PROVO, Utah — It was around 1 p.m. on a Wednesday when I walked into the third floor office of the Little Heroes Foundation. I found Travis Hansen, the CEO, engaged in a conversation with Katie Ironz, the foundation’s executive director.
He appeared to be the same slender 6-foot-6, 210-pound blond-hair guy I spoke with at the Chile Santiago West Mission reunion we attended two years ago in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
“Katie, do you want to know the worst thing about Trent Toone?” he started. “He went to Utah.”
He grinned so I would know he was joking. Even so, it was spoken like a former player and now a true-blue, season-ticket holding Cougar.
With introductions out of the way, we moved to his office and the reminiscing began.
We had a lot of catch up on.
Our growing families and the latest buzz on his professional basketball career started the conversation. Then he reflected on four years of success with the Little Heroes Foundation. With the rescued Chilean miners in the news, it was a perfect opportunity to rehash the good old days we shared as LDS missionaries in Santiago, Chile, more than 12 years ago.
Few probably know about Travis Hansen the missionary.
Because the majority of Chileans slept in and stayed out late, the mission rules allowed for us to work until midnight and wake up at 7 a.m. As a personal sacrifice, he made a goal to arise 30 minutes early for extra exercise and study time. It also helped that Spanish came quickly to him.
When he wasn’t dunking over the rest of us in a preparation-day pick-up game, “Hansito” was fearlessly challenging everyone he met to be baptized. He loved to stand up on a crowded bus, boldly declare his testimony and invite people to church. Within months of his arrival in Chile he became a leader in the mission and enjoyed tremendous success.
Hansen’s dynamic personality and charisma drew people to him. Some mothers adored him so much that they begged him to take their daughters to America. The people were fond of his playful personality and responded to his love. When his mission was over, he came home with great memories and gratitude for lessons learned.
“My mission shaped my life. It put me in the direction I am today,” he said. “On a mission you learn to sacrifice, get out of your comfort zone and have no fear. My mission experiences have been a perfect fit for humanitarian work.”
Hoops and family
When the conversation hit a lull, I mentioned the numerous articles and photos of his basketball career I had reviewed over the years.
Since his mission, much of Hansen’s time has been spent on basketball courts from Provo to Spain and Russia. While overseas, he played in many big games and several former teammates are now on NBA rosters, including Jose Calderon (Toronto Raptors), Luis Scola (Houston Rockets), Andres Nocioni (Philadelphia 76ers) and Tiago Splitter (San Antonio Spurs).
While playing for Real Madrid last year, he suffered a herniated disc in his back and returned to Utah for surgery and recovery.
It was during his recuperation that something remarkable happened in the Hansen family. After a difficult year-long battle, they adopted a baby girl from Indiana named Halle. She legally became a member of the family at the end of November and in December was sealed to her parents and two brothers in the Salt Lake LDS Temple.
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