Soccer tourney scores in cancer fight
CONCORD - Ethan Raymond was standing at the center of Doug White Memorial Field at Concord-Carlisle High School, talking about his grandmother, and her battle with breast cancer.
It was about 90 minutes before Raymond and his teammates on the varsity boys’ soccer team at Acton-Boxborough Regional were scheduled for a key Dual County League showdown against Wayland last Saturday. Raymond was in uniform, but the getup was lacking the Colonials’ customary blue-and-gold coloring.
Instead, he wore a baby-blue T-shirt. On the front, a small shield rested over his chest. A soccer ball was placed in the middle of the emblem, and above the ball was text that read, “Kicks for Cancer.’’
Above that, in smaller print, read, simply, “Lois.’’ On the back, above Raymond’s number, the nameplate said, “Ellie.’’
Behind Raymond, beneath overcast skies that had threatened, but not delivered, rain all day, was a pair of soccer games. Reading was taking on Woburn and Stoneham was facing Wakefield.
These teams, too, had ditched their traditional colors, and on each field, a team in baby blue battled against a team in light pink. On the back of each jersey was a name. Like the one on the back of Raymond’s shirt, the name wasn’t necessarily that of the player wearing it.
The names belonged to someone affected by cancer who is or was close to the player. The practice is but one of many ways the fifth annual Kicks for Cancer soccer event helped raise awareness and money in the name of cancer research.
His grandmother, Ellie Carpenito, “did survive,’’ said Raymond, a junior at Acton-Boxborough. “There was a lot of family support that went into it. It’s nice to put her name on the back of the shirt. She knows her name’s here, and we’re here for her and we’re happy she came through.
“That’s not always the case for everybody.’’
Concord-Carlisle started Kicks for Cancer in 2007. What has evolved into a daylong event started as a single night game in memory of Lois Wells, the mother of Steve Wells, a 1999 graduate of the high school who returned as an assistant coach in 2003. Steve’s older brother, Dan, also played soccer for the Patriots .
Lois Wells was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, and passed away in March 2007.
“The team just wanted to do something to support me and my family,’’ Steve Wells said. Head coach Ray Pavlik “came up with the idea of just doing a benefit game and donating all the proceeds to Dana-Farber,’’ the facility in Boston where his mother was treated.
In the first year, the event raised $7,000 to $8,000, a stunning amount, according to Pavlik. More importantly, the experience had been a blast, and had swayed a group of high school students to accomplish something beyond competing.
They decided to do it again the next year, and the year after that. Over those first three years, Kicks for Cancer raised roughly $28,000. Pavlik was encouraged. He decided it was time to expand.
Last year the event featured four teams playing a pair of simultaneous games, something Concord-Carlisle could do because of its dual field setup. In one night, the event raised $15,000, all of which went to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
This year, Kicks for Cancer became a daylong event, with teams from a dozen area high schools - Acton-Boxborough, Belmont, Brookline, Concord-Carlisle, Lexington, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, Newton North, Reading Memorial, Stoneham, Wakefield, Wayland, and Woburn - playing six games at the Concord-Carlisle complex.
On the fields, the competition was some of the best the state had to offer. Off it, fund-raising efforts, including raffles, T-shirt sales, and concessions, created a tailgate-like atmosphere for the hundreds of fans who attended.
The list of items being raffled could keep a New England family entertained for years: gift cards to restaurants, tickets to Bruins, Boston College football, Boston Celtic, and New England Revolution games, iPads, plasma TVs.
Paul Epstein - brother of Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein - donated box seats and batting practice field passes to a game at Fenway Park next summer. Someone else ponied up for a weeklong vacation at a condo in Idaho.
The event was another wild success. Pavlik had hoped to double last year’s financial total, and while they didn’t quite get there, the roughly $25,000 figure is impressive.
Pavlik said the school plans to host the event again next year, and expand it even more. He said he still can’t believe how much money the teams have been able to raise. He’s also continually impressed at the effect the game has on his players.
Lincoln-Sudbury coach Dave Hosmer also sees positive effects for the high school students.
“Being a teacher and a coach, you want to have these moments where they get outside of themselves and get out of their smaller, individual universes,’’ he said. “That’s not easy to do at times. It’s imposed on them in large part because they’re always going and always trying to fulfill some part of their personal plan.
“To actually have this where it is larger and they’re able to open their eyes, not that they’re required to, but they can’t help that. It’s larger than the win or the loss. It allows them to really see what is out there a little bit.’’