Posts Tagged ‘Lopez Lomong’

This is what a humanitarian looks like.

Lopez Lomong (right) Rob Rogers (left)


This Saturday, December 1st,  former Lost Boy and U.S. Olympian Lopez Lomong will be awarded the Visa Humanitarian of the Year Award in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The last time I saw Lopez was a few weeks ago in Auburn, Washington when he spoke to more than a thousand in attendance at World Vision’s Day of Prayer. Lopez was recounting all that had happened this year. I remember one night in particular, the night before the biggest race of his life. And he was smiling.

The race was the men’s 5,000 meters on Saturday at the Summer Games in London. He was surrounded by some of the most important people in the world to him, his girlfriend, Brittany Morreale and his mother and father, Barbara and Rob Rogers from Upstate New York. Barbara kept quietly repeating, “I’m so proud of him.”

In 2001, she and Rob brought Lopez over to America from a refugee camp in Kenya. At the age of six, Lopez was abducted by Sudanese rebels and taken to a holding facility where he was prepped as a child soldier. It was determined he was too small. Chances were that he would have been left to starve to death but three fellow captives, his “angels” as he describes them, helped him escape. After three days and nights Lopez was captured by Kenyan soldiers taken to that refugee camp where he lived for ten years, until the Rogers adopted him.

Soon they discovered he was the fastest kid in school, then the state and one of the fastest in the nation. He qualified for the US track and field team in 2008 and was the flag bearer for the Beijing Summer Games. Four years later, Lopez Lomong is at his second Olympics. Rob Rogers says in 2008, “It was like a dream.” But this time his dad says, “he’s here to win a gold medal.”

Michael Chitwood (Team World Vision) on left

That’s what his family and Team World Vision friends including Josh Cox prayed for.

Josh Cox (left) Michael Chitwood Team World Vision (right)

Cox is a long-distance runner, the American record-holder in the 50K and a four time U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier. Team World Vision is a fundraising program of international Christian charity World Vision that equips individuals to raise money for World Vision projects. Lomong’s 4South Sudan is a World Vision partner committed to finding clean water, health care, education and nutrition for kids back home in South Sudan.

me (on left) with Lopez

I was in London with Cox, Team World Vision National Director Michael Chitwood and Team World Vision’s Steve Spear. We were all there to cheer Lopez on. The next night he ended up finishing tenth in the race after leading as he headed into the last lap. A disappointing finish but not a demoralizing one. “I’ll be back,” he told me after the race. “I learned a lot this time around. I’ll be back.”

I thought about that response when I heard that Lomong had been honored as Visa’s 2012 Humanitarian of the Year. And I thought about the commitment Lomong has made to helping children back home and here in the States through his work with Team World Vision.

Something tells me he will be back. But then – something tells me he’s never left.

Thursday, December 6th, Lomong will travel to the Bay Area where he’ll run with at-risk youth in Oakland. That weekend, he’ll run in a half-marathon in Walnut Creek, California for Team World Vision.

Lomong’s new book is called “Running For My Life” (Thomas Nelson Publishing)


Mary Pilon – New York Times

“We don’t like being the story.”

Mary Pilon was emphatic.  But it was a simple request from a humble reporter. Reporters like to tell stories not be stories. No problem. Ok, so this won’t be a post about Mary Pilon. It will however, be an example of how a journalist can re-purpose considerable talent.

Oregon native Mary Pilon has written about everything from the Wall Street to board games to track and field. In December, the New York Times hired her away from the Wall Street Journal. She would now be a sports reporter. At WSJ she’d been reporting on the financial crisis on Wall Street. I got a chance to meet Pilon last week in New York City when I was pitching her on Lopez Lomong, the former Sudanese Lost Boy and U.S. Olympic track star. I told her Lopez was a remarkable young man using the flame of his Olympic story to help the kids back home in South Sudan gain access to the basics like clean water, education and food. I’ve been telling as many people as I can about Lomong because he’s partnering with World Vision, the charity I work for.

Pilon knows the Lomong story.  You have to look hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of the Sudanese Lost Boy kidnapped from his village at the age of six, held captive by Sudanese rebels intent upon turning him into a child soldier. The six-year old was deemed too young and left to starve. But thanks to the help of three other boys (to this day Lopez considers them his “angels”) Lopez escaped the detention center. The boys ran three days and nights until they were captured by Kenyan soldiers and brought to the safety of a refugee camp. After ten years, Lopez was sponsored by an American couple and brought to the States. Soon he discovered he was the fastest kid in high school, then the fastest in the state, then one of the fastest in the nation. In 2008, he qualified for the mens 1,500 meter in the Beijing Summer Olympics. His teammates elected him the U.S. National Team flag bearer.

As you’re guessing by now, the story from here on out is about Lopez Lomong.

Here’s what Mary Pilon wrote about Lopez. It was a Q and A.

Lopez Lomong, left, and Galen Rupp running in the finals of the 5,000 meters at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., last month.

Eric Gay/Associated PressLopez Lomong, left, and Galen Rupp running in the finals of the 5,000 meters at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., last month.

Lopez is running in the mens 5,000 meter qualifying heat on Wednesday, August 8th in London. He has his sights set on a gold medal but what makes Lomong unique is that fact that he wants to partner with Team World Vision to help the kids back home in South Sudan.

Or maybe it’s the new book he’s written, “Running for My Life” (Thomas Nelson Publisher).

One last thing: In December, Mary Pilon was named one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 for media. She is 26. Currently she is writing a book about the hidden history of the board game Monopoly.