Mylo Fowler has long known of a pressing need for power and light on the Navajo Reservation.
After all, he was raised in one of the nearly 20,000 homes on the reservation without those essentials, reading and doing homework by candlelight.
If his own experience wasn’t enough to push him into action, a recent trip to the reservation added to his motivation.
Last year, he visited a family in New Mexico where the grandmother was raising two grandkids. They had medicine that needed to stay cold, but without a refrigerator, they weren’t able to take the proper doses for the time required to get healthy. Within a week, he installed a system that was able to power a new minifridge. Within a month, the child went from one of the last in his class in terms of grades to Student of the Month, just because he was able to see his homework and his books under light.
So many children on the reservation fall behind in school and their chances to get on a level playing field with their classmates diminish by the day. It’s not a matter of comfort, but necessity, as those closest to the issue have the least means to alleviate it.
Knowing the depth and impact of a problem is a far different things than having the means to solve it, though. Fowler has dedicated time and effort to raise awareness for the issue, but it wasn’t until a recent trip to Budapest that a beacon of hope came through his email inbox and he saw the means to his end goal of lighting every house on native reservations across the country.
He had to scan the message twice to confirm that he had read it right the first time. Kyle Beckerman was offering his help to get the ball rolling and provide light and power to homes on the Navajo Reservation and this month, Fowler and Beckerman drove to southern Utah to begin installing solar panels on houses in the region.
“The project addresses the issue that so many families on the Navajo Reservation face,” Fowler said. “When a family doesn’t have those resources, that means they don’t have light. They don’t have a refrigerator to store healthy foods. What we’ve been focusing on is bringing light and power to these families and really focusing on empowering them so that the youth can have an opportunity to do their homework and read and get ahead with lights as opposed to holding a flashlight in their mouth.”
Upon receiving the message of aid from Beckerman and the RSL Foundation, Fowler went into action, setting up Goal Zero batteries, solar panels and lights so he could start the installation process. One-by-one, he would meet with families across the reservation and give them opportunities only dreamt of before.
Through the RSL Foundation, Beckerman raised enough money to light 50 homes, auctioning off Real Salt Lake’s game-worn adidas Parley jerseys and through donations.
Real Salt Lake’s 2018 Humanitarian of the Year, Beckerman saw a community in need and an opportunity to provide some help. The son of two teachers, education has always been important to him and providing learning opportunities to a whole region was an easy decision.
“When I think of the community I think of not just Salt Lake City, but the whole state. There are other places that need help as well,” Beckerman said. “So far we’ve gotten a small glimpse into the area and there just aren’t a lot of opportunities. Giving people a little more light in their house for kids to do more homework is a simple thing to do, but it can help in a big way.”
Beckerman’s assistance has been instrumental for Fowler – not just because of the level of his aid, but also the magnitude of his personality in a state that has grown to embrace Real Salt Lake as its own since the club’s inaugural season in 2005.
He saw that impact firsthand when the RSL captain joined him on a trip to install equipment for a family in need. The family looked on in amazement. Not only was somebody coming in to help, but it was somebody who has a platform to draw more awareness to a long-standing issue.
“Kyle is a naturally humble guy,” Fowler said. “What these people are really grateful for is that somebody of his caliber actually cared. He took time out of his insanely busy schedule and went down south for several days to take time out of his day to make an impact on a single family.”
Working closely with Fowler, Beckerman has quickly seen how a small gesture can change lives. It’s a tenet he has lived by throughout his professional career – signing autographs, taking pictures and offering light-hearted words of advice and encouragement to young fans at every opportunity. Those moments are so diametrically opposed to the fiercely intense competitor on the field, that even the staunchest RSL supporters can’t help but marvel at his giving nature.
Like so many other issues before, Beckerman saw an issue and sought a way to help contribute.
“It’s a simple and easy way to get involved right away and start to help out down in that area,” he said. “Light is something we take for granted. To think we’ve taken it for granted my whole life, it just makes you want to help out.”
The project is a big undertaking, but getting things started has created a drive in Fowler, who has aspirations that far exceed one reservation. But taking the approach that a marathon is completed one step at a time, he is optimistic and fueled by the boost provided by Beckerman and the RSL Foundation.
“The end goal is to get a solid footprint on the Navajo Reservation and then begin branching out to visit other tribes,” Fowler said. “The ability to get ahead collectively as Native America, we all face some similar challenges and we’re all tied to the land we have left as well. There is this relationship we have with the natural resources. Tapping into other locations is the end objective to light up Native America.”
To contribute, visit RSL.com/auction.