Reprinted by permission from Sam Rauf's blog.
For 4 years I played college soccer at a Division III school in Virginia. I had teammates from all over the world and got to continue to play the game I love. Looking back at my time, my favorite experience was not scoring the game-winning goal, beating school rivals, or even our team's trip to Barcelona. Even though all those things were amazing, I got to experience something that went far beyond the game of soccer.
The story began when our team met an 11-year-old boy named Cadin. Cadin at the time we met was battling cancer, and officially joined our team at Roanoke College through an incredible program called Team Impact. Our first interactions with Cadin and his family came as he underwent the recruiting process which included an official visit and tour of the college, an introduction to meet all the players, getting hooked up with some gear, and signing a letter of intent in front of the whole program.
From their website, "Team IMPACT is a national nonprofit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams, forming life-long bonds and life-changing outcomes."
I know that last part may sound a little cheesy, but wait until you actually experience the program until you judge...
Members of the soccer team with Cadin. Courtesy of The Blog of Us/Sam Rauf
I am not going to lie, when our coach told us about Cadin I of course thought it was a really awesome idea to try to brighten up his day, but I really didn't think I could do much more in the position I was in.
Throughout his battle, Cadin had received a signed hat from Lionel Messi as an incredible gesture since Barcelona is his favorite soccer team. I had thought those celebrities such as Messi or other professional athletes you see on social media or TV giving back would be the only ones who could really impact someone in Cadin's situation. I extremely underestimated the effect Cadin joining our team was going to have on me, and how much the team was going to have on him.
But as the season went on Cadin's presence became more and more mutually beneficial. He became the closest thing I have to a little brother. We had an awesome secret handshake, we would celebrate goals in practice, he would lead the team out on the field for our home games, he even traveled with us to some away games, and his family would invite us over to his house to play some FIFA video games.
Seeing Cadin became the best part of mine and the team's day. All of a sudden this complete stranger who was 7-10 years younger than the team started to have an immense impact on all of us. Seeing him as he was going through his treatment brought inspiration to us to have zero excuses.
If Cadin can go through everything he was and still come to practices and games to be with us we had no reason to complain about tough classes we had or how late we were getting back to campus that night after a game.
The soccer team with Cadin.
Little did we know it, as all of this was going on we were having a big impact on Cadin too. He would wear his Roanoke gear to school, and his mom would always tell us how excited he was to come join us in whatever we were doing. Regardless of everything to come, it would be an incredible experience knowing we got to bring some happiness to a boy who was battling for his life at times.
Luckily, our experience with Cadin did not stop there. Now, I have had some pretty awesome moments in my life. I got to stand next to my brother as he got married, I won a state championship in high school, and got to play collegiate soccer. As wonderful as those moments were, and by no means do I mean to take away from those lifetime events, there is nothing that gives me goosebumps as quickly as remembering the day Cadin walked into our locker room and told us he was CANCER FREE!
What. A. Moment.
Getting to see that massive smile on his face and the relief his family had after getting to know them so well so quickly made everything soccer-related completely miniscule.
You can check out Cadin's video of his announcement to the team on the blog's YouTube page below. Warning to be careful of the volume as there is a lot of loud screaming.
Not only did Cadin have a significant impact on us all, but a Division III soccer team in Salem, Virginia had a big impact on him. As one of the last surgeries Cadin was going to have, he needed to get a port taken out by his heart that was used for injections of his treatment. On the day of his surgery, Cadin was rocking a Roanoke College soccer jersey so we could be with him. I think that says it all.
Never would I have ever thought I would be able to be a part of a team that had that much impact on a person before. You do not have be one of the best athletes in the world to use athletics as a platform to help make a massive difference in someone's life.
So for all of you college athletes reading this click here to find out how you can get involved with Team Impact. It does not matter if you are part of Alabama's football team winning national championships every other year, or a Division III school, wherever you are in the NCAA talk to your coaches about signing up for this amazing organization to see if there is a boy or girl who your team can impact. It will change your life forever. It certainly did for me, my teammates and most importantly for Cadin.