IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!
The US OPEN Racquetball Online Charity Auction partnering St Jude’s and Rapha House came about last year when Executive Director Doug Ganim contacted Dee and Sal Perconti about running an expanded fund raising event.
US OPEN Racquetball has supported St. Jude for 20+ years and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He asked if we would be interested running an auction to serve not only St Jude, but also Rapha House which rescues kids who are victims of trafficking.
We are about helping children in need no matter what that need is.
Auction Team Member Stories
Six years ago, my husband Sal and I were content running our Software Company, Perconti Data Systems, in St. Petersburg, Florida, when our lives changed forever. We heard about an organization called Rapha House that rescues little girls who have been victims of trafficking.
We saw a documentary called Baht (Money in Cambodian) and it was like we got hit with a lightning bolt! We both agreed we had to do something to help immediately. There was no question that Rapha House and wounded children would be our passion forever.
Our church was going on a mission trip to Cambodia, to visit the Rapha House Safe Houses, but that wasn’t for many months. We learned that as part of their recovery, the girls learn a vocation. Some of them make beautiful purses, wallets, scarves and other merchandise. So we decided to start selling the merchandise to raise money for the Safehouses.
Sal has been a competitive Racquetball player for years, so we began loading up a roller bag and taking Rapha merchandise to tournaments. The racquetball community embraced the Rapha kids and supported them hugely by buying the items they had made. Then we took merchandise to churches, house parties, high schools and to every event we could. It warms our hearts to see many people at tournaments and all over carrying Rapha bags, wallets and backpacks.
Then in 2011, we got on a plane and met these resilient, courageous and worthy children. We visited one Safehouse, which had 120 girls and another with 25 girls. We don’t name the locations to protect the girls. The traffickers pursue them relentlessly. We also spent time at Kids Club, which is an organization to educate and prevent child exploitation. It has grown to 600 children now.
At the Safehouses, the youngest was 4, heartbreakingly beautiful, funny and spunky. The eldest girls were 18. We had the opportunity of a lifetime! We got to play volleyball and other games, and sing and dance for hours with them. We communicated with laughter, art and hugs. And we wondered how was it possible for them not to be completely bitter, angry and depressed after what they had been through. We discovered that through the love and counseling of the Rapha staff, they healed. By the way, Rapha means healing. We learned about the resiliency of the human spirit and about how grateful the girls were to be rescued.
Naturally, we fell in love with them and were all the more committed to making their lives better. All the children are special; but one captured our hearts completely. Five-years later, she is in our life more than ever. Join our blog for more on this amazing, ever-growing story.
When we came home to Florida, we wanted to do something in addition to selling merchandise. So Sal created a Rapha House Online Auction to raise funds, which we have done for three years now.
In 2013, I had the privilege of going back to Cambodia to see “my babies.” I was so touched to see the children two-years later, much stronger, more secure, steeped in faith and optimism. We have much more to tell. Rapha House is thriving; they’re now in Thailand, Haiti and Cambodia.
Now we have an amazing opportunity to partner Rapha House with St. Jude at the US OPEN 2015 RACQUETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS, in Minneapolis in Oct, 2015. We will be running a national online auction, to raise funds for all three of these important kids’ charities.
Stay tuned… we’d like you to be part of our team!
Stephanie learned about human trafficking from her father, Joe Garman, who had been working in Southeast Asia for many years. As she began to research the issue, she felt compelled to stand up for trafficked and exploited children. She co-founded Rapha House in 2003, and continues to work tirelessly on behalf of children everywhere. She serves as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Rapha House, but she still believes that being a mother is the most important job in her life. She lives in Joplin, MO along with her husband, Brandon, and their three children.
There is nothing more precious on this earth than children! Their innocence is so adorable as they learn and find their way. They know no hate or rancor, they’re not jealous or racist, they love unconditionally. They are so vulnerable and do not know it that when someone offers affection, they cannot see if it’s genuine or malicious.
My wife and I came to learn about Rapha House through Dee Perconti, who was a fellow art student with my wife, Natalie. There are no consequences in life; a consequence is when God chooses to remain anonymous. This relationship flourished and we came to know of their passion for saving children, which quickly became ours.
It’s easy to think that these children are half-way around the world and that our efforts to just create awareness is so insignificant, to the point one just chooses to sit this one out. But an amazing thing happens when someone chooses to do something in love – his or her seemingly insignificant effort can move mountains! After all, one faithful person and Jesus Christ is an overwhelming majority!
From spending $10 or $100 dollars, which would affect our lives in no way whatsoever, to sharing a story, the effects can be felt in Cambodia and Haiti by little ones feeling safe, loved and nourished. It was this realization that pulled our heart string and often makes us feel inadequate at what little we do.
We thank God for the opportunity to be faithful, Sal and Dee for their unconditional friendship, and Rapha House for their diligent and determined loving mission.
The sport of racquetball has introduced me to many great things on and off the court. Going out on tour with the IRT has been a great blessing. I have met many wonderful people, seen many amazing places, and watched some mind blowing matches. That’s what the IRT Network was suppose to do for me after all…right? Well, yes, but by far the biggest blessing, and a great unintended consequence, was a fateful day in the spring of 2012 when I met Dee and Sal Perconti, and learned of the work they did with the Rapha House.
Saying that I am overjoyed about being able to work and help promote the Rahpa House is perhaps the greatest understatement that I could make. They are doing God’s work. They find and save those in the human trafficking INDUSTRY. They help rehabilitate the hurting souls, and teach them how to be productive in society. My only regret is not having more available time and money to give to the cause.
If you bid on any of these auction items, then you are doing a part in helping the cause too. Please check out the auction, bid often, and help bring love to the hurting. With your help and support, you too can be a part of making a difference in someone’s life. God bless you friends.
In 2009, I was a student at Florida Christian College in Kissimmee, Florida. My co-worker, Lucy Asamoah, had been actively involved in the work of International Justice Mission. Through our campus chapter, she was rallying students around the cause. I watched as she advocated and was inspired to do more.
I got involved with the IJM chapter and heard of the work of Rapha House through the DVD that Christ In Youth produced called “Baht.” The story of one girl who had been trafficked in Cambodia and rescued by Rapha House. The story gripped me and I decided I had to go see for myself. My daughter was 12 at the time and I remember thinking if she were in Cambodia, she could be at risk of being trafficked.
These girls were no different than my own child! The outrage that arose in me could only merit one thing, advocating and doing as much as I possibly could for the victims, and ensuring their eventual safety and justice. I began leading teams in 2010 and have continued to yearly led advocates to Cambodia. Some 80 advocates have been to Cambodia and learned of the good work of Rapha House, thanks to our partners in ministry Florida Christian College (Now Johnson University Florida) and Central Christian Church. We were also actively involved in the work of bringing a safe house to Haiti, and we are very pleased to know that Rapha House is now there.
Our family has just begun the process of becoming full-time missionaries to Cambodia.
I first learned about Rapha House in 2010 from fellow team member, Kenny Beers. My husband, Justin, and Kenny came on staff at Central Christian Church of St, Petersburg at the same time. As our friendship with the Beers’ family deepened, their passion for helping the ministry of Rapha House spread into our hearts. I began to advocate for Rapha House and sell their beautiful merchandise at different Christian events and local folk fairs. In 2014, I was given an opportunity to travel to Cambodia and meet these beautiful girls and the wonderful people who diligently pour into their lives to love and restore their hurting hearts and minds. I am honored to be a voice for this wonderful organization and bring awareness and action to the problem of child trafficking.
Jen’s greatest desire has always been to utilize her utilize her educational and life experiences to make a difference in the lives of children who are hurting. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, eight years of experience working in special education, and ten years of experience working with the child welfare system, Jen began working for Rapha House in 2008 as the Child Protection Officer. In 2013 Jen moved to Cambodia to serve as country director for Rapha House. After almost two years in Cambodia, Jen returned to the US as the International Director of Client Services. In this position she continues to use her passion and skills to write and implement Child Protection policy, train staff, audit programs, advocate, and develop resources for all Rapha House locations.
In 2011, I was encouraged by the pastor’s wife at the church that I attended to consider going on a Rapha House awareness trip. I had recently sold the gymnastics facility for children that I owned and have always been an advocate for children, but had so many reasons not to go on this trip. Well, the Lord had a different plan. I went on a trip in October of that year and was changed forever. I came home, started volunteering once a week, and came on staff in early 2012.
I now lead these awareness trips for Rapha House and am so excited to see the number of people that return totally sold out and ready to advocate for the ministry. I am blessed beyond measure to see how the lives of the children we serve are changed. I am doubly blessed to see the lives of those that I take over to see Rapha House change, too.
Events like the US Open Racquetball and partners like Dee and Sal Perconti literally keep us fighting for these precious children!
I’ve been playing racquetball since 1988 and immediately fell in love with the sport. I’ve played competitively since about 1990 and I remember my first racquet was the Ektelon Quantus. My first high-end racquet was the CBK right before they retired that frame. I’ve played all across the Midwest and have enjoyed not only the fitness aspects and benefits of the game, but also the friendships I’ve gained through the sport. I’ve had the pleasure of learning from great players like Mike Locker, Dave Hart, Pete McCarthy and Jim Frautschi. Racquetball will forever hold a special place in my heart as in 2012, I had the honor of being married on the Stadium Court at the US Open to my wonderful wife Jessica.
When the US Open tournament moved from Memphis to the Twin Cities and with so much of my life spent with my ‘racquetball family’ playing for fun and competition, I had the opportunity to be involved with Doug Ganim and the UnitedHealthcare US Open, I jumped at the chance. I took on the role of coordinating the Charity auction benefiting (in my first year) St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. In my 3rd year of involvement we added the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. This year I’m very excited to also add Rapha House to the organizations I have the privilege of assisting. And now being a team member with Sal and Dee Perconti to truly ramp up our efforts to the Auction, I know this year will be the best yet!
I have been volunteering with Rapha House for about three years. I primarily work with merchandising, (selling/receiving/shipping), but have had the opportunity to lead two different Awareness Trips.
I love working with Rapha! This organization is all about the girls in the safe houses, the kids in the prevention programs and sharing Jesus! I love getting to be a “link in a chain” God uses. I never know when I am mailing out an item of merchandise for an event or an order, what person will see it, which then spurs a conversation like – “Where did you get that? What is Rapha House? That’s so cool, how do I get involved?
I cannot effect change or make a big difference on my own, but God can take my small involvement and touch many other lives. That is why I love my job with Rapha House.
My name is Travis Buchan and I am the Chief Financial Officer for Rapha House. I consider myself blessed to be a part of the team, and I’ve been on staff for three and a half years. On a daily basis I help oversee our organization’s financial operations and information technology. Many people might think that my job working with numbers and spreadsheets would be boring, but I can’t think of anything more exciting than using my business training and obsession with details to serve God at Rapha House.
So many people work in their own professions doing very important work, but sometimes have difficulty seeing their purpose and the way that God is using them and their skills to advance his Kingdom. Working at Rapha House, I can wake up every day and know that I’m helping fight for justice and healing. Not just in volunteering my spare time, but in my everyday profession. I can see my purpose in the stories of girls like Phally or Sophorn who have experienced God’s healing through the work of Rapha House.
I consider it a blessing to be a part of the Rapha House team and a part of God’s unstoppable force to redeem and transform the world. I am fighting for justice and healing – one spreadsheet at a time.
My name is Chris Wheeler and I am the U.S. Director of Rapha House Kids Club. I have been on staff for 6 years, which is when we began the sponsorship program. In this program we sponsor children from some of the poorest neighborhoods in Phnom Penh and Battambang. We send them to school, give the families rice each month, provide medical and dental care, as well as a social worker who visits with the families, and teachers to make sure the children are doing well. If we see a situation where a child is at risk, we step in and work for the safety of that child.
We conduct Kids Club meetings twice a week where we teach the children about Jesus and His love for them. With Cambodia being predominantly Buddhist, the teaching about Jesus is something we see as important to the future of the country.
We currently have over 660 children sponsored between the two clubs. My favorite part of my job is sponsoring new children. I have hope each time that this child will make a difference both in his family, in the country, and that they will have a better future filled with hope.
I love visiting the Kids Clubs to see the children, to make note of how they are growing and changing, and hear them sing songs of Jesus and His love. It fills my heart with gratitude that we are able to help these children.
I have been asked several times if I feel like this really makes a difference. I respond that I can’t take on the whole country, but I can help this one little neighborhood and that I know I’m making a difference in the lives of the children sponsored.
My philosophy in the whole Rapha House picture is that it’s much better to prevent trafficking than to have to clean it up afterward, so whatever we can do to that end, I am willing.
I have been a Rapha House volunteer for a year and a half. I was out walking with a friend one afternoon and she shared with me about the Rapha House prevention program, the Freedom Salon. This program houses at risk young women in the capitol city of Phnom Penh and teaches them the cosmetology trade. Because I have been a stylist for the past 20 years, I was fascinated with the concept of preventing trafficking with Freedom Salon.
I immediately went home and began to research everything I could about Rapha House. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with everything about this organization. I was looking for a way to give back and I felt God press upon my heart to serve for/with Rapha House. In March of this year, I joined an awareness trip to see firsthand what God was already accomplishing in Cambodia. My eyes were opened to the depths of the work being done by Rapha House. Wow….what an amazing experience it was!!
I have become an advocate for them, sharing the tragedy of human trafficking as much as I am able to small groups, friends, and family members. I feel many people need to hear how they, too, can help make a difference. Along with sharing my new passion, I volunteer every Monday in the US home office. My time there is spent filling orders, mailing letters, cleaning, or helping with merchandise. No matter what the task, it is I that am fulfilled every time I leave each week. I often tell others that my week does not feel complete unless I have served at Rapha House. I am surrounded by other freedom fighters that share the same love and passion every single time I walk through the door. Raising awareness with the hope of opening more eyes is worth every minute of my time. I want to be a voice for the millions of child trapped in the dark world of human trafficking. I could not be more blessed to be part of this calling!