On November 20, 2004 Carey Talley will run onto the soccer field in Memphis, Tennessee for another reason other than doing his best to win or lose a soccer match. He will indirectly help in fighting a battle that nearly 175,000 people fight a year in the world. The battle is with brain cancer. Talley's father, John C. Talley, was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2000 and passed away in 2001 after battling the horrid disease for over a year. Beginning in 2001, Talley decided to host a charity soccer match in Memphis that raises money and awareness for brain cancer research.
It was Talley's first National Team call-up in 2000 and instead of being excited for the opportunity, he was devastated after hearing the tragic news of his father being diagnosed with brain cancer.
"It was a horrible time in my life despite the fact that I had my first call-up to the National Team," said Talley. "It was just a downer because as bad as my father wanted me to stay with the team for my career, there was no way I wanted to be there. I ended up staying there and did not perform very well at all."
It was around that time when Talley began to ask himself how he could help his father and the disease he was wrestling with. Immediately he realized that he was blessed with a talent to play soccer and somehow he was going to figure out a way to use soccer to raise money for research on brain cancer.
"Not being a doctor myself, I figured I could use what I do to raise money for brain cancer research," said Talley. "The doctors had told us that his brain cancer could possibly be terminal so immediately I thought of ways to get a fund or a foundation for brain cancer research and that's how the whole idea started. I basically used the people I know to help raise money."
The first match was in 2001 as Talley flew in 22 Major League Soccer (MLS) players from around the United States. They hosted the match at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex, a 2,500 seat stadium which his father drafted a business plan for and started running before he passed away.
"After playing an exhibition match with the 22 MLS players, we ended up raising $25,000 with the people in attendance, a silent auction, and the players auctioning off the shirts off their back following the match," said Talley.
All of the proceeds from these events have gone towards John C. Talley Pediatric Neurological Research Fund and the Lebonheur Children's Medical Hospital. The decision for the money to go to these two charities was spurred on by his father. During the 2002 match, there were several soccer players ready to dazzle the spectators and help a worthy cause.
"At the 2002 match, we had around 11 players who were on their way to the National Team camp the next weekend and six guys who had just played in the previous World Cup," said Talley. "That's not counting Tim Howard who was on his way to going to Manchester United.
"That exhibition match ended up raising $35,000 as sponsorships for the event started coming in."
Missing the match in 2003 because of scheduling conflicts for most of the players, Talley and his friends are back at it again on Saturday, November 20 at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex. This will be the third exhibition match hosted by Talley as he is still trying to figure out ways to raise more money then ever before. Already with 26 players ready to go and two goalkeepers still to come, Talley thinks they have a great chance of blowing away the $35,000 the event raised two years ago.
"At this year's match, thanks to one of our sponsorship partners at Ford, there is a chance to win a car at halftime," said Talley. "People have donated their money and their time for this event and it has made it really special to me and to my family."
At the 2002 match, 3,800 people stacked the stands and the sidelines and Talley looks for even more to come on Saturday. They have already pre-sold around 2,000 tickets and are looking for 5,000 or 6,000 people to show up total. With that many people watching, sometimes it's hard for professional athletes to not give the fans their money's worth.
"I tell the guys before the match that these fans are paying money to come see us play and see what we have," said Talley. "I tell the players to put something on the field that these people of Memphis never get to see, which is professional soccer."
Talley's mother, Kim Talley, runs the soccer complex these days and is the one who goes out and finds the sponsors needed for the match. This year she acquired Select to sponsor the uniforms for the match with John C. Talley's initials on the jersey and his name embroidered on the top of the socks. With the hope that this year's match raises more money than ever before for brain cancer research, Talley has a few "dandy" items to auction off on Saturday.
"We will auction off all the jerseys off our backs following the game," said Talley. "This year we are hoping to make around $5,000 in the auction alone. Tim Howard sent in his Manchester United game jersey signed by 16 players from the team to be auctioned off as well."
Despite the dreadful circumstances that surrounded Talley and his family just three years ago, he has learned to make a positive out of something so negative. Looking ahead to this weekend's match, he hopes that the little time they invest on Saturday will reap big rewards for others down the road.
For information on donation or auction items please visit www.mikerosesoccercomplex.com or call Mark Janko at (214) 777-0203.