Owen Dumansky tirelessly chased an elusive soccer ball around Willoughby Community Park’s turf soccer field Saturday afternoon.
Seeing Owen, adorned with shades, playing ‘The Beautiful Game’ was a beautiful sight for his mom Joanne MacNeil.
Three-year-old Owen is a brain cancer survivor, and he along with his family took part in Langley United Soccer Association’s third annual Kicking Cancer fundraiser.
Co-organized by LUSA technical director Mark Parker along with Shann Lovegrove and Mike Stumph, Kicking Cancer was a marathon of pickup soccer games that started at noon Saturday, June 25 at Willoughby Community Park and continued non-stop for 18 hours. The all-ages soccer relays included players of all ages of abilities, from kids as young as four years old up to grandparents.
Kicking Cancer had one-hour time slots running throughout the afternoon, evening and overnight before finishing at dawn (6 a.m.) on Sunday, June 26.
The fundraiser has already met its goal of raising $10,000 for the Canadian Cancer Foundation, benefiting leading-edge research at the BC Cancer Agency aimed at finding a cure for pediatric cancers.
All three co-organizers have known someone who has battled the disease. “Loads of family, father-in-law, close cousins…,” Parker said.
Parker said rougly four years ago, the LUSA board decided to do something to give back to the community.
Kicking Cancer was born.
“One of the areas where we thought the need would be was pediatric cancers,” he added. “The event really is around the funds going to pediatric research, but it was a group effort by our board.”
Stumph said with the youth involvement in LUSA, pediatric cancer is “a great fit.”
“To come watch these kids get together, come out for a great cause, it’s incredible to see,” Stumph said.
Owen’s Warriors, inspired by Owen, helped the cause.
In January 2014, Owen was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was a year-and-a-half old at the time of his diagnosis.
He underwent surgery the same month of his diagnosis and again in October of that year. This was followed by six weeks of proton radiation therapy in Seattle.
“Ever since then he’s followed up with MRIs at [BC] Children’s [Hospital] every four months,” Mom explained.
Owen celebrates his fourth birthday in August and Joanne said her young son understands that Owen’s Warriors is a soccer team that his big brother Jacob, seven, created for him.
“So we’re trying to involve Jacob more,” Joanne said. “He came up with the name Owen’s Warriors, he had the goal of, let’s raise the most money out of all the teams, and so it’s just showing him that he can help, too, because he was affected by it, as well.”
Joanne said Kicking Cancer is “important to me as a mom,” to not only see the support for her family but also to raise money for research and treatments in the battle against childhood cancer.
Watching Owen playing soccer is “amazing because it could have been the other way,” Joanne said.
“He’s doing awesome and by looking at him, you would have never known that this [his cancer] had happened,” Joanne said. “It’s very heartwarming. It’s awesome.”
Donations to Kicking Cancer can still be made online through www.donate.bccancerfoundation.com/site/TR?fr_id=2990&pg=entry.