Dribbling 'free spirit' touches local family before untimely death

Richard Swanson was like a celebrity to local soccer youths

Richard Swanson and Jason Elkins share a fist bump Saturday evening an Elkins  family barbecue.
Richard Swanson and Jason Elkins share a fist bump Saturday evening an Elkins' family barbecue.

(Ossie Bladine / News Editor)  A great story ended tragically on Tuesday when Richard Swanson died after being struck by a car on Highway 101 south of Lincoln City.

The 42-year-old was journeying on foot from Seattle to Brazil, the whole way dribbling a soccer ball made by One World Futbol Project, a Berkeley, Calif.-based organization that donates durable soccer balls to people in developing, often war-stricken countries.

On Saturday, Swanson hustled from Tigard to McMinnville to make a youth soccer game at Joe Dancer Park. Jason and Jennifer Elkins invited Swanson to their son's soccer game on Friday after a blog post about the traveler on the News-Register website. The Elkins invited him to a family barbeque after the game.

“He was like a celebrity to the kids,” Jason said. “They didn’t leave his side all evening.”

"Richard was a blessing to meet," Jennifer said. "He hustled on his Saturday's goal of 28 miles in order to get to Joe Dancer before my son's team was done playing so he could meet everyone and share his story. I thought that was pretty outstanding considering he had never met us before, but wanted to do that for us as if we were long lost friends.

Jason said his daughter, who plays traveling soccer for McMinnville Youth Soccer Association, especially took to Swanson and his story.

“She’s a huge soccer fan and her goal right now is to play in the World Cup. She could not get the idea out of her head of what he was doing,” he said.

She was so excited by Swanson’s visit she woke up Saturday morning and made him a card thanking him for his visit and telling him how inspiring his story it.

While the news of Swanson’s death was sad, Jason said they are focusing on what good their new friend provided in a short time.

“He’s a great guy, a free spirit. He inspired us to do what you want to do, and it’s not all about your career or becoming someone of popularity."



If there is any lesson to be learned from this article, it's to never walk with your back turned to the traffic. Sad ending indeed to this positive young man's life. My heart goes out to his loved ones.

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