MLS' St. Jude Ambassadors honored by MLS W.O.R.K.S.

NEW YORK — On the field, Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy has come to the aid of his teammates more than once when they’ve struggled to defend opposing attacks.

Off the field, Kennedy is doing the same, coming to the aid of cancer-stricken children as one of seven MLS players who work as ambassadors for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“It’s an honor,” Kennedy tells MLSsoccer.com. “I remember growing up and looking up to professional athletes. Sometimes I don’t see myself like that, but I realize that kids respond to us. So I go to hospitals and see how bad things can be, and I marvel at how happy these kids still are when they’re fighting like hell. To give them a little bit of a distraction and a little bit of inspiration is an honor.”

For their work with the Memphis-based St. Jude, the seven MLSers — Kennedy; Chicago’s Logan Pause; San Jose’s Mehdi Ballouchy, Shea Salinas and Jason Hernandez; and New York’s Kenny Cooper and Rafa Márquez — have been named MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarians of the Month for September.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is one of the premier pediatric cancer research centers in the world. For patients with health insurance, the 50-year-old institution covers the cost of care beyond what insurance pays for, and for those families without insurance, St. Jude’s covers the full cost.

“It’s turning one of the worst situations a family can face into a situation that doesn’t compound with bills,” Kennedy says.

At the end of the month, Kennedy will head to Memphis to make an appearance, something several of the other ambassadors have done previously. Márquez and Cooper traveled there in July, spending time with patients and even helping a few learn some soccer tricks.

Many of the MLS ambassadors have shot public service announcements in support of Goals for St. Jude, a fundraising and awareness campaign taking place September 15-22 as part of the league’s “Soccer Kicks Cancer” initiative.

For the players, it’s all about giving something back.

“We do a lot of things on this coast working with kids who struggle with their health and youth with cancer,” says San Jose’s Hernandez. “It's really important to show our face and make ourselves known in the community as people who care and people who are paying attention. It's been great for me, and I'm honored to be part of it.”