sports
Trainer collects funds, takes equipment to children in Peru
HUNTERSVILLE — A providential encounter during Mass at St. Mark Church last fall stirred up a desire in Todd Koenig's heart to bring joy to children more than 3,000 miles away. Koenig, a sports trainer and parishioner at the Huntersville parish, was touched during a homily given by visiting Father Gregorio Chisholm from Peru, when he shared about his work with the people of South America.
After Mass Koenig approached the priest, telling him about his business working with athletes all over the Charlotte area and expressing his interest of going on a mission to bring sports equipment to the youth of a parish, engaging them in something they would be interested in – soccer.
Father Chisholm, who is pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Pucallpa, Peru, felt this would be a great opportunity for the youth of his parish, so the two began planning the trip.
Koenig's father, Mark, who is a parishioner of St. Mary Church in Pittsburgh, Pa., set out to help raise the money to purchase the equipment for the mission trip. Father and son were able to raise more than $4,000 from friends, family and parishioners. They partnered with Dick's Sporting Goods and Koenig and his dad were successful in taking more than 75 soccer balls, 75 pairs of cleats, some goals and other equipment to the children in Pucallpa.
"It was an absolutely amazing trip as we interacted with the youth and the entire community associated with Father Chisholm's church," Koenig said. "We were able to travel around the area to interact with other parishes because Father Chisholm went above and beyond to ensure we were safe at all times and enjoying our trip."
During the 14-day mission trip, Koenig and his father took 80 videos and 800 pictures to help share the entire trip with others, but they still find it difficult to explain the warm welcome they received for their efforts to help Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Pucallpa.
What struck them was that despite not having many of the modern conveniences and luxuries most Americans have, the Peruvian people were very happy.
"Father (Chisholm) told them Americans were here to play soccer and games with them," Koenig recalled. "They were so excited to speak to us and just hug us in thanks for making the trip."
Koenig now plans to collect funds and equipment throughout the year and make an annual trip to Peru.
"It was an absolute blast working with such grateful and happy children. ... It's something I'll never forget."
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer
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