Davey Nelson, Milwaukee's baseball humanitarian
KOMGA, South Africa - You know Davey Nelson as a baseball man. A player for 10 years, a coach for another 20, and now as a member of the Brewers radio and television broadcast team.
But there is another side to Davey Nelson that has nothing to do with the game of baseball, but everything to do with the game of life.
Eight years ago, Nelson was having lunch with his friend Bob Solis when he the subject of the AIDS pandemic came up.
Solis was looking to start an orphanage and asked Nelson to be on his board of directors. "It's horrible," Nelson says.
"It's the worst in South Africa. Six hundred adults are dying every day (because of) AIDS." Without hesitation, Nelson accepted, and the seeds for the Open Arms Home for Children were planted in Komga, South Africa.
And while the orphanage isn't able to house every child in need in a country of almost 53 million, it is one of the best examples of the notion that anything worthwhile starts with just one, and then it can grow. After all, the kids at Open Arms have nothing, "and many of them have been abandoned, their parents have died from AIDS, kids that have been abused," Nelson continued.
After beginning with just four kids eight years ago, the orphanage's population has now swelled to 53, and they are hoping to be able to house more kids as time goes on.
"It's all worth it. But you know what it's all about," Nelson says. "Is when the kids come up to you and just hug you and tell you 'I love you' and 'thank you' and that's all I look for from these kids. That all I want."
So once or twice a year, Davey Nelson takes a 17-hour flight from the United States to South Africa, a journey that from door-to-door takes about 24 hours of non-stop travel.
He invites anyone that would like to join him to do exactly that, just to see a part of the world that is short on smiles - until you get to the building that has become for this goodwill ambassador, a labor of love.
Of course, there is more work to be done.
So the work of Open Arms Home for Children will continue on, even perhaps by some of the kids that grew up there.
After all, when it comes to being responsible for the lives of children, the lessons learned in their formative years can have a lifelong impact not only on themselves, but on the world.
"At night when they say their prayers," Nelson concluded. "They thank the Lord for giving them their home. But then they'll say 'but please, will you look after kids that are less fortunate than we are?' And that makes it all worthwhile."
Jay Sorgi contributed to this report.