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Soccer lover's fundraising trek ends in tragedy


Richard Swanson was killed after being hit by a vehicle while trekking from Seattle to Brazil.

A Seattle man who felt “destined” to go on a 10,000-mile fundraising journey to soccer’s World Cup in Brazil, dribbling a soccer ball along the way, has died just two weeks into his journey.

Richard Swanson, 42, was hit by a pickup truck in Lincoln City, Ore., on Tuesday morning, along Highway 101, Lincoln City police said. Swanson left May 1 on a trip that would have taken him through 11 countries before he reached Sao Paolo, Brazil, the site of soccer tournament.

Swanson, a Seattle resident, was documenting his adventure on his website, BreakAwayBrazil.com, where he was also asking for donations for the One World Futbol Project – an organization that donates sturdy soccer balls to youth in developing countries.

“We are extremely saddened to hear the news about Richard. He was a very inspiring man, our thoughts are with his family,” One World Futbol tweeted on Tuesday after learning of Swanson’s death.

Swanson was a private investigator for years, and then a graphic designer. A father of two grown sons, he got laid off from his job last year and was looking for an adventure.

“I felt destined that I should go on this trip,” Swanson, who five years ago discovered a love for soccer, told the Longview, Wash., Daily News on May 7.

In a YouTube video he recorded of himself on his website, Swanson addressed how wild the idea of walking from Seattle to Brazil sounded – but he said he’s always wanted to go to the World Cup.

Richard Swanson left on May 1 from Seattle on a plan to travel through 11 countries, dribbling a soccer ball while promoting the One World Futbol Project.

“Screw what happens. I don’t even care, I should just take off, out the door, and start hoofing it and head south,” he said he found himself thinking, with little disposal income after getting laid off.

Then he took the idea further.

“Since I’m going to the World Cup, I should honor it by dribbling a soccer ball, which makes the trip even more crazy. Of course I batted the idea around a little and thought, 'This is lunacy.'”

What convinced him was running the idea by a friend, who told him about the One World Futbol project. The part-adventure, part-fundraiser was born.

“Part of the trip was for myself, but part of it was for all the people who can’t do things like this,” he said in the video. “They have their responsibilities. They can’t leave their jobs they’ve been at for 10-plus years. They have mortgages, they have young kids.”

The trip came to a tragic end on Tuesday when Swanson was hit on the shoulder of the highway at around 10 a.m., Lincoln City Police Lt. Jerry Palmer said. Swanson was seriously injured and died at the hospital, Palmer said.

“He had his backpack that he was living out of, his cell phone, and his little soccer ball that he was working his way south with,” Palmer said.

No charges have been filed. Palmer said a district attorney will determine in the next couple of days whether charges are necessary.

Kristi Schwesinger, a friend of Swanson’s in Seattle, told The Associated Press that Swanson had started out his trek in flip-flops. After 13 nights, he switched to hiking sandals, she said. He spent two of his nights in Vancouver, Wash., with his son, Devin, and spent the other nights sleeping on strangers’ couches.

"It was all by word of mouth, Facebook, media contacts, friends and family who put the word out," Schwesinger told The AP.

He spent Monday night in Lincoln City, where he got to take a soak in a hot tub. Schwesinger  said he was headed to Newport, Ore., next, and didn’t know where he was going to stay.

"The hardest thing is he was so young," Schwesinger told The AP. "Just today we were planning his surprise birthday party for Sunday. He was so young, so full of life, so excited by the journey he was on. To be taken from us so soon is really heartbreaking."

Made it to the Pacific Coast! Fresh air, ocean breeze, and amazing views.


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