For the five past seasons, the girls soccer team at Lee’s Summit High School has hosted an annual fundraiser to help a metro-area family affected by cancer.
The annual Melanie Grace Kickin’ against Cancer benefit soccer event, now in its sixth year, is on tap for April 11 and will feature three games that begin at 3:30 p.m. with a C-team contest between Lee’s Summit and Lee’s Summit West High School followed by a junior varsity match at 5 p.m. pitting the Tigers against Blue Springs High School, and culminating in a varsity match between Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs at 6:30 p.m.
The event is in honor of Melanie Grace Lindmark, a Lee’s Summit girl who was diagnosed with an extremely rare case of cancer in 2002 when she was 4-years-old. She passed away March 31, 2005 after a long battle with the disease.
The proceeds from this year’s benefit – held rain or shine each spring – will help a Lee’s Summit family whose daughter is battling Leukemia.
“If I can quote her elementary school teacher, ‘it’s been a tsunami of love and support like none other,’” said Kris Merwin, the mother of this year’s recipient Laura Merwin, a freshman volleyball player at LSHS that was diagnosed with Leukemia in January. Laura Merwin attended Summit Christian Academy as a grade-school student. The girls soccer team has adopted Laura Merwin’s yellowT-shirt to wear in her honor at practice all season.“We were humbly – and I really say that with sincerest meaning – honored that they would reach out that way. I want to say it is appreciated beyond words.”
Kris Merwin said that she and husband Russ will be in attendance April 11 along with five daughters and their husbands and six grandchildren. Laura Merwin, who is undergoing chemotherapy once a week, will be in attendance if she is strong enough bouncing back after treatment, her mother said.
“Our family that’s here will be there,” Kris Merwin said, “and our family far away will be wearing their yellow T-shirts and supporting from afar.”
Also in attendance will be the family of Melanie Grace Lindmark, whose older sister is now a senior at Lee’s Summit.
“Every year we try to find somebody in our community that needs extra help,” said John Lindmark, Melanie Grace’s father. “It’s awesome. That’s what (Melanie Grace) was meant to do; she was meant to help people. We just like having the opportunity to help the next person out because we know that cancer is not a fun issue.
“It’s always stressful when you have to worry about the health of your child and how you’re going to pay for it. You have to have God on your side (to cope). It’s God’s plan. My advice for anybody is to have a good church and a good family to support you and that’s what we have in Lee’s Summit – a good foundation that supported us all the way through even to her death.”
Laura Merwin’s faith, Kris Merwin said, is what is helping her cope with her diagnosis.
“Laura has said this is a new challenge,” Kris Merwin said. “Her faith and her family and her friends are what are really keeping her going. She’s looking at this as a challenge, as a sport. She’s played volleyball and soccer. God is the coach and this is his vision and purpose for her. She says this is another training session and she’s going to get through to the end. She says, ‘I’m going to make it to the finish line.’ That’s how she is making it through this time.”
The event will include a silent auction, 50/50 raffle and Melanie Grace and SunnyToes T-shirt sales. Last year’s event raised $7,000 with the help of the community and local businesses.
For more information on Melanie Grace and Laura Merwin’s battles, visit Melanie Grace’s site at www.melanie-grace.memory-of.com/about.aspx or Laura Merwin’s website at www.caringbridge.org/visit/lauramerwin.