By almost any definition Travis M. Hansen (’03) leads a remarkable life. A star basketball player from Orem, Utah, Hansen was a 6’6″ championship athlete who played three seasons at BYU and led the Cougars to a 44-1 home record and two Mountain West Conference championships. He finished college as the MWC MVP and Defensive Player of the Year before the Atlanta Hawks drafted him in 2003.After a year in the NBA, Hansen took his skills to Europe, where he eventually played for Dynamo, Russia’s top team, and was so successful that Vladimir Putin granted him Russian citizenship. He later played for Spain’s Real Madrid.
As memorable as his basketball experiences were, however, Hansen and his wife, LaRee, say they found their greatest work off the court while living in Russia. Frustrated about their trouble having children, they came across a Bible passage one evening: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30). Travis, BYU’s 2015 Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award recipient, says they had the impression they were in Russia for more important reasons than basketball.
“We needed to stop thinking about ourselves and our problems,” he says. “There was a work for us to do, people to help, and if we were humble and willing to work, we could be instruments in the Lord’s hands.”
The result was Little Heroes Foundation, which focused on helping children worldwide. Renamed Sunshine Heroes Foundation for founding sponsor Nature’s Sunshine, the organization has served hundreds of thousands of children in 19 countries, renovating baby hospitals in Russia, constructing schools in Mali, distributing health supplements throughout Ghana, and building children’s centers. Still in his 30s, Hansen, now a father of four, says his life of gratitude and service is just beginning.