FC Tampa Bay forward Aaron King and midfielder Keith Savage visited the Children’s Cancer Center on Tuesday afternoon to meet several strong and brave individuals, and teach them about the sport of soccer. The children’s eyes lit up as they played soccer and other games such as pool and Nintendo 64 with the players.
The Children’s Cancer Center, located on West Cypress Street in Tampa, is home to about 850 patients per year with ages ranging from birth to young adults in their early twenties. The center is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children who have cancer or chronic blood disorders and their families with the educational, emotional and financial assistance necessary to cope with their life-threatening illnesses.
Kristen Ketcham has been working for 10 years with the Children’s Cancer Center as a Social Worker and Support Service Coordinator.
“It means so much for the kids to have the support of professional sports in the community,” said Ketcham. “They love to have athletes come out and play with them. They had a great time outside with the players and it really means a lot to be able to have that interaction and to know that there’s support behind them in the community.”
The children attending these sessions through the Children’s Cancer Center weren’t the only ones who were touched by the experience.
“It’s a cool opportunity to come here and see what we normally take for granted,” said Savage. “I think I’ll definitely come back here and volunteer on my own time just to take advantage.”
Aaron King had the same reaction.
“I feel like everyone needs an escape, especially a kid going through something so it’s been a great experience so far,” said King.
“I’m often asked is it difficult for me to come and work with kids sometimes who have terminal illnesses or life threatening diseases but truly, truly, I get more than I could ever give working with these kids,” said Patty O’Leary, Chief Operating Officer of the Children’s Cancer Center. “They are full of life and encouragement. It’s enjoying, it’s rewarding, the list goes on and on. I’m blessed.”
The children have learned a strong lesson from a very young age that you can’t take life for granted. They are the true definition of living each and everyday to the fullest. FC Tampa Bay was glad to be a part of such an inspirational experience and the team hopes to do more with the Children’s Cancer Center in the near future.
There are many other ways that fans and others in the community can help out. The Children’s Cancer Center is run without government funding and relies heavily on donations, volunteers, and grants. There are also numerous fundraisers that the organization holds that one can attend to help out. For more information or to make a donation, visit their website at www.childrenscancercenter.org.