Benevolence is nothing new to Diego Gutierrez and his wife of 17 years Ginna.
The husband and wife team from Lee’s Summit are national spokesman and spokeswoman for the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing but Nets campaign, a global initiative to raise awareness and funding to fight malaria, one of the leading causes of death among children in Africa.
To that end, Diego Gutierrez, a retired Major League Soccer player for the original Kansas City Wiz (later the Wizards, now Sporting KC), was named the 2007 U.S. Soccer Federation/MLS Humanitarian of the Year.
With a majority of the country fixated on the World Cup and the United States’ national team’s quest to escape what soccer pundits have called the “Group of Death” and advance in the renown soccer tournament, Diego and Ginna have something in store for their hometown.
The two will host a watch party fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 26 at 810 Zone, 1672 N.W. Chipman Rd. The game features the United States against Germany. The contest is slated for 11 a.m., but 810 will open an hour early and donate 10 percent of sales between the four-hour window to Nothing but Nets.
As an added bonus, the Gutierrez family has added Juan Pablo as a special guest. Pablo is a former soccer player and a reality television star who appeared as the bachelor in season 18 of ABC’s “The Bachelor.”
“We just bought Juan’s plane ticket today,” Ginna Gutierrez said June 18. “He’s coming. He’ll be here.”
Ginna Gutierrez said she and Diego, currently an on-air soccer commenter for Sporting KC and Fox Sports 1, have been raising awareness to the fight against malaria since 2007. Contributions of $10 to Nothing but Net goes towards the cost of purchasing a long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed net, distributing it, and educating affected communities on its use.
Their efforts have led them to the White House – where Diego and Ginna were invited to the join President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at the White House for World Malaria Awareness Day in April of 2007.
Diego also participated later that year as a speaker in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s malaria forum.
The fight to raise money has continued over the years for the family, Ginna said, and it continues June 26 in Lee’s Summit.
“We’ve been in and out (of Lee’s Summit over the years) because my husband got traded to Chicago and then we got traded back,” she said. “We’ve been married since 1997 and we’ve been in and out of Lee’s Summit since then, but we’re here to stay. We figured we’d better make our campaign known in the city we call home.”
For his part, Diego said he is excited to continue pairing up soccer – the world’s most popular sport – with one of the main health problems in the world.
Taking advantage of America’s ever-growing passion for soccer as well as the World Cup, Diego added he was thrilled soccer fans in the area will have an opportunity not only to come out and cheer on their team, but also continue helping the family save lives.
“I am delighted with the support and the response,” Diego Gutierrez said. “Our efforts to deduce malaria deaths are greatly enhanced when people come together. Lee’s Summit, Kansas City is coming together for this cause.”