AMERICAN FORK — He was a star basketball player for BYU and was drafted into the NBA in 2003. But after several years playing overseas, Travis Hansen has given up fame and fortune for something much more valuable.
He calls it the "secret of life," and the goal is to help people.
Hansen, along with his wife, LaRee, started Little Heroes Foundation in 2007. He was playing professionally in Russia when they visited an orphanage and were shocked at the conditions.
“We saw a great need and felt inspired to start a foundation,” he said. “We didn't know why, but we followed the prompting and ... we keep on moving along, we keep on loving it and trying to do as much good as we can.”
In Russia, Little Heroes helped remodel a children's hospital and aided many children in receiving lifesaving medical care. Since then, the foundation has also organized the building of two schools in Mali, Africa, as well as a health clinic in Nepal.
“Our goal as a foundation is to help 1 million children within the next five years,” he said. “It's a big goal and we have a lot of work to do, but as a foundation that's what we're going to strive for."
At a recent “Be A Hero Christmas Night” event in Utah County, Hansen and dozens of helpers were striving to wrap 1,000 gifts for the needy in American Fork.
“I was shocked by what they need,” Travis said. “They need pots and pans and sheets, pillows and socks and shoes, and they don't want toys — they don't need them, they want the basics.”
Hansen's former coach, Steve Cleveland, was one of Santa's helpers delivering the gifts to those in need.
“I think back to that little bleach-haired guy that came into BYU that had kind of an attitude, that competed hard and worked at a high level,” Cleveland said. “And I see him now and he's grown, he's matured and he's involved globally with so many things, but this little heroes is a special thing."
"Because we love it, it's the secret of life,” Hansen said.
“If you give, you get back more, the rewards aren't always these needy families. Hopefully they get what they need, but we get the rewards. We see the Christmas spirit. We see it in our kids when you give to others.
"The more you do it, the happier you are."