This is Alex. I’ve never met Alex but have learned a great deal about him. He’s a senior goalkeeper in North Chili, NY, which is near Rochester. His story is quite remarkable and as a J4K coach and parent, I am very proud of him. He’s why….
You see, Alex has cancer. He was diagnosed with Leukemia in August 2016, right at the beginning of his Junior year. I happened to find out about Alex completely by accident. Our J4K coach in Rochester had long left the area, so I’m not sure he even knew about Alex’s challenge. I happened to be watching the Today Show one morning, which I rarely do, at the beginning of December. Today and Megan Kelly were running a story on Alex and another HS teammate who had both been diagnosed with cancer and it caught my attention. I mean he’s a high school age player and he is a goalkeeper, so how many stories like that make a national news program? As I sat intently listening to the story a photo of Alex in a hospital bed flashes by, and he’s wearing a J4K jersey. Wait, WHAT? A J4k jersey! I stop the show and rewind it to make sure I was correct….yup, that’s a J4K jersey. I finish watching the story and immediately sent an email to Simon Robinson, our PA coach who most likely would be able to access our camp records and see who Alex had worked out with. Sure enough, he’d attended one of our camps in Rochester in 2015. Wow.
I knew I had to reach out to him and his family and offer our encouragement and support in any way I could. As coaches of hundreds of kleepers each year, we all believe even if a player isn’t currently working with us they are always a member of the J4K family.
In late summer of 2016, something isn’t right with Alex. Tired and lethargic. He is diagnosed with Leukemia on the first day of his Varsity tryouts at Churchville-Chili on August 15, 2016. He spent the next year undergoing treatment receiving a bone marrow transplant along the way from an anonymous donor from Germany. It was a battle, a struggle. But he fought through. The community and school rallied around him.
Just one year later Alex was back on the field for Varsity tryouts in August 2017 doing 2 a-day sessions. Slower, yes, but without extra considerations. He was a backup as a Sophomore, missed the Junior year, but made the team and won the starting role in his senior season this past fall. Alex didn’t just fill the role, he excelled!! The team went 12-4-1, Alex started every game but 1, had a run of 5 consecutive shutouts with a streak of 7 wins in a row. Alex was named Monroe County Player of the Week, Team MVP, 1st Team All-County, to the Monroe County Exceptional Senior Game, All Greater Rochester Honorable Mention, and an All State Nominee. That’s quite a season for any player never mind he’s a year removed from a Leukemia diagnosis and the ensuing grueling treatment.
Now almost 18 months later he’s doing really well. Growing up he had dreamed of flying in the Air Force, but due to his cancer diagnosis he’s required to be in remission for 5 years before he can be considered. So he’s planning on going to nursing school instead. He’s getting involved by doing some volunteer work helping kids with the same diagnosis. He’s working with CURE Cancer Center as a teen mentor for other kids with Leukemia and Bone Marrow transplants, has sat on a panel with doctors and nurses for a nurses continuing education class discussing young adult care/palliative end of life care. His HS Coach wants him to help coach the goalkeepers next year if he can and he’s busy being a senior.
Great job Alex! Not just for your on the field accolades as cool as they are. More for your will to battle and fight through to making it back on the field, to the sport you clearly love. For also for giving back to the community, to other kids who are going through what you just went through. You exemplify the perseverance, strength and character we as J4K coaches encourage our players to show on and off the field and we wish you the very best in your college career and beyond!