HOLDEN, Mass. — Nearly 200 soccer players set their aims on the same goal this weekend in Holden and came together for a tournament fundraiser to support 4-year-old Malia Jusczyk in her ongoing battle with cancer.
Organized by former Wachusett Regional High School athlete Courtney Letourneau, a senior at Springfield College, the event raised $3,500 to help Malia’s family pay for treatments as she continues to fight Stage IV Neuroblastoma.
Letourneau began the 3v3 tournament fundraiser last year to help victims of a tornado that tore through Springfield, and even on short notice, 125 people came out to support the cause.
"This year we ended up with 200, so we almost doubled it," she said, adding that there was also an outpouring of support from businesses and organizations for raffle prizes and donations.
"Everybody has been really willing to help out," said Letourneau. "This little girl has went through so much, and much that we will never have to go through in our lives, so I think everyone knows that it's for a great cause."
Malia was just 2 1/2 when a biopsy confirmed that she had a very aggressive childhood cancer known as stage IV neuroblastoma. Now 4 years old, Malia has endured six rounds of chemotherapy, nine hours of tumor resection surgery, a stem cell transplant, removal of a kidney, 12 rounds of proton radiation and countless blood transfusions.
To be closer to Children's Hospital/Dana-Farber Jimmy Fund Clinic in Boston, Malia's parents, Megan and Glen Jusczyk, left their home in Florida to provide their daughter with the best treatment available.
MaliaCrushesCancer.com was launched to help them fund the life-saving treatments, and Letourneau's 3v3 Soccer tournament is one of the many ways the community has responded to help the family.
"They have so much going on, so there's a lot people like us can do to help them out a little bit," said Letourneau.
After two years holding the tournament, Letourneau hopes to continue the tradition for at least as long as she's in school.
"I hope we raise a lot of money for cancer, but the bigger concept is to promote paying it forward. You can do little things to help, even by just participating. It's about making that little extra effort to help someone who needs it," she said.