November 4, 2014 — What would you do if you won a million dollars? Professional soccer player and coach Ethan Zohn asked himself that very question after winning the reality television game Survivor: Africa in 2002. He invested his $1 million in winnings to co-found the non-profit organization Grassroot Soccer, which promotes HIV/AIDS prevention education to African youth through soccer. Several years later, he became a survivor in another sense after being diagnosed with a rare form of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. While enduring the rigors of cancer treatment, he became a national spokesperson for Katie Couric’s Stand Up to Cancer organization and kept a weekly video blog on People magazine’s website, where millions watched him experience the highs and the lows of aggressive cancer treatment. In this talk, Ethan shared his journey and delves into the issue of character: what it is, where it comes from, why it matters and how it can help people make the most important decisions of their lives. This lecture was co-hosted by the USC Institute for Global Health and Ray United FC.
In August 2008, Ethan launched Grassroot Soccer UNITED an international, youth-led movement to raise money and build awareness for his foundation and mission to end HIV/AIDS in Africa, by embarking on a world-record-breaking 550-mile journey on foot— from Boston, MA, to Washington, D.C.—dribbling a soccer ball the entire route. Ethan is also the national spokesperson for America Scores, an organization that helps inner city kids participate in educational soccer programs. Other charity work includes the Colon Cancer Alliance, Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Organization, Autism Speaks, St. Jude Hospital and Maccabi USA.
In May 2009—less than 30 days after his diagnosis with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was made public on the cover of People magazine—Ethan was asked to serve as National Ambassador for Stand Up To Cancer and to stand in for Lance Armstrong as the keynote speaker for all of his Livestrong Challenge races while Armstrong was competing in the Tour de France. In addition, he served as a panelist for the Clinton Global Initiative University Series.
In recognition for his charitable work, Ethan has been awarded the Nkosi Johnson Community Spirit Award by the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, the Heroes Among Us Award from the Boston Celtics and the Massachusetts State Health Department and the Auxillia Chimusoro Award from the United States State Department in Zimbabwe. In addition, he was awarded the 2007 Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award and the 2008 A Caring Hand’s Philanthropic Achievement Award. In 2005 he was named one of People magazine’s Helpers of the Year and was voted Campus Activities Magazine’s Rookie of the Year.
Originally from Lexington, MA, Ethan graduated from Vassar College in upstate New York, going on to play professional soccer for Highlanders FC (Zimbabwe), Cape Cod Crusaders and Hawaii Tsunami. Ethan also played for the 1997 and 2001 U.S. National Maccabiah squads.
Off the field, from 1998 to 2002, Ethan was the assistant coach for the Fairleigh Dickinson University men and women’s soccer teams. In 2003, he was the head coach of the U.S. National Maccabiah team at the Pan-American Maccabiah Games, in Santiago, Chile.