LAKEVIEW — You've slurred it, Parker Heaps has heard it, after he and good friend Ryan Hendricks decided to spend next summer driving 12,000 miles from Chicago to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
"Pretty much any kind of word that can be used to insult us, people have told us," said Heaps, 26, of Lakeview. "People are excited and scared for us as the same time. A lot of people say we're crazy, others think we're out of our minds or reckless."
The five-week journey through 14 countries has a purpose: Heaps, Hendricks, two translators, (including Hendricks' wife) and a film crew will be creating a documentary that hopes "to show the world how great the sport [of soccer] is," Heaps said. Along the way, they will be donating soccer gear to children in various countries, including the United States.
Heaps and Hendricks, a Columbia College Chicago film graduate, on July 1 co-founded World FC, an organization Heaps said "believes in uniting people through soccer." On Friday, they will be making their first equipment donation of uniforms to youth players from Pilsen, Austin, North Lawndale and South Lawndale participating in a soccer tournament at Douglas Park.
Also later this week, World FC will launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $63,000 to pay for the trip to Brazil. Heaps said $6,000 of that figure will be used to pay for gas for the two full-size SUVs taking the group of seven to South America. Other expenses include food and lodging, but Heaps said the crew also needs costly insurance policies for each country through which they pass.
The journey will begin June 4, possibly from the U.S. Soccer House in the South Loop, Heaps said.
The trip to Brazil's second largest city, Rio De Janeiro, isn't exactly safe. Although Heaps said they won't be bringing weapons, he said all seven travelers will be taking "some sort of self-defense class and road awareness class" in preparation for potentially dangerous highways in Mexico and Central and South America.
"There are corrupt police forces and people like that who like to control highways, and there are very violent areas," Heaps said.
Heaps' biggest concern is whether the World Cup will take place at all. Protesters on Tuesday disrupted a visit by FIFA, soccer's governing body, to a soccer stadium construction site in Cuiaba, and a million Brazilians took to the streets in more than 100 cities this week to protest the world's biggest sporting event.
“We know the trip we’re taking is going to be full of dangers, rewards and surprises, but we believe in our mission so much that it’s a risk we’re willing to take," Hendricks said. "We just hope the rewards are surprises are great ones.”
Once in Brazil, the group will try to acquire media passes for the games, but Heaps said they're more interested in filming the "culture surrounding the World Cup."
"Our goal is to see as much as possible and stay as safe as possible, and see what this sport means to other countries," Heaps said.
For more information on the Kickstarter campaign, click here.