Lauren Wagner would be the first to admit she is not the only person that has had a hand in the success of the annual Melanie Grace Kickin’ Against Cancer benefit soccer game.
However, the second year law student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and 2012 graduate of Missouri State University has been a part of fund-raising efforts since the inception of the game during her senior year at Lee’s Summit High School.
As a member of the Tigers’ soccer team in the spring of 2008, Wagner and crew were instrumental in establishing what has become an annual rite of passage for the program coached by Dave Wiebenga.
Years later, Wagner still has her footprints all over the behind-the-scenes movement for the game.
“This game is a passion of mine,” Wagner said shortly after a class ended at UMKC April 30. “The game has a huge impact. We work so hard to raise money to help families financially. The event’s grown every year and every year we set a goal and the goal gets higher.”
This year’s event is scheduled for May 6 and will include a C-Team game at 4 p.m., followed by JV at 5:30 and a varsity match at 7 p.m. Proceeds from this year’s game will benefit Jonas Borchert, a student at Lee’s Summit High that was diagnosed in middle school with Ewing’s sarcoma.
The game was established in honor of Lee’s Summit resident Melanie Grace Lindmark, who was born August 27, 1998. In November 2002 she was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer at the age of 4 and passed away March 31, 2005 after a long and courageous battle.
Last year’s event raised $7,000.
“We’ve actually set a goal to bring more alumni back,” said Wagner, who volunteers on a committee that helps spread the word of the event and come up with ideas to enhance it. Fund raising is a part of her duties as well. “Melanie would have been (in high school) this year, so we are trying to get people who were around the halls when she was there to come back – and not only for her, but for Jonas as well. We want to raise money to help that family with their financial burden as well.”
Wiebenga said Wagner and her class were pioneers for the game.
“It was her class that came up with the idea, and she led the charge in that first event,” Wiebenga said. “It is wonderful and a testimony to what we believe in the LSHS soccer program. I think it is awesome that the alumni are still wanting to be apart of this special event.”
He added that although the game is a unique event for girls soccer at Lee’s Summit, if not for community support, it would not be as successful.
“We believe in the mission of the event and being blessed with the opportunity to help someone in the community,” Wiebenga said. “We have tremendous support from the community, our parents, school, and players that keep the event growing every year. Eight years ago, I did not imagine it would be this big. It is an honor to be a part of the night.”