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Gabriel Hamel

As a senior at South Eugene in 2000, Gabriel Hamel was the first from his school in 25 years to win a state championship in wrestling. He also joined the Army National Guard as a senior, and found himself 20 miles south of Baghdad in 2003-04, patrolling Iraq's main highway. "It was a good personal experience; it grew me up," says Hamel, who got out in '05. "I'm thankful we made it back." Struck by the poverty he saw in Iraq and on trips to El Salvador, he launched Humans for Humanity, a non-profit umbrella group to support projects that help poor people. HH's first project is Escuelo Camino Claro (caminoclaro.org), a community education center in Pavones, Costa Rica, co-founded by Hamel's SEHS classmate Haley Whitely. ECC will hold its second annual Pura Vida fundraising event at the Fenario Gallery, 881 Willamette Street, on the evening of January 31, featuring a silent auction and music by four local bands. Since his return from Iraq, Hamel has also served as wrestling coach at South. "My first year back, there were four kids on the team," he says. "Now we have 22, mostly freshmen and sophomores." Last fall he began full-time work at the school, teaching a life-skills class for special-needs kids.

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 22 January 2009

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