The Austen Everett Foundation works to inspire, empower, and embolden the lives of kids battling cancer by Uniting the Fight of these extraordinary individuals with professional and collegiate athletic teams. Children’s hospitals nationwide have partnered with AEF to provide this powerful experience to kids fighting cancer with teams in their communities. AEF is working with teams in the MLB, MLS, NFL, NHL, NWSL, WNBA, and NCAA.
Honorary Team Captains attend pre-game practice, receive a personalized team jersey, visit the locker-room, attend coaches pregame talks, walk on the field or court with the team, watch warmups from the players bench. They also have their name featured on the jumbotron, call the captains coin-toss, receive autographed team gear, an event photo recap, and their family receives VIP game day treatment.
At AEF events a kid with cancer is the distinguished Honorary Team Captain providing an opportunity to benefit from the strength and support the team environment provides. They are given a once-in-a-lifetime connection to experience what it is like to be a professional or collegiate athlete for that specific game, creating an incredibly dynamic and powerfully inspiring partnership.
Following is Austen's story, written by Austen.
I’ve spent my life playing soccer. I always figured if I died an untimely death it would be because of my rather extensive collection of concussions.
Soccer takes a toll on your body. If only you saw beneath my jersey, you’d know what I’m talking about. I’ve got horrific scars on both arms and discolored marks up and down my legs. I’ve learned how to take out my own stitches and can stay in an ice bath for 35 minutes before my lips turn blue. But Cancer was nothing like anything I had ever experienced and I’ve got the scars to prove it. My forearms are littered with track marks from countless IVs and blood tests. There’s a puckered wound in my lower back where they’ve drilled in my hip to get bone marrow samples, but the real prize is an 8 inch scar that runs down my stomach from my chest bone to my pelvis that’s a leftover from an exploratory surgery in which they removed a football-sized tumor from my abdomen.
Cancer has brought me to my knees. It has made me feel worse than I could ever imagine and has allowed me to see more beauty, truth, and triumph in a single day than many people experience in a lifetime. The question with chemo is what will the chemo kill first: the Cancer, or me? My exciting life has quickly become a nauseating routine of IV drips and doctors appointments. The sickness has been in the details, in the gruesome effects of the treatment. Cancer is a blurred sense of illness but chemo is an endless sequence of horrors until you begin to think that the cure is as bad or worse than the disease.
Chemo has a cumulative effect; I have undergone six treatments in the span of three months and with each phase, toxins accumulate in my body. The first treatment wasn’t so bad. By the end of the second I felt pretty sick and always tired. By the fourth cycle I was on my hands and knees fighting nausea and crippling bone aches. Chemo doesn’t just kill Cancer, it kills healthy cells too.
It has attacked, the linings of my throat, my stomach, my muscles, my teeth and has left me open to infection. My gums bleed. I get sores in my mouth and of course I lost my appetite. On the really bad days I lie on my side in bed wrapped in blankets, fighting a horrific rolling in my stomach and the debilitating pain in my bones. I don’t think I have fully admitted the effect chemotherapy has had on my body. I came into my fight against Cancer very fit and confident and I can start to see with each treatment I’m being drained and until a mere flight of stairs made me collapse, I have had no idea how incapacitated I have become.
The chemo has left me so foggy that my memory barely recalls what I did an hour ago. However, what I do know is at my sickest, I have begun to beat the thing. I have opened a gap in the field and I will be cured. I have begun to think of my recovery like a soccer match. I was getting daily feedback from my team of doctors and I wanted to destroy Cancer just as I had against countless opponents on the soccer field. I prepare myself for treatments just as I did against UNC. I put my hospital gown on as if it said Miami on the front and I walk the halls of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance just as I had imagined I would walk out for the NCAA championships. I brag "Cancer picked the wrong girl when it decided to take me on." The illness had invaded my body and tried to destroy everything I have worked so hard for, so now it's personal. I am no longer a victim; I have turned the tables on cancer and I am now on the attack.
Cancer is a funny thing. Good, strong people get Cancer. They do all the right things to beat it and they still die. That is the pressing truth that you learn when you're sick. People die. And after you learn it, all other matters just seem insignificant. I don’t know why I’m still alive. I can only guess. I have a tough character and my sport has taught me how to compete against long odds and enormous obstacles.
Everyone’s favorite question seems to be, "how has Cancer changed you?" The real question isn’t how it changed me but how hasn’t it? I left my house on May 26, 2008 as one person and on August 16 I will return another. I was one of the best goal keepers in the United States, I had an incredible boyfriend, a brand new car, and an exciting future as a professional athlete. But when I return I will be a different person. The truth is that Cancer is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I don’t know why I got the illness but it has done amazing things for me and I wouldn’t want to walk away from it.
People die. That truth is so daunting that at times I can’t bear to contemplate it. But there is another truth too. People live. It's an equally and opposing truth. People live in the most extraordinary ways.
June Leahy, CEO and Executive Director
Lauren Wyckoff, Communications Director
Hanna Sanford, Executive Producer
Margy Samuelson, Production Director
Anna Jansen, Impact Event Producer
Abby Magee, Producer
Kelsey Herstad, Producer
Sylvee Walenczewski Proehl, Producer Bay Area
Brooke Yarrington, Producer San Jose
Natalie Marrero, Miami Producer
Emily Wingrove, Social Media Director
Christopher Moorhead, IT Director ; Web Developer
Danielle Pavlovic, Web Design; Developer
Sue Corcoran, Video Director; Producer
Cindy Sangster, Video Editor
Mary Kay Johanson, Grant Writer
Board of Directors
Tim Girvin, Founder and Principal of Girvin Strategic Branding & Design
Karen Moyer, Co-Founder and Vice President of the Moyer Foundation
Beverly Yanez, Seattle Reign FC Pro Soccer Player
Branding / Design / Visuals
Brand & Design Advisory Consultants: GIRVIN | Strategic Branding & Design
Meet a Few Honorees
“Everybody has been so kind, generous, and just be able to make me feel loved and happy like you’ve known me forever. Austen Everett has really made me feel comfortable and has changed my life forever. I can’t thank you and the Austen Everett Foundation enough for everything you guys have done for me I really appreciate it thank you for everything.”
To say Penny had fun is an understatement! I need to open a Twitter account! I think this is the straw that’ll make me do it! Those girls were amazing! I hope June got pictures of Penny running with the team! My mom was so happy and said it was the first time she’s seen Penny be herself since she was diagnosed! I can’t thank you guys enough the players were wonderful! Especially Fishloch and well all of them..even the Orlando girls! It was an unforgettable night and I can’t thank you enough!
Love you guys so much,
The Armstrongs and Princess Penny
The Armstrong’s(From the Mother of the Honoree)
“Today KD was a totally different person. She displayed levels of confidence that we have never seen. This was an amazing experience for all of us. What Austen left behind was something absolutely life changing. Her legacy will change the lives of children and their families for years to come.”
KD’s Mother(Mother of Honoree)
“We will never be able to thank you enough for the incredible, once in a life time experience that Zach and our family had with you. Thank you most of all for sharing Austen’s story. The picture of Austen making a diving save with no hair encouraged Zach to keep going and keep playing when everyone else wanted him to sit on the sidelines because they thought he was fragile and sick. It is a powerful picture. The entire Sounders group – players and staff – were so amazing! They most certainly have fans for life in this family. The boys make sure to check “their friends” stats after every game.”
Zach Cezar(Mother of Honoree)
“First off let me say thank you a million times over! I know Channon and Christianna had a blast today. I saw it written all over my babies faces. They enjoyed the special attention they received and thoroughly enjoyed the game. I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for reaching out and going the extra mile for our family. Everything you did showed genuine love and concern for us and it was truly appreciated.”
Christopher Hopson(Father of Honoree)
“Thank you so much! It was an incredible night that we will never forget! The boys had such a great time and I know this experience will help Michael get through these next tough 4 months. Austen has done such great things and has touched so many. Her story is such an inspiration. Thank you for all you have done for Michael and our family!”
Liz Albrecht(Mother of Honoree)
“You have no idea how much of an impact it made on our family, especially Layni. When I showed her the recap she said, “Oh! It’s me and the Hope Solo team! Mommy…I was a star!” We had the best time and will forever remember how much Layni enjoyed herself. It was the perfect way for her to feel special and we truly appreciate your and the foundation’s generosity… Layni doesn’t ask for much but I know that the experience will be in heart forever. She’s never been one to cling to any specific toy or thing but if there’s ever a time where she can be the center of attention…she shines. Having her as the co-captain was so perfect for her.”
Charmaine Schultz(Mother of Honoree)
We had a great time last night at the event, everyone was very nice and we were definitely well spoiled. The tour was awesome, suite was incredible and they won the game!!! We are so thankful for this opportunity and appreciate everything the AEF did to make this a special time. The entire family had an exceptional time and Hayden said,” it was the best time of his life.”
Etan Aklij(Father of Honoree)
“I want to thank you for brightening his day. He still talks about it. You are a very special person and just wanted you to know we enjoyed you and we appreciate your warm heart. Thank you and god bess”
Veronica Martin(Sister of Honoree)
“You are always in our hearts 💓 you are truly an example of faith and hope. I saw thru you how Love will conquer all, that not matter where we are we Need to be happy and find peace with what is and never forgetting the essence that took us to certain situation. You stay strong and forward. Thanks for letting me see thru you how I need to continue north and hopefully win the battle. “
“I wanted to tell you once again Thank You! Our day Sunday was so much fun and Nathan has been talking about it and YOU all day today. He was indeed spoiled and had the chance to do something amazing thanks to you and the foundation. You are such a joy to be around and I feel honored to have met you.”
Melissa Falk(Mother of Honoree)
“Big, humongous thanks to the Austen Everett Foundation and Pacific NW Soccer Club for the amazing Christmas Gift Box for Little Man High5 WEST! He delighted in every bit of it, asks us to re-read the cards all the time, and continues to play with everything, including daily scrimmages with that sweet soccer ball in our dining room! “
Elissa(Mother of Honoree)
“I wanted to say Thank you for sharing your day with me and making me feel like I was apart of the team. Thank for the autographs and your time. Brad thank you for letting me be captain with you. You guys played good and I had fun.”