Afredo Axtmayer ’04 (Spanish) knows from personal experience the healing power of sport, and he proves it every day with his two organizations, Remission Ball and love.fútbol.
How did Dickinson prepare you for your current career/endeavor?
Dickinson prepared me by encouraging me to believe that anything was possible. When I was a student, one of the school’s slogans was to “engage the world.” A slogan so limitless encourages limitless thinking on one's limitless potential. It lets students know that they can take action on anything that they are passionate about and, in all likelihood, succeed in their endeavor.
What was your "aha" moment?
I stumbled upon my most recent idea—Remission Ball—by making a silver lining out of a difficult situation. Five years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. It was during my treatments that I reflected not only on the support of my family and friends, but also on the confidence, teamwork and dedication I learned while playing soccer at Dickinson. Family, friends and sport helped me heal, so I decided to help others fighting cancer heal through sport too. Remission Ball promotes cancer healing through sport by sending cancer patients unique sport and mantra-inspired gifts to the front lines of their cancer challenges.
“I’m inspired by people who have the chutzpah to make their ideas a reality, no matter how big or small their idea may be. Their energy gives me energy.”
The first ball was sent to a friend of mine. I simply wrote “Remission Ball” on it, along with few healing and hopeful mantras to lift his spirits. I wanted to give him something symbolic to fight for and knew a soccer ball would be just the thing. It turns out it worked! He explained that not only did it keep him focused on his current battle, but it also inspired him. He passed it on to his friend on the floor to help her heal. He helped me see this could be something useful for so many people fighting similar battles. Since then the logo, mission and mantras have expanded, and hundreds of people of been positively affected by our mission.
Another mission I co-founded in 2006 is love.fútbol, which partners with and empowers underserved communities to build soccer fields for youth. The idea was born by recognizing the importance of soccer in the lives of children, as well as the inequalities they face. We work with communities to take kids off dangerous streets and gang areas and give them a safe place to play. Thousands of children now have a safer place to play thanks to the hard work and dedication of the organization.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who have the chutzpah to make their ideas a reality, no matter how big or small their idea may be. Their energy gives me energy. I’m also inspired by products and ideas that are novel and make a positive difference in people’s lives. Sure, money is nice, but helping the world even a little bit? That’s nicer.
What advice would you offer to the entrepreneurs of tomorrow?
I would encourage any Dickinsonian to take action. Move on your idea. It’s hard to create something. It’s intimidating to put yourself out there, but anyone who has an inkling of an idea should simply give it a go. The worst that can happen is that your idea doesn’t succeed, but along the way you will pick up knowledge, skills and confidence to complement your already strong Dickinson education. Not every idea is successful, but the experience may make your next idea flourish. If nothing else, the idea's ride may simply be a nice and fun journey, and that’s OK too.
I’m going to continue building Remission Ball. Unfortunately, cancer is pervasive, but I think this idea is unique in its ability to help inspire and heal. I would like to share it with many more people who need it. As for love.fútbol, although I’m no longer on the ground working as the managing director, I will continue to advise as a board member. I’m confident the organization will grow and be successful. To date the love.fútbol has worked with communities and completed nine projects in Guatemala and 10 projects in Brazil. I believe there is limitless opportunity and potential for this organization.
Published April 12, 2016