Soccer Community Turns its Weapons – Axe, Pen, Boots and Gloves on Cancer

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From kick off to the final whistle, the other team are useless and their tifo looks like a toddler drew it with the world’s fattest crayon.

But there’s one thing you can say about soccer in North America. There is a sense of community, which binds fans of different clubs, fan with player, and even once in a while head coaches with journalists.

Ok, so we don’t always all love each other, but we are capable of coming together when it really matters.

One of those issues where it really matters and where soccer community has been active recently is the fight against cancer.

Sounders players rallied to the side of Sounders fan and ECS member Steve Sarina who sadly passed away but the efforts of his best friend Stephanie Beck to carry on an educational campaign continue.

Now the torch has headed south to Portland and the campaign has perhaps Portland’s best known face behind it.

Anyone who has ever attended a game in the Rose City knows Timber Jim Serrill.

Until his retirement, it was Timber Jim who revved up the saw and who sliced that log when the home team scored.

Jim has now passed the torch, … well the electric saw, to Timber Joey but that is so he can take on another noble and far tougher battle.

For Timber Jim Serrill is a cancer survivor.

And he is one of the soccer community’s Fighting Five who is going to help kick cancer over the cross bar and off the pitch.

“I feel compelled to help others affected by cancer, Jim told us.

This campaign has been overwhelming. The outpouring of compassion from the worldwide soccer community has been very inspiring.”

He is one of an increasing number of the soccer community who is devoting his time to publicising this issue. The next big day is June 3rd, when there will be a gala full of wine tasting at Jeld Wen’s Key Bank arena.

There will be a live auction of MLS Jerseys from all 19 sides, all signed by their players according to the event website. But Jim has bigger plans than an auction.

He is going to join other survivors and attempt to kayak some of North America’s biggest rivers starting with our own Cascadian Colombia River and heading then to the Mississippi. He’s not taking the axe, but a paddle this time.

He reflected on his recent experiences while previewing the challenges ahead.

“Life is good. I am loving retirement and planning many trips on rivers of North America but clearly “every one” would be more than daunting. Just the major tributaries. Then one major river in every continent excluding Antarctica. (Way too cold and the rivers are frozen.) Big talk at this point! But that’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.  I will be reading Ali’s book and undoubtedly recommending to others.”

Prost Amerika has a personal connection to this struggle and it concerns the book Timber Jim alluded to.

Our Los Angeles camerawoman Ali Gilmore has been fighting Stage IV cancer and we are happy to say she has now well and truly kicked it over the bar and off the pitch. Readers may recall that her iconic photo The Three Generations of Sounders with Gary Wright, Kasey Keller and Brian Meredith taken at a Chivas v Sounders game was featured in our Every Picture Tells a Story series.

Ali attended her 14th cycle of chemotherapy session just hours after shooting the MLS Cup Final from the sidelines at the Home Depot Center.

But she was not idle while fighting it.

When not pointing the camera at David Beckham as he led his side to last year’s MLS Cup, she was writing a diary outlining her daily struggle with the disease.

Timber Jim with his MLS shirts

That diary became a book and that book, The C Card and Me, a guide to beating cancer with a smile on your face, has now been published on Amazon in paperback and in Kindle.

She was quick to pay tribute to the football community and the boost going to MLS games had given her.

“Though my doctor warned me to take it easy, I knew it was important to keep as active as I could to keep my mind off matters.

I love photography anyway and Prost’s editor invited me to be his photojournalist for the day. Luckily the photos were good enough that he asked me to come on board as the LA based photographer.

I’m grateful to Major League Soccer and especially to the LA Galaxy and Chivas for giving me the chance to take my love of photography to a whole new level. Their people have been nothing but helpful. My camera (and I) have fallen in love with MLS, LA, Chivas and all the Cascadia teams. It’s my dream to be able to cover a match at least once in each of the Cascadian home grounds, as I have shot their players in LA.”

But it’s not just those parading the touchlines that are throwing their weight into the fight. Other high profile figures including players have also shown their willingness to lend their time.

It is well known in Seattle that the mother of former Sounders defender James Riley’s beat breast cancer.

Now in LA with ChivasUSA, he has said he’ll help promote the book so that others have somewhere to turn and get the encouragement they need to join his mother, and Ali who now gets to shoot him at Chivas games starting with the match against his old club on Saturday.

North of the border Vancouver Whitecaps keeper Brad Knighton has volunteered his assistance too. His mother-in-law fought the Big C and won.

Knighton will never forget that the football community was there for him:

“You don’t realize how much the community, support and the players around you and throughout the league have been affected by it because it’s not something that’s really talked about that much.

Brad Knighton with a Copy of The C Card and Me

But once you’re in the situation with someone affected, you begin to reach out and see who’s out there supporting you.

People are always willing to lend a hand and show you the way of how they dealt with things and give you some advice on how to cope with things.”

Back in Seattle, Sounders Womens Head Coach Michelle French is a cancer survivor herself.

She told us that the club plans to recognise the issue at their home opener on May 31st.

“For the regular season home opener on May 31st, the Seattle Sounders Women have partnered with glassybaby to bring further recognition and support to some very special fans who are currently battling cancer.

We have the opportunity to use the platform created through the success of our team to not only raise awareness, but also garner unconditional love and hope for Sounders Women supporters. What an incredible connection we will be able to create between our team and fans as we celebrate and join the fight to “kick” cancer!”

22 Folks who have in some way been affected by cancer will be given a green glassbaby at that home opener against the Colorado Rush. The kick off is 7pm on May 31st.

So if you are in Seattle, there’s a date to support soccer and the fight against cancer. If you are in Portland, head to Jeld Wen on June 3rd for Timber Jim’s Cancer Killer Auction.

We’ll have pictures and coverage from both events and news of more events to come in football’s Summer of Kicking Cancer over the Crossbar and off the Pitch. (Will you accept SOCCOP?)

SOCCOP Links:

Timber Jim’s Cancer Killer Auction

The C Card and Me

Sounders Women v Colorado Rush Tickets

Contact us if you want to get involved.

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1 Comment

  1. Michael Ligot on

    I support the philosophy that soccer teams should be enemies for 90-odd minutes on the pitch and cooperators/colleagues off it. This is a great example of that.

    Continued best health to Ali, from someone who has worked with her on a prior match report.