Soccer For Hope Brings a Day Full of Joy

Monday morning marked Orange County SC’s annual Soccer For Hope clinic. The clinic offers a chance for over 175 local youth players to do drills, play games, and learn technical skills from players and coaches from the club, while also teaching those attending about compassion and respect.

OCSC General Manager and Soccer For Hope co founder Oliver Wyss has a close tie to the program: in 1997, he was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, a rare autoimmune disease that prevents the production of red and white blood cells. A bone marrow transplant saved his life, but ended his playing career.

Oliver’s suffering extended far beyond an early retirement from playing, however. The couple lost their children Hudson and Abella to rare brain cancers at ages three and 11 respectively. He speaks softly, yet seriously, when discussing the program, its background, and its purpose.

After receiving the bone marrow transplant, he and his wife Jamie founded Soccer For Hope, a program that raises money and awareness of rare and life-threatening diseases.

Soccer For Hope is the club’s primary community outreach program. Its advertising boards dot the sidelines at home matches, and players often don the organization’s merchandise. The soccer clinic is a natural extension of its close ties to OCSC. It is a fun day that focuses on developing soccer skills while also teaching children the importance of being compassionate and supportive of those who fight dangerous diseases like cancer. To date, the program has raised millions of dollars for local charities and hospitals involved with rare pediatric cancers.

Despite the tragic origins of the charity and its serious focus, the clinic is a day of smiles and high fives for everyone involved. Players get the chance to run their own sessions, a different challenge from “It is a good opportunity for the players to take a break from training and work with the next generation. It gives them a great chance to give back, which is even more important.” Children’s Hospital Orange County mascot Choco Bear was also present, mingling with the campers and even taking part in some drills.

OCSC captain Kevin Alston also maintains a close connection with the mission of Soccer For Hope. The fullback was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013 at age 24. Just three months later, Alston returned to the pitch and has continued his career uninterrupted. At the end of the clinic, he presented a young camper currently battling leukemia with a match-worn jersey.       

Afterwards, Alston spoke positively of the experience, saying “Today is huge. It’s great to give back to the kids for a great cause. I hope it’s something they can both enjoy and learn from. It was a nice change of pace for us.”        

As everyone gathered at the end of the clinic, Wyss stressed what he hoped those in attendance would remember:

Cancer can hit anybody at anytime, but when you meet someone: a teammate, a friend, a family member… I want you to promise me that you will support them.
— Oliver Wyss

Wyss’ words capped off a tremendous effort by the Soccer For Hope, Orange County Soccer Club, and his wife Jamie in organizing and running another successful clinic. All parties’ devotion is clear: Wyss revealed that the clinic’s success had pushed the total financial contributions of the organization to over $4 million.

Soccer For Hope generates awareness and raises funds throughout the year. October 12th will mark the organization’s 12th annual Evening of Hope, a dinner gala at the Irvine Spectrum Marriott. More details can be found on their website. Donations to the 501(c)3 can be made here.