Mayan miracle: we change them, they change us

Published: Monday, Oct. 21 2013 7:26 a.m. MDT

The people of Santa Rita “don’t live paycheck to paycheck, they live day to day,” he says. “They always have, they always will. And yet, as the saying goes, ‘If you’re smilin’ you’re Mayan.’ So it’s kinda crazy. You realize how it’s the little things that matter.”

The 6-foot-3 Flannery, 60, has made more than 70 trips to the Yucatan over the past 13 years, and the man the locals call la altura gringo couldn’t stop now if he tried. “I work harder at this than I work at work,” he says, adding paradoxically, “it’s so much fun.” He’s bought a house down the coast from Cancun that acts as a sort of expedition headquarters, and the native Mexican who first drove that van through Santa Rita, Daniel Lugo, remains the foundation’s driver and man-on-the-ground.

The overhead to keep it all running is not inconsiderable, so every June they host a golf tournament fundraiser and on Sat., Nov. 2 they will put on a 5K run/walk in Farmington called “Day of the Dead,” coinciding with the famous celebration that is a bank holiday in Mexico. You can register at mayanmiraclefoundation.org. One lucky participant will win an expense-paid trip to the Yucatan, where they’ll put you to work handing out shoes or pouring cement for folks who, Kevin Flannery promises, will in turn do nothing more, or less, than change your life.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. EMAIL: benson@deseretnews.com

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