Last December, Real Salt Lake lost one of its most fervent fans. On December 8, 2014, Jordan Guernsey passed away after a battle with melanoma, but he has left behind a lasting legacy. Always active in the community, Guernsey was passionate in his involvement with organizations like Stop Hunger Now and the Caring House project, where he assisted in building houses in Haiti.
Every year Real Salt Lake awards its greatest servant with the Humanitarian of the Year award and tonight we are pleased to announce that the honor will carry a new name. In 2015 and beyond, those community leaders will be awarded the Jordan Guernsey Humanitarian of the Year award.
The award continues a legacy of giving that is carried on by his wife, Paola Guernsey.
Always charitable, the Guernseys were connected with Frank McKinney in 2011 and joined him for a trip to Haiti to build homes as part of ongoing relief efforts. Their giving continued in the years since with another trip to Haiti in 2013.
“What we learned there is that going out and doing charity with an open heart is the most valuable thing that you could possibly ever do. You allow yourself to open your heart and change from the bottom of your heart. Seeing the change you do in the world is heart-warming and it fulfills you more than anything could ever do,” Paola said. “It was life-changing and it was DNA changing.”
After Jordan passed away 10 months ago, Paola returned to Haiti where an entire village was completed in Jordan’s honor. The new Guernsey Family Village in Tante Jeanne, Haiti, has an infrastructure in place for its resident families to be self-sufficient. The village benefits over 400 children and their families and seeing that impact first-hand was therapeutic for Paola.
“It was very humbling. It was an honor. We give without expecting anything back. And to have that honor … I’m speechless,” she said. “To this day, I have no words to express the gratitude I have for Frank McKinney and the Caring House project. And it only drives me more. To want to do more and change the world more.”
Those basic tenets have been the cornerstone by which Real Salt Lake’s Humanitarian of the Year award has stood throughout the club’s 10-year history. By now honoring Jordan Guernsey with the annual award, it serves as a reminder why service to the community is so important to the RSL family.
“Everybody looks at changing the world as a big thing. But we don’t realize that the world is an individual,” Paola recalled reading. “If you touch an individual’s heart or do something for them that’s very meaningful, you’ve already changed the world for them.”
Previous winners of RSL’s Humanitarian of the Year are: Abdoulie Mansally (2014), Chris Wingert (2013), Will Johnson (2012), Jean Alexandre (2011), Jean Alexandre (2010), Robbie Russell (2009), Nat Borchers (2008), Carey Talley (2007), Seth Trembly (2006) and Brian Kamler (2005).