Donovan’s Journey

Hey Loves, hope everyone is having a great week. This week I am tributing my blog to a beautiful family that has fallen on harder times. My family was so lucky to meet Donovan and his parents, Marylee and Steven, during our soccer season last year. Steven, Jeremy,  and my husband coached the Lightening Team last season. Tragically, right after our season ended, Steven was diagnosed with two primary incurable cancers and lost his battle with cancer on October 6th. Marylee is now a working single mom trying to help her son and herself heal. Along with another soccer mom, I have created a Go-Fund-Me campaign to help with Donovan’s education and basic needs.  Any small contribution will make a difference. Please help this amazing family!


As the children of Team Lightning marched onto the field, the parents were filled with anticipation. This was our first true sporting event as parents and 30 minutes of 5 and 6 year old children running around like a swarm of bees felt like the World Cup. Of course, at this age there are no winners or losers. While soccer is valuable in teaching our children teamwork, passion, dedication, and hard work, for most of us, soccer is way to have our children release some energy in hopes that maybe they will take a mid-day nap. Then, there is Donovan.

When you watch Kevin Durant sink a game winning basket with no time on the clock, Lindsey Vonn win gold medals during the Olympic games, or Ronaldo burying the ball in the back of the net during the World Cup, you wonder whether these incredible athletes are born having these talents, or whether their skills were learned and acquired through hard work and dedication. After watching 6 year old Donovan play soccer, it becomes clear that most athletes are born with it! Watching Donovan play soccer makes you forget you are watching 5 and 6 year old children. It is not just his impressive skill set and intense focus that is so mesmerizing. Donovan’s dedication to and love for the sport stands out no matter where his is on the pitch. Last year, no matter what time you arrived or left the field for practice or a game, you could count on Donovan being the first one there doing drills with his Dad, and the last to leave. While his talent may have been inherited, Donovan was not born with this heart for soccer.

After every game people would approach Donovan’s parents, Steven and Marylee, to comment on how well Donovan played and ask where he trained. If you were able to pull Steven away from his son and the team long enough, he would tell you about his own impressive soccer lineage and his dreams to send Donovan to train at soccer camps in Spain. Steven’s passion for soccer was obvious and he took such pride in passing his love for the game down to his son. We were lucky enough to have Steven, along with Matt and Jeremy, coach our little Peles to a victorious season. Sunday morning soccer provided valuable time with family and friends, and a much needed break from the daily grind of reality. It felt even better to win!  But little did we know that Sunday morning soccer would eventually lead to the most painful slap in the face from reality. After the season ended and we all went our separate ways, we were shocked and overwhelmingly saddened to hear that Steven was diagnosed with two types of primary and incurable cancer.

Cancer is a horrible thing that nobody wants to think or talk about. We cringe at too many stories of people we know diagnosed with cancer. We tend to hug our family a little tighter and pray that cancer never strikes our loved ones. Regardless, no one can ever prepare for the news that the story of being diagnosed with cancer is now their own.  Being the unbelievable parents that they are, Marylee and Steven focused every minute on preparing Donovan for the difficult journey he was about to face watching his father’s battle with cancer. Marylee, a dedicated NICU nurse, started working night shifts throughout the weekends so that she could make extra money and also be there for her son and Steven. Many times Marylee left work at 7am, after working a 12 hour shift, so she could take Donovan to school and rush home or to the hospital to relieve Rosa, Steven’s mother, and the many family members who were constantly by Steven’s side. Unfortunately, as the cancer spread it invaded Steven’s spinal cord leaving him paralyzed and taking away the most important thing to him, his ability to play soccer with his son. Steven passed away on October 6, 2015, ending his struggle with cancer and leaving Marylee, Donovan, his devoted mother and many grieving family members and friends. We will always miss him dearly. Although Steven may not know it, his battle with cancer has likely taught Donovan the most important lessons of all, ones that you can’t learn on the soccer field or be born with, the lessons of the importance of life, family and love.

Please join us in becoming a valuable part of Donovan’s journey. Nobody can prepare for the loss of a loving father. Marylee has dedicated her life to helping newborns and their families through illness and death, and I would love nothing more than to help her and Donovan with their own journey. Any small contribution will make a difference, whether to help pay for Donovan’s college education, or for those soccer camps in Spain that Steven wanted. Please help this amazing family!  Maybe one day we will see Donovan scoring the winning goal for the US Men’s National Soccer Team and can say that we were a small part of his journey and perseverance.

See you next Wednesday!!

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