Soccer team names Ellie, Annie Levine as honorary captains for Kicks for Cancer

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Credit: Courtesy of David Gavron

Sophomore Ben Chen talks to Annie (left), Ellie (middle) and Leah Levine about being chosen as the honorary captains for the annual Kicks for Cancer soccer game. "They'll be with us on the sideline completely kitted out in pink because we're wearing pink this year, so I think they're going to help as much as possible,” senior captain Alex Kashian said. “I think it'll be a huge inspiration for the team going into the game.”

Caitlin Newton and Josh Schreiber

The Wayland boys varsity soccer will kick off their annual Kicks for Cancer game against Bedford on Sept. 28 with all proceeds going towards the Dana Farber medical center. This year, however, is a special game for the boys as Wayland resident Ellie Levine, along with her sister, Annie, will be honorary captains for the game.

Ellie Levine was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia just days before her fifth birthday party in March 2019. A carnival was organized for Ellie and Annie on Sept. 15, and the WHS boys varsity soccer team was there to volunteer.

“I found out more about [Ellie’s] story, about the girls that are impacted and the relationship that Ellie and Annie share,” boys varsity soccer coach David Gavron said. “I thought it would be an amazing opportunity for the boys to provide a service to a family that is faced with an incredible, daily battle to try to keep the girls’ lives as normal as possible while facing such a devastating disease as leukemia.”

Sophomore varsity player Ben Chen came up with the idea of having Ellie and Annie be honorary captains after meeting them at the carnival.

“Coach Gav initially sent out a message telling all the soccer players to help out at Ellie’s carnival before the season started, and I wasn’t really familiar with Ellie’s story and what the carnival was for, so I did some research,” Chen said. “I found an article on Patch.com about it and read about how Ellie was fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia — the most common form of childhood cancer — and immediately thought of Kicks for Cancer.”

This is not the first time Chen has looked to the community to honor people for the Kicks for Cancer game. Last year, being just a freshman, Chen got to get Kicks for Cancer shirts for one of his teachers diagnosed with a form of cancer.

“For the past two [seasons] on varsity, Ben has used the Kicks for Cancer game to recognize people in our community who are battling cancer or who have battled cancer, and not only does he put their names on the back of his shirt, but he has asked the past two years if he could get shirts for those people that he’s recognizing,” Gavron said.

For Chen, the Kicks for Cancer game has a personal connection to him and his family. 

“It holds a lot of meaning to me because my family has dealt with cancer in the past,” Chen said. “Both of my grandmothers had breast cancer and beat it, so I dedicate a lot of games to them.”

When Chen was presented with yet another opportunity to help out the community and the Levine family, he approached Gavron about it.

“This year, when [Chen] brought up Ellie and Annie, [it] was wonderful because it’s kids and another part of our community,” Gavron said. “It really resonated with me because in the summertime, we got emails about the carnival that was taking place for the girls, so I thought it would be a nice connection for us.”

As far as the game goes, Ellie and Annie will flip the coin to decide who starts with the ball and then cheer from the sideline alongside the boys.

“They’ll be with us on the sideline completely kitted out in pink because we’re wearing pink this year, so I think they’re going to help as much as possible,” senior captain Alex Kashian said. “I think it’ll be a huge inspiration for the team going into the game.”

Leah Levine, the two girls’ mother, was excited for her daughters when she was asked if they wanted to be honorary captains for their game, but Ellie was especially ecstatic.

“Ellie always gets excited about many things, so she was like,  ‘Oh, I’m going to get to do this and that,’” Levine said. “I asked coach Gavron about some details because Ellie sort of thinks that she’s going to play, so I wanted to find out what the expectations were.”

The carnival was able to raise almost $20,000 for the Jimmy Fund, and it was an unforgettable experience for Ellie and Annie.

“It truly was a phenomenal experience,” Levine said. “The girls loved every moment of it, they were pretty much in motion the entire time. I think Ellie closed down the bounce houses – literally, when the air was coming out she was still trying to jump on them. Every aspect from the princesses coming to sing to the cake and the dunk tank, driving in on the car, every single detail was just so thoughtful and wonderful.”

The Levine family is extremely grateful for the Wayland community for the support and just as happy to be able to give back to the Jimmy Fund and support kids just like Ellie.

“The generosity of the community since we got the news has been outstanding, they’ve rallied around us in all aspects,” Levine said. “Then to come out again, for the great cause, so to speak, it’s just heartwarming, and we are so so glad to be able to give back to the Jimmy Fund, which will then touch so many other kids’ lives.”