FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Kelyn Rowe could just attend practice and games, then go about his life as he deems fit. That approach, however, would never fly with the New England Revolution midfielder.
Since the 2015 season, Rowe has hosted “Kelyn’s NEGU Crew” events at Gillette Stadium, and even at away games in Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles. In partnership with the Jessie Rees Foundation, Rowe creates a matchday experience for childhood cancer patients and their families.
As part of their special day, each visitor, dubbed a “Courageous Kid,” meets the team, watches warmups from the sidelines, and partakes in a post-game lap around the field while fans cheer them on.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to and will keep doing until I’m done playing, or maybe even after,” Rowe told MLSsoccer.com of his volunteer efforts. “But you don’t realize why you do it until you see a kid in front of you smiling, you see their family break down and be thankful for the chance you have with their son or their daughter.”
The latest edition of “Kelyn’s NEGU Crew,” as part of Kick Childhood Cancer month across MLS, is one about which Rowe is especially eager.
For one match, the Revs are signing Devin Suau, a six-year-old from Framingham, Mass., with Diffuse Intrinsic Potine Glioma (DIPG). And even though Rowe's out from the match as he recovers from an injury, he'll still appear to make sure Suau receives the whole NEGU experience on Saturday vs. Toronto FC (5 pm ET, MLS LIVE in US, TSN in CAN).
“We want Devon to fight as much as he can, because the odds are against him,” Rowe said. “For him to have this experience at a game where everyone chants his name, and [he] hears that he’s the center of attention, we want him to know he has not just the family and the doctors on his side, but the whole Revolution community.”
Beyond Suau’s visit, Rowe has bigger plans for his NEGU Crew throughout MLS and in Boston. He said that Ryan Hollingshead of FC Dallas is hosting a similar event, and Amobi Okugo of the Portland Timbers has expressed interest in working with kids.
“I’ve built a good [structure for] a game-day event that’s not very stressful for any club and not stressful for a player on game days,” Rowe said. “ Now, can we do it more and more each year at other clubs so they can see we’re helping these kids? Maybe a player can take that platform and keep it going for their club.”
As for Rowe himself, he’s hosting an event on Oct. 1 at Empire, a Chinese restaurant in Boston’s Seaport district, from 2 to 5 p.m. in support of the Jessie Rees Foundation. The main goal then, Rowe said, will be to raise funds and continue the constant fight against childhood cancer.
“It’s hard to put it all these events in one month, but I think we do a pretty good job of it,” Rowe said. “We also do it all year; it’s just elevated throughout the this month for us.”