WASHINGTON - Instead of the normal D.C. vacation he takes annually to visit his dad, 15-year-old Jordan Butler this summer found a world he’d never thought about before and a cause to fight for.

Butler, who will be a Waxahachie High School sophomore this fall, learned about disease and Africa, and how easy it could be to help stop its spread. The basketball fanatic also met an NBA star along the way.

A family friend, Carole Cones-Bradfield, is executive director of the Safe Blood International Foundation, an organization committed to stopping the transmission of disease through blood transfusions.

She told Butler about the campaign and sparked an interest in the group’s African efforts.

“Africa has more diseases than anywhere else,” Butler said. “Trying to make a difference is pretty cool to me.”

Butler was at a fund-raising dinner for the campaign in Washington, where he met congressmen and Emeka Okafor, a forward for the Charlotte Bobcats and 2005’s Rookie of the Year.

Meeting Okafor was “just extra,” Butler said. “Of course that’s exciting, but I’m here for a different reason.”

Safe Blood for Africa, part of an international organization that also works in China, India and Ukraine, provides training for nurses and technicians and monetary support to help build blood transfusion clinics so any contaminated blood won’t be used. Thousands of Africans contract HIV, hepatitis, malaria and other diseases every year because they receive infected blood, according to Safe Blood for Africa.

In an effort to reach parts of the continent that need immediate help, the foundation launched its “One Million African Lives” initiative in November. The group is trying to raise $15 million during the next five years to distribute $15 blood test kits.

Each kit, the organization says, could save a life.

Okafor, a first-generation American whose parents are from Nigeria, said the campaign’s reach is so great because while corporate leaders can give thousands, the average person can donate, too, even younger ones.

“It’s just about raising awareness,” he said. “Fifteen dollars, that’s beer money for the weekend. So forgo drinking for a weekend and you save a life.”

Then tell your friends, he said, and you could start a chain reaction.

Butler said he hasn’t organized a fund-raiser in Waxahachie yet and doesn’t know if he will, but said he will think of something he can do for the cause.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “So many people are dying from blood diseases. Trying to help them out is something to be proud of.”

At home, Butler said he spends all his free time playing basketball. His parents are Louis and Glynis Butler. Louis is a history teacher who spends his summers as a National Park Service ranger stationed at Arlington National Cemetery, just outside of Washington.

Jordan Butler’s dreams in life are basketball and college. He said he wants to play in college but isn’t sure about an NBA career, hoping instead to go into journalism.

Butler said he has already learned a lot from the Safe Blood for Africa campaign.

“Don’t take so much for granted,” he said. “I did until I learned about how they’re living there.”

For more information, visit http://www.onemillionafricanlives.org

Jess Davis, a WHS graduate and University of South Carolina student, is an intern with Scripps Howard Foundation Wire this summer.