‘This was his first day back since July’: Island youth soccer group raises awareness, funds for childhood cancer for one of its own players
Junior-Athletes, a Staten Island soccer clinic for boys and girls ages 3-12 that focuses on the basics of the sport, recently launched a fundraiser to support early childhood cancer.
Coaches and founding partners David Brusco and Navid Youssefian led the charge for a $1,000 donation to the family of one of their athletes, Donald Morgan, a passionate five-year-old kick star diagnosed in February with stage four, high-risk neuroblastoma of 2020 .
After multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, the cancer, which has returned twice, once in January 2021 and again in July 2021, has been kept at bay ever since.
Morgan, who turns six on Thanksgiving, was able to make his long-awaited return to the field during Sunday morning’s practice session at Bloomingdale park.
“He loves football, he was so excited,” says his mother, Nickell. “This was his first day since July and he talked about it all day and night yesterday.”
The love for the game is so strong that Morgan and his brother, Ephraim, become visibly and audibly upset when they lose in practice, Brusco and Donald’s father, Donald Morgan Sr., say with a laugh.
How the organization raised money through various awareness efforts on social media platforms and community engagement initiatives. For Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, the clinic offered all the children gold bracelets that were also sold to the adults to symbolize CCAM and assist the Morgan family in their ongoing struggle.
The efforts caught the attention of the Moore Catholic High School volleyball team, which held a day in Donald’s name to spread its story.
The total proceeds of $1,000 went to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where Donald and hundreds of other children are treated each year.
“It feels incredible to have the support of everyone,” Donald’s mother continued. “We’ve only been with Junior-Athletes since the spring and it’s really great.”
“It’s a cool organization and we appreciate them riding with us here,” added Morgan Sr.
“We all carried the gold for him,” Brusco said. “He’s a great kid and I’m just really happy to see him smile and grow. Any time they (the Morgan family) can make it, we’d all love to have them.
“It’s nice to see them succeed.”