In life and athletics there are many battles to be fought, but there is one that reaches home to nearly everyone: cancer.
The North Carolina men’s and women’s soccer teams have been working together to raise money for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center since Sept. 1, marking the beginning of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Senior defender Matt Constant has been leading the effort for the men's team, along with sophomore midfielder Maggie Pierce, redshirt senior Taylor Otto and other members of leadership on the women’s team.
“I think our main goal was setting up a way that we can kind of give back to them and make them feel like part of Carolina,” Constant said.
The inspiration behind the initiative dates back years, especially for women's soccer head coach Anson Dorrance and his program, which has had various members of its soccer family affected by the disease.
“We have several young women that we are very conscious of now that are fighting and we have had several players that have contracted cancer in a very aggressive way," Dorrance said. “So, it’s something that we think about all of the time.”
Pierce was one of the members of the team who had been personally affected by the disease, so participating in the fundraiser was especially important to her.
"Personally, I lost a friend to childhood cancer, so that was one of my initiatives to raise money," Pierce said. "I think other people on the team just wanted to support a really good cause."
Players have shared time with children battling cancer over the years, during visits to the hospitals and hosting the kids at home games, which opened the eyes of many members of the two teams.
“We did the same fundraiser last year, and we also did a childhood cancer game to go with it," Pierce said. "I think that kind of inspired people to try to make them happy just for one day and made us want to raise more money this year.”
The teams set the mark high in regards to a monetary goal at $15,000, and they've made progress in the early stages.
“So far, our team has raised like $8,600 and that is almost our whole side of the goal," Pierce said. “That’s pretty good being the first week, and I think we will surpass our goal as we keep raising money throughout the month.”
With the spread of COVID-19 causing health concerns for many across the country, some members of the team said it is especially important for these children to have access to their basic needs.
The monetary support comes at a welcome time for many, and the teams said the purpose behind the fundraiser is to help provide a sense of comfort to their families.
“The money is going towards non-medical needs," Constant said. “Especially nowadays with COVID-19, it is important to get them to and from in terms of visits or anything else that they need.”
Fighting childhood cancer will never come easy, but the two teams hope efforts like these provide reassurance for those battling that they are not alone.
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