For Zach Scott, it's personal.
When MLS commenced its second annual Kick Childhood Cancer campaign this month, it meant much, much more to Scott and his young family than ever before. For them, childhood cancer has a name and a face and a place in their lives. So the Scotts are swiftly taking action and inviting you to join them.
Several weeks ago was when Scott, Seattle's Mr. Sounder with 349 career appearances, met Gage Wedin. The 9-year-old was a special guest of the Sounders at training.
"Gage had a tumor on his brain stem, and at the time we were told it was in remission," recalls Scott. Gage happily went through warm-ups and a kick-around with the players. "It was a really cool moment, especially seeing that he was doing better."
It was an hour of lightness. But a couple days later came heavy news: Gage's cancer had returned.
Scott took action, phoning Gage's father to ask how he might help and inviting the Wedins to be his guest at the next Sounders home match.
"Their family sat with my wife and kids, and it was an all-around good day," says Scott. "Gage seemed like he was in great spirits."
Two weeks later, childhood cancer had another name, this time one with which the Scotts were very familiar.
Zach and Alana Scott had literally watched Avery Berg grow up. They first met Avery and her family when their children attended the same preschool. Avery and Kalei Scott are both 11; Avery's sister, Alana, and Ka'ena Scott are BFFs. Together, Scott and Joe Berg coach their girls' U10 soccer team. In the spirit and custom of Hawai'i (the Scotts are natives of Maui), the Bergs are ohana, their extended family.
In mid-August, Avery began feeling nauseous. At first her parents suspected the flu. However, when she started suffering from double vision, the Bergs rushed her to Seattle Children's Hospital.
"Avery was diagnosed with a tumor in the thalamus of her brain, and it had grown in a way that was causing fluid to build up, and that was causing the nausea and double vision," Scott said. The fluid was drained and soon the symptoms subsided. "But there's obviously a tumor there and that's the bigger issue."
Surgery is not an option. Doctors have begun a course of, first, radiation and then combined with chemotherapy to shrink the tumor.
These can be incredibly stressful days for families such as Avery's and Gage's. Family and friends encircle them with support, bringing meals to the home and offering sleepovers for the kids.
"Everybody's reached out to try to help in any way they can," says Scott.
For the wider community, for those who are just learning the story of Gage and Avery for the first time, it's an opportunity to take a step forward.
An Action Plan
"We want to help create greater awareness of pediatric tumor research, and make a difference in any way we can," he shares. "We want to organize support through the Run of Hope Seattle, to help fund research."
Cancers such as Avery's ATRT cancer are relatively rare and, as such, research requires greater funding.
What can we do? Each time during September (aka Scarftember) you post images on Instagram and Twitter using the #ScarvesUp hashtag, MLS will donate $1 to Children's Oncology Group
From left: Kalei Scott, Avery Berg and Gage Wedin.
Zach and his family have joined Team Awesome Avery to raise money for research through the Run of Hope Seattle. You can donate through his page to help Avery, Gage and other children like them.
"I'm a team leader, and when you donate to my team page that goes directly to brain tumor research at Seattle Children's." Zach's family will be at the run this Sunday (Sept. 25) and invite you to come and run with them.
For every dollar raised through September 23, a brain tumor patient family will directly provide a matching donation, up to $50,000.
While Scott is retiring from the Sounders following this season, his commitment to Team Awesome Avery has no end date. For there's much work to be done and many other kids-some of whom you will know and others you won't-who must face such a diagnosis.
This effort, this promise for Scott is only just beginning.
"Because when it becomes this personal, you want to help out as much and as long as you possibly can."