KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting KC’s match against Real Salt Lake ended up in a draw, but for one fan from Oklahoma it was certainly a win.
Kalen Ricketson, 18, from Still Water is battling cancer, but over the weekend he got to be a professional soccer player. He said it was a dream come true to play for his favorite team, and the players say he’s a team mate for life.
The players of Sporting KC warmed up like always on the field of Children’s Mercy Par, but for Ricketson, it was no ordinary day. It was the game of a lifetime.
“It didn’t feel like I was just here for a weekend,” Ricketson said. “It felt like people really cared about me, and felt like I was part of the team. Seeing all those people cheer me on – it meant so much.”
The teen has Osteosarcoma, a severe form of bone cancer. He was diagnosed three years ago, and has gone through thirteen surgeries. In July, his arm below his shoulder was amputated to slow the disease, and stop the formation of tumors.
“It’s been hard,” Ricketson said. “It feels like every time things are looking up they go back down again, but I just keep fighting and see where the next step takes us.”
However, on this day, he leads the charge in the park with a special chant hyping up the Caldron and his team to defend their pitch until the end.
“It’s something very special,” said Stephanie Laws from Gardner, Ks. “Not everybody would get a chance to do that, and for somebody who has cancer and gets to do some things that are maybe on their bucket list, and come out to the stadium – I think, for me, it would mean the world to me. That would be something my kid would enjoy.”
“I hope that when everyone was standing up and applauding for him that that meant something to him, and maybe his family even, because obviously that’s pretty big for the team to invite somebody here like that,” said Logan Clark of KCK.
Defenders Matt Besler, and Ike Opara say this experience was truly inspiring, and Kalen’s fight gives them strength.
“He’s the one that’s an inspiration for us, because he`s the one that`s been fighting through all these surgeries,” Besler said. “We’re just out here playing soccer, so it’s really more about him inspiring us than the other way around.”
“He’s a bright spirit,” Opara said. “He’s awesome, and I was glad to get him out here and experience a game day with the squad. I hope he enjoyed it as much as we did.”
Kalen said after Sunday he’s forever solidified as a Sporting KC fan, and honorary team mate. For glory, a city never meant so much.
“They didn’t have to do this for me, but they saw a kid that’s gone through a lot, and wanted to give him a special experience,” Ricketson said. “That’s just been incredible that they would care enough to do something for me. To make a dream come true for me.”
Before the game Ricketson was on the field with other kids and teens going through struggles just like him. He said it meant so much to have them there, and remind him – that he’s not alone in his fight.