Even in the summer of 2008, traveling to Hawaii with the AYSO 605 All-Stars, (who called themselves Vikings in memory of Michael J.) with 4 kids we sponsored, Bonnie and I knew we had a bigger mission than soccer. The team wore armbands with a MJ 6, but we needed the other kids there to understand.
As an assistant coach, I was able to be a coach at Soccerfest, and direct a team of 12 players from other areas of the US. We played, had fun, shared time with each other. It was a wonderful day on the soccer fields surrounded by beautiful scenery. As the last game neared the end, I was hesitant to tell them about our soccer player. There was so much happiness around. But when team mom Bonnie looked at me and said “ Are you going to tell them the story?’ I realized I had to. “Only if we had known…”
They told me they had fun, and I was a very nice coach. They thanked me for the day. Then I asked them for a favor in return. “I want to tell you a story and for you to share it with your team.” I said. They listened attentively, slowly realizing that they were as close as anyone to being my son in the games. Some even had tears come to their eyes. I hoped I had done the right thing.
The rest of the week, Bonnie and I were constantly approached by players and coaches from all areas and walks of life. They thanked us so much for telling our story. They all shared their love. We knew we were right, and it couldn’t end here. Soccer was a game that we once loved and shared with MJ, now it was a way to promote life and family values. Kids may not always listen to their parents, but maybe a coach or a team mom can get their attention. With us, there are no strings attached.
Beginning that night at the tree, we have talked, and people have listened. We don’t often know the words, but when we open our hearts they seem to find a way out. Yes Michael J never left us to be alone. He has always showed us a way to find others who needed friends. For us soccer can be more than “A kick in the grass.” It can be a mission in life. We are very thankful for that.