Kick Childhood Cancer

How MLS clubs marked the 2021 Kick Childhood Cancer campaign

MLS, MLS WORKS – the League’s social responsibility platform – and Continental Tire are teaming up to support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with the 8th annual “Kick Childhood Cancer” campaign to raise awareness of pediatric cancers and fundraise for childhood cancer research.

Here's a full list of club activations during the past month.

Atlanta United kicked off the month with virtual hospital visits at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Hospital staff were surprised with giveaways and a special recognition for four employees. At the annual Unite & Conquer Cancer match vs. D.C. United on Saturday, Sept. 18, 200 pediatric cancer fighters and survivors and their guests were treated to a tailgate before taking in the match, which was decked out in gold elements. The team hosted five “Conquer Kids” and delivered a special experience at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground.

Austin FC celebrated and recognized local heroes in the fight against childhood cancer at the club’s home match on Sept. 15. As part of the event, Austin FC donated tickets to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, as well as honored a former pediatric cancer patient and his family on the scoreboard in-stadium. The club had gold nets on display, as well as the players dressed in custom Kick Childhood Cancer warm-up tops prior to the match. A warm-up top was autographed by the Austin FC team and auctioned off, with proceeds going to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In addition, Austin FC and Founding Partner St. David’s HealthCare donated pajamas to125 pediatric cancer patients through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Chicago Fire FC hosted Kick Childhood Cancer night on Sept. 29. Players donned the names and ages of 20 pediatric cancer patients from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago on the back of their warm-up tops. The player-worn warm-up tops were autographed and included in a care package from the club gifted to the patients and their families. In addition, each represented patient and their family were invited to the Fire’s match and were recognized on the jumbotron in-stadium.

FC Cincinnati worked with four local pediatric cancer organizations through the month of September. As the Community Partner of the Match, they received scoreboard recognition, booth space and tickets to a match. A representative from each organization also designed a KCC scarf which was sold in the team store with a percentage of proceeds donated to the organizations. FCC also created a special experience for families who were invited to the new TQL Stadium for a tour, visit with Gary the mascot, and a goody bag with FCC and Kick Childhood Cancer gear.

Colorado Rapids hosted Kick Childhood Cancer night on Sept. 11. They had an honorary Kid Captain for the evening who was announced as part of the starting lineup with their own headshot, assisted with the official coin toss and was part of the Starting XI photo. During the week of Sept. 6, the Rapids conducted virtual player appearances with patients and delivering meals to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, Swedish Medical Center and Medical Center of Aurora to help feed staff and families.

Columbus Crew lit up Field in gold for its Kick Childhood Cancer Night presented by Vertiv match against CF Montreal on Sept. 25.

As part of the event, the Crew donated tickets to A Kid Again and to NC4K to attend the match. During the Sept. 25 contest, the club featured the School of Rock Gahanna playing in the stadium's plaza, while the Columbus International Children’s Choir sang the national anthem as part of the pre-match ceremony. Also, as part of the pre-match ceremony, the Ceremonial Kick for the match was taken by a pediatric cancer survivor. Additionally, the Hard Hat Hero for the match was a front-line worker from Nationwide Children’s Hospital Oncology Unit, while the club also honored a pediatric cancer family as part of its Hero of the Match tradition. In addition to the above, the club also hosted 150 pediatric cancer patient and survivor families as part of its NC4K’s Back to School Bash at Historic Crew Stadium. The families in attendance were provided back to school supplies and backpacks, while also having access to a variety of fun activities on the plaza.

D.C. United celebrated and recognized local heroes in the fight against childhood cancer at the club’s home match on Sept. 25. The club had gold nets on display, as well as the players dressed in custom Kick Childhood Cancer warm-up tops prior to the match. Additionally, the club created a special edition Kick Childhood Cancer scarf available for purchase in the club shop with proceeds benefitting Team Mathias, a local 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to making a positive change in the lives of kids diagnosed with cancer.  

Julian Gressel, DC United midfielder shared the back story of his friendship with Owen Klemme, who was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma when he was just three years old in Feb. 2018 on an episode of The Call Up.

FC Dallas executed virtual player appearances at Dallas/Fort Worth children’s hospitals while the FC Dallas Foundation hosted a Kick Childhood Cancer Auction benefitting Wipe Out Kids Cancer. The auction, which runs from Sept.  29 – Oct. 8, features an autographed Kick Childhood Cancer training top as well as team-signed and match-used specialty Kick Childhood Cancer soccer ball. FC Dallas hosted special guests battling childhood cancer and their families on Sept 29.

Houston Dynamo FC hosted Soccer Kicks Cancer night on Sept. 3. Players wore the names of 18 pediatric cancer patients from MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital on the back of their warm-up tops prior to the game. The cancer survivors were recognized as honorary team members for the night. The starting line-up featured head shots of each player drawn by pediatric patients organized by MD Anderson’s Children’s Art Project and Arts in Medicine teams. Each of the honorary team members received the warm-up top with their name on it, honorary contract and other gifts after the game. In addition to the events scheduled for Sept. 3, Dynamo players and staff played virtual bingo with pediatric patients at MD Anderson. Finally, the club made a food donation to the pediatric floor at MD Anderson to help feed staff and families, in accordance with COVID-19 safety precautions.

Sporting KC hosted the team’s Kick Childhood Cancer match on Sept. 26 featuring an Honoree Homecoming with a VIP experience for 165+ past Victory Project Honorees and up to $5,000 were donated to Children’s Mercy Hospital through $250 donations for each SKC shot in the match. Funds raised for The Victory Project throughout September via the weekly Argyle Ace raffle and an online auction launching on Sept. 15. A Victory Project Honoree got All-Star treatment at the Academy Affiliate All-Star Experience from Sept. 10-12 and former Honoree Madi Winfield was featured in a national ad campaign for Continental Tire. Patients at Children’s Mercy received Sporting pajamas in partnership with Continental Tire and children at the hospital will also have the opportunity to interact with Sporting KC players on Sept. 21 during a customized game of Hollywood Squares.

LAFC teamed up with club partner Kaiser Permanente and Austen Everett Foundation (AEF) throughout the month of September in support of MLS’ Kick Childhood Cancer initiative. On Sept. 1 LAFC goalkeeper Tomas Romero hosted a virtual hospital visit with young cancer warriors. Warriors participating in the visit were gifted a custom gown made from an authentic LAFC jersey. On Sept. 12, LAFC hosted its Kick Childhood Cancer match. Before the match, the club’s first team honored youth cancer warriors by wearing their name on the back of their warmup jersey. Following the match, each warrior received the personalized, signed jersey. One special warrior selected by AEF was invited to Banc of California Stadium to take part in the match’s pregame festivities as the honorary falconer. Special KCC shirts, designed by youth cancer warriors, were sold in-stadium during the match on the 12th with proceeds donated to AEF. To bring greater awareness to the significance of the match, all LAFC jerseys worn on the field that night bore a gold childhood cancer awareness ribbon, and the field was dressed with gold nets and corner flags for the game.

In partnership with Dream on 3, the LA Galaxy kicked off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by fulfilling Avery’s dream of meeting the LA Galaxy players at training and attending the Sept. 15 LA Galaxy home match. Avery is a ten-year-old pediatric cancer patient from Concord, NC who traveled to Los Angeles to spend a few days being the VIP guest of the team. Additionally, the LA Galaxy Foundation partnered with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and treated out-patient pediatric patients to a VIP Suite experience during the LA Galaxy home match on Wednesday, Sept. 15, as patients received LA Galaxy jerseys and were recognized in-game. CHLA also played the LA Galaxy match on their televisions at the hospital on Sept. 15 and distributed LA Galaxy giveaways and the Kick Childhood Cancer pajamas provided by MLS.

Earlier this summer, Inter Miami were able to fulfill a final wish for a 15-year-old Inter Miami fan, Patricio Ojeda. Patricio was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and after a two-year battle, was given a short time to live. As a passionate fútbol and Inter Miami fan, Patricio’s final wish was to come to the DRV PNK Stadium and meet the players. Inter Miami was able to give Patricio and his family a day they would never forget. Inter Miami signed Patricio as an official player for the day, with his jersey waiting for him in the locker room alongside his favorite players, Gonzalo Higuaín and Blaise Matuidi. As he was too unwell to attend a game, an intrasquad scrimmage was organized in his honor and Patricio was made captain for the day. The players treated him as a member of the squad as he sat alongside Phil Neville on the team bench for the game. Inter Miami staff and players raised funds for Patricio’s family who were struggling with the financial burden of their son’s illness. Sadly, Patricio lost his battle on July 31, 2021. A framed jersey will be placed at the DRV PNK Stadium to ensure Patricio will always be a part of this club. Inter Miami will dedicate this KCC to Patricio.

Minnesota United started the month by hosting a Register Round Up program in their Black and Blue Team Store with proceeds benefitting Children’s Cancer Research Fund. Select MNUFC players that have selected CCRF as their Man of the Match beneficiary participated in educational digital posts to spread awareness on KCC. In addition to the month’s initiatives, they hosted their annual KCC night on Sept. 18 where they wore the names of pediatric cancer patients’ names on the back of their warmup tops. These tops were then gifted to the families. A block of tickets and a suite was donated to families and staff of CCRF. To engage fans, an auction was hosted after the game to raise money for pediatric cancer research. To end the month the club will distribute MNUFC giveaways and the “Kick Childhood Cancer” pajamas provided by MLS to local children’s hospitals.

CF Montréal proudly hosted its annual Kick Childhood Cancer match on Sept. 19 at Stade Saputo. To mark the occasion, two children with cancer diagnoses along with their families were treated to an exclusive VIP match day experience from Stade Saputo’s private community loges. The children received official CF Montréal home jerseys and custom KCC scarves. In addition, the club invited healthcare workers from local children’s hospitals and cancer centers to the match as CF Montréal continues to strive to highlight the work of essential workers. Finally, in support of children in their battles against cancer, the team donated custom pajama bottoms, courtesy of Continental Tire, to patients receiving treatment at our partner hospitals and healthcare centers across the Greater Montreal Area.

Nashville SC’s Kick Childhood Cancer Night activations on Sept. 3 featured 17-year-old singer Ava Paige Davis who is not only a songwriter from Nashville, but also a patient at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. She performed the National Anthem prior to kick off against New York City FC. Nashville SC also welcomed Jessica Meyers, a child cancer survivor into the Nashville SC broadcast booth as a guest host and commentator. Jessica joined Tony Husband and Jamie Watson on KCC Night during the Nashville SC halftime show. Child patients from Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital created scoreboard art that was displayed through the match broadcast on Sept. 3. Child patient Lydia Starnes at the Monroe Carell Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt designed Nashville SC’s KCC 2021 scarf that was sold throughout the month of September to raise funds and awareness throughout the Nashville community.

The New England Revolution honored local heroes in the fight against childhood cancer at their home match on Sept. 25. The Heroes of the Match were Ann and Steve McCoy of Maddie’s Promise. They started Maddie’s Promise in 2019 to fulfill their late daughter Maddie’s original promise to help others forward with the goal of closing the funding gap for rare pediatric cancers. Also on Sept.25, Revolution players showed support for local families battling childhood cancer as they don gold Kick Childhood Cancer warm-up tops featuring the names of local patients on the back.

NYCFC elevated the stories of childhood cancer survivors and essential workers helping to treat patients. In-Stadium, the NYCFC First Team players wore themed pre-match tops during warmups throughout the month of September and the club recognized individuals during ‘Hero of the Match.’ Outside of gameday, NYCFC promote and volunteer the Hope and Heroes Walk and donate pajamas to Hope and Heroes to further extend the partnership.

As part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the New York Red Bulls and its players partnered with the Hackensack Meridian Health and Hospital for Special Surgery to package up KCC pajama bottoms and wrote handwritten notes of encouragement for patients.

Orlando City SC vs Columbus Crew on Sept. 4 at Exploria Stadium was presented by Orlando Health | Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, with a focus on Kick Childhood Cancer. Orlando City joined forces with the Seacrest Studio at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer to capture content with pediatric patients for inclusion in the match broadcast. Orlando City acknowledged healthcare heroes from Orlando Health | Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children as the "Starting XI Against Cancer.”

The Philadelphia Union worked with local organization, Kisses for Kyle, to source their Fearless 43 kids and engage with them through acts of kindness, events and a special game day experience. The Fearless 43 were invited to a special movie night at Subaru Park where they will receive custom pajama bottoms and tops to watch a movie on the field of Subaru Park. The Union’s match against Orlando City SC on Sept. 19 at 4 p.m. (ESPN) was Kick Childhood Cancer night with plenty of fun for the Fearless 43, their families, and all Union fans.

The Portland Timbers partnered with the Children’s Cancer Association to recognize five local kids battling cancer. The kids received virtual messages from the Timbers, and had their names featured on the Kick Childhood Cancer pregame tops worn on Sept. 15. Following the match, the worn pregame tops were auctioned off with all proceeds benefitting the Children’s Cancer Association. In addition, Timbers and MLS branded pajamas pants were given to kids at a local children’s hospital.

RSL supported the American Cancer Society and Utah Youth Soccer Association as they worked to give Cancer the Red Card. Fans wishing to donate and give cancer the Red Card donated here. On Sept. 4 the RSL Unified Team faced off against the RSL Unified Alumni for a Special Olympics Match following RSL’s match against FC Dallas. The RSL Special Olympics Alumni Team wore 2019 KCC tops as their uniform to kick of KCC month. Additionally, on Sept. 18 RSL hosted its KCC Game and honored a local child kicking childhood cancer. The Club made them an honorary captain and gave them a match day experience.

The San Jose Earthquakes partnered with the Austen Everett Foundation and the American Cancer Society for Kick Childhood Cancer month. In conjunction with the Austen Everett Foundation, the Quakes matched-up 20 players with 20 local cancer-fighting patients or warriors with their “I Play For” campaign. With the help of the American Cancer Society, the Quakes celebrated an honorary captain who signed a one-day contract and got the experience of being a San Jose Earthquakes first team player. Both the Austen Everett Foundation and the American Cancer Society teamed up with the Earthquakes to surprise and delight local pediatric patients with special gifts.

In support of Kick Childhood Cancer month, Sounders FC partnered with Austen Everett Foundation once again to empower and inspire youth battling cancer during the month of September. MLS WORKS and Sounders FC distributed Sounders FC designed pajama bottoms to AEF Heroes battling cancer and their siblings along with notes of encouragement from Sounders FC players Kelyn Rowe, Stefan Frei, Cristian Roldan, and Alex Roldan. The Kick Childhood Cancer pre-match tops worn by the team at every home and away match in September were autographed and donated to Austen Everett Foundation to support their mission to empower more kids in their fight against cancer.

Toronto FC held a KCC awareness night on Sept. 14 versus Inter Miami CF. On-field elements supporting KCC included gold nets, corner flags and player jersey patches. Toronto FC also worked with local community partners to highlight the KCC campaign throughout the month of September, including the delivery of gifting to patients at local hospitals and fundraising for Camp Ooch & Camp Trillium, who work to battle childhood cancer in our community.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC hosted its annual team visit to BC Children’s Hospital (BCCH) this September virtually, a longstanding and celebrated tradition for the club. The ‘Caps also hosted Kid Captains from BCCH for two matches this month, including an honorary Kick Childhood Cancer night on September 25. A tribute to Dani Hoult, a previous Kid Captain who passed this year due to cancer, was also presented at the match.