A global pandemic, social and civic unrest, and growing weather condition concerns that the globe is facing right now are enough to challenge even the healthiest and most prepared, but amidst all these challenges LAFC is using the month of September to readjust its focus to among the most vulnerable population, and an annual cause near and dear to their hearts, raising awareness and funds to combat Childhood Cancer. All throughout the month, the Black & Gold will be working with Major League Soccer, partners Kaiser Permanente, and the Austen Everett Foundation to host virtual events and charitable activities focused on this important cause.
To kick off the month’s activities, the Club hosted a virtual hospital visit with young current and former cancer patients at Kaiser Permanente hospitals. As part of the visit, the patients were surprised with custom LAFC “jersey gowns”, jerseys that were cut and sewn into usable hospital gowns, and then invited to take part in an interactive meet and great with LAFC defender, Jordan Harvey.
As part of Harvey’s opening address to the group, he quickly jumped into a common thread they all shared that hearkens back to a fundamental promise of the Club, to Unite the World’s City Through the World’s Game. Regardless of the current situation each of the kids were in, faces lit up across the screen as Jordan added, “I think that's always a really special thing to bond over is how come you come together. This Club has kind of brought people together from all different backgrounds, areas of LA even, outside of LA over one common thing and it's a passion for football.” And with that, the group was transported into the world of the beautiful game, a place where their existence wasn’t defined by their medical circumstances.
The stories began flowing. 11-year-old Presley told Jordan how her “team is like her family.” She would watch LAFC matches with her AYSO teammates and try to pick up bits of ball skills and the organization they saw on the field, as Jordan gave her some communication pointers to help with her player development. Then Jordan asked Anthony, a goalie that plays for the club soccer team FC Golden State, what the game meant to him and got an answer that left the group without a dry eye. “I mean honestly, soccer really did save my life,” said Anthony. “Like not in a cheesy way but everything started from soccer.”
As it turned out, during a routine practice in 2018 when Anthony was fielding shots from his team, he took a ball to the groin. The shot ended up being so hard that it ruptured a testicle, and when they were in the hospital the doctors noticed something that ended up likely saving his life. They found cancerous cells in the groin area that had begun to spread to his stomach and lungs. A treatment plan including multiple surgeries and major chemotherapy was immediately underway in a matter of weeks. “I love soccer,” said Anthony, “but it’s different for me now.” Anthony has now been in remission for a year and three months and hearing him talk about the game of soccer exhibits how powerful the beautiful game can be.
The meet and greet lasted for over an hour, and it was easy to see how much both Jordan and the group gained from the experience. As the meeting was ending, it shifted to the screen of Daniel and his mother, and she began to express what the whole group was feeling. “I teach and I told the kids about Daniel’s incredible experience today and so I just wanted to say thank you for what you do because honestly you motivate so many kids,” said Daniel’s mother. “So I just wanted to let you know that you motivate a lot of kiddos and thank you for taking the time out of your day to do this for them.”
For more information on LAFC how continues to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer and other community activities visit https://www.lafc.com/community.