Southern Methodist University Head Football Coach June Jones led a delegation of medical professionals and Polynesian NFL football legends to Pago Pago for the Seventh Annual American Samoa Goodwill Mission. Since inception, the mission has donated several million dollars in medical supplies and athletic equipment to people of American Samoa.
“This mission is important to a number of people and certainly holds a special place in my heart,” said June Jones. “Over my career, I’ve been extremely fortunate to get to know the people and culture of American Samoa. It has had a profound impact on my life and this is just one way that we’re able to give back."
In addition to Coach Jones, leading this year’s group of Polynesian football stars was four-time Super Bowl Champion Jesse Sapolu, two-time Super Bowl Champion Ma’a Tanuvasa, former Philadelphia Eagles running back Reno Mahe, former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jack “the Throwin’ Samoan” Thompson and former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Luther Elliss. Other guests included Tyler Seau (eldest son of Junior Seau) and professional golfer Gipper Finau.
“In 2008, when Coach Jones asked me to be a part of this trip, it was a no-brainer,” said Sapolu. “The work being done here means so much to so many people and I’m proud to say we are truly making a difference. As long as Coach Jones continues this mission, I will be here, too."
For Jones, this trip is really about giving back to a place and group of people that have had a major influence on his life. Although hailing from Portland, the former quarterback has spent a great deal of his life in Polynesia. It began during his collegiate playing career at the University of Hawai’i, the same place he would go on to become the school’s winningest head coach in history. Jones would come to know the Polynesian way of life, and the culture’s unwavering sense of family and faith. These experiences made a lasting impact and helped lead him to establish the Goodwill Mission.
This year, the Sapolu Youth Foundation sponsored several boys and a girls fitness programs. Participants also heard from the football stars emphasizing the importance of education and received autographs at the conclusion of the day’s activities.
Goodwill Mission doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners delivered medical supplies and supported patients at the Pago Pago based LBJ Medical Center. Every year, the team collects donated supplies, equipment and medicine from the medical community. These items are then shipped via ocean and air cargo to American Samoa.
“What our medical team does here is simply amazing,” said Marci Tapusoa, who leads the medical team each year. “Every time we come, we hear a new story about the impact these supplies have made on the people of American Samoa. It’s truly a credit to the doctors and nurses that donate their time and resources to make all this possible. I am so proud to be a part of this effort.”
In addition to the youth and medical programs, the mission also awards $10,000 ($2,000 each) in academic scholarships to five high school seniors who attend a college in the United States. Recipients are selected by the American Samoa Department of Education. This year, honorees were recognized in a ceremony by American Samoa Lieutenant Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga, Goodwill Mission delegation members, government officials, local media members and families of the recipients.
And while the annual Goodwill Mission trip continues to make an impact on the lives of the Samoans, there’s no doubt it has a tremendous impact on those making the journey as well. Each year, members of the traveling party come away with a newfound respect for the Polynesian way of life and this trip was no different.
“I actually missed my son’s graduation from Oregon State University to be a part of this year’s trip,” said Sapolu. “We had a discussion before I made the decision and he actually told me that I needed to make this trip for the kids of American Samoa. It truly is a powerful experience.”
The American Samoa Goodwill Mission is made possible by a grant provided by The Loyd Charitable Foundation. Other generous support has been provided by Hawaiian Airlines, Blue Sky Communications, Tradewinds Hotel and the Samoa Bowl Committee.
ABOUT THE JUNE JONES FOUNDATION
The June Jones Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life for needy families of children with life-threatening illnesses as well as other charitable causes.
The emotional, physical, and spiritual impact a seriously ill child has on a family cannot be measured. The June Jones Foundation is dedicated to lifting their spirits by providing grants, programming and support.