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Sept. 9, 2015
This story appears in the fall 2015 Northwest Alumni Magazine. To view the Northwest Alumni Magazine in its entirety online, click here.
Chris Ross was approached in 1985 by long-time Northwest Missouri State University geography instructor Dr. Byron Agustin to take a trip to the Yucatan and visit the Mayan ruins. He had no idea it would turn into a lifetime journey.
On that first trip, Ross, a 1977 Northwest graduate, noticed children trying to play baseball with sticks, old tennis balls and plastic cups. So he returned the next year with baseball equipment.
He didn’t end his journey there. For the last 30 years, Ross has traveled to the Yucatan, annually delivering school supplies to Mayan children.
Each packet a child receives consists of a cross, candy, books, pencils, ink pens, coloring books, toys and crayons to last them a year until Ross returns.
“When I arrived in the first village, I was amazed to see how they were trying to teach the children,” Ross said. “No electricity, no running water. The schools had dirt floor huts. Dark and dingy.”
Ross has changed thousands of students’ lives in the Yucatan. He raises money to create the school supply packets through fundraisers with churches, civic groups and donors. With the help of fundraising, he has traveled more than 50,000 miles, visited more than 1,000 villages and reached more than 36,000 children.
His impact on Mayan people has not gone unnoticed. Once he went on a company trip to Puerto Vallarta and heard a young man across the street calling his name.
“He told me his name and that he was from the village of Ek Balam in the Yucatan, and when he was in school I delivered him a packet every year. He finished high school in Valladolid, Yucatan and studied business in Mexico City. He was the manager of the restaurant and wanted me to have a meal with him.”
Ross said it was like handing a packet to someone in New York and seeing him in California.
In 2008, one village threw Ross a surprise party to celebrate 25 years of his visits to the Yucatan.
“The teachers from all the villages came, some traveled many miles and honored me with certificates, awards and gifts. Many of them are printed in Mayan and I treasure them. They were telling me how much my work meant to the children and the Mayan people.”
Nothing has stopped Ross from getting school supplies to help educate and improve the lives of Mayan children. He is planning a fundraiser to go back in 2016.
“The greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of inspiration,” Ross said. “I have been blessed to be able to do this as long as I have, and I never get tired of the hugs and kisses I receive from the children when I hand a packet to them.”
Ross is employed as a premier dealer for Producers Hybrids, a seed company based in Battle Creek, Neb. When he isn’t travelling to the Yucatan, he enjoys fly fishing at his cabin in the sand hills of Nebraska, attending and helping with the College World Series in Omaha, and spending time with his granddaughter.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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