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Soccer Tournament Aims To Help Kids Battling Cancer

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A group of teenagers in Northeast Philadelphia hope a Saturday soccer tournament can make a difference for local families going through cancer.

It's called the Kick Out Cancer soccer tournament. Maria DeIeso, a high school student, and several other players have been practicing.

"We wanted to help, and we came up with this tournament," Maria said.

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The tournament started as a way to help a neighbor. Then the teenagers decided to raise money for CHOP, and give a portion of the funds to two families who need financial help. The McGonigle family of Havertown is one of them.

"I was so happy, because we are really in need right now," said 12-year-old Sam McGonigle. Both Sam and his 5-year-old sister Aislin have Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"It's bad and kind of good," Aislin said. "You get to stay home from school, but you're sick, so that part is bad."

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Aislin started chemotherapy just as her brother finished his own chemo. While they're cancer-free now, there's a high risk of recurrence.

It's "painful and scary," Sam said. "Scary that you don't know what's going to happen in the future, and the chemotherapy can have a lot of side effects that can cause a lot of pain, which I did have."

Their mother, Rachel McGonigle, said "having kids diagnosed with cancer is a game-changer, life-changer."

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Rachel says she's determined to stay focused on hope and doing fun things like playing basketball with her four children. Sam and Aislin both suffered from a rare form of Hodgkin's linked to a genetic defect. Another son also carries the gene.

"The best thing that's happened about the cancer is like, the community support's been overwhelming," Rachel said. "It just really brings out the best in other people. When you're able to share your darkness, people just want to bring in their light and love."

Maria said, "I think it's a really good cause. I'm happy we're the ones able to do it."

Maria has dozens of other students playing in the Kick Out Cancer soccer tournament Saturday, June 17 at the Philadelphia Soccer Club. Fifty teams are signed up, each paying $150. The Kick Out Cancer organizers are still hoping to get more teams and donations.

"We're going to kick out cancer!" the team promised.

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