At first blush, the kids seemed like any other soccer players kicking the ball around on Labor Day.
But on closer look, most of the 350 young athletes from the the Albany Berkeley Soccer Club were scoring goals and dribbling while wearing gold shoe laces. In fact the club spent $1,800 on Monday to buy all the kids shimmery laces for their cleats.
They are part of a small but growing effort to have every child athlete in the Bay Area - and beyond - lace up in gold to raise money for and awareness about pediatric cancer research. The East Bay United Soccer Club has also signed up to participate, and the movement is catching onto other sports, as well, organizers said.
The partnership formally began this month between the Go4theGoal Foundation and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. And its modeled on similar partnerships in Oregon, New Jersey, Ohio and other spots across the United States. September is also Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month and gold is the symbolic color of the effort.
A large part of the mission, organizers said, is to make young people recognize that people who have had cancer might just be someone on their soccer team, that having cancer doesn’t always mean you’re sick and bald and confined to a wheelchair. As the movement progresses, more and more young athletes have confided to their teammates that they have battled leukemia, or know someone close who has, organizers said.
“I have been working here for 29 years and it’s amazing to me how many people don’t know how many kids we treat for many types of cancer,” said Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Caroline Hastings, who spearheaded the partnership. Her own 13-year-old daughter, Juliet Hagar, plays soccer and has several peers who have had cancer.
“Many of these kids are classmates, team mates, and siblings of many of our fortunate healthy young athletes," Hastings said. "I started this as a result of my youngest daughter’s disconcerting plea to me that kids really want to help but it is difficult to know what to do because they are not the ones with money or ability.”
Proceeds from the sale of the laces and 100 percent of any donations will go towards funding psychological intervention at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland for patients and families going through the cancer process. If the partnership exceeds the goal of $50,000, any extra money will go to support the Survivorship Program to assist in providing long term care for survivors that may develop long term complications from their treatment.
Photographer Alan Waples contributed to this report.