IRVINE, Calif. — On Saturday, Orange County SC will host the Colorado Springs Switchbacks at Championship Soccer Stadium at Orange County Great Park. But the game will only be part of the activities on the day at the stadium.
The team, along with Soccer For Hope, is hosting a bone marrow donor registry drive at the match, in honor of 5-month-old Bruno Lara, who is battling a rare immunodeficiency disease, HLH. Be The Match will be on hand prior to the 7 pm PT kickoff to sign people up and collect cheek swabs for the national registry.
Lara, whose family are Orange County SC ticket holders, needs both chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. The family and community are racing against the clock to find a match for him.
Last week, Orange County SC held a donor drive for players and staff after training, and Angels on Parade was on hand to find out about the drive.
OCSC EVP and general manager Oliver Wyss, who received a life-saving bone marrow transplant himself as a young man and lost his son and daughter to pediatric cancer, understood the need for the team to get involved and rally to find a match for Bruno.
“I think for us as an organization, this is bigger than our team,” he said. “This is bigger than soccer. This is about giving back. Obviously it’s also a deeply personal situation for me, and when we were made aware through Be the Match and the need to find a match for Bruno, we jumped on it.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for our players, obviously they’re professional athletes but we always want to be role models in the community. And part of that is making them aware of some of the childhood cancers that are out there, and we want to educate them. And so we want to use our platform as a professional team through our partnerships with Soccer for Hope, Be the Match and now Bruno, to really expose the community and get everybody to sign up when we play against Colorado, with the sole goal to find a match for little Bruno, and if not, hopefully for other patients who will need bone marrow that will get from this drive.”
Many players and members of the OCSC staff signed up for the registry, as they heard about the Lara family’s fight from Bruno’s aunt, who was on hand.
“It’s awesome to give back,” captain Christian Duke said. “I’ve been raised to give back and we’ve been blessed to have the ability to play pro soccer. For us to use it as a platform to give awareness and give back in any way that we can, we jump on it right away.”
Teammate Ami Pineda, an Orange County native, agreed.
“Us doing this, helping the community out, maybe helping someone save a life, I think it’s one of the most amazing things,” he said. “Obviously we’re role models, for myself to my little brother. Even being role models not just for family but for local kids out here, it’s a great opportunity for us to come up.”
Wyss emphasized efforts like this, Saturday’s bone marrow donor drive and the work done by Soccer For Hope helps cement a bond for the club and the surrounding community.
“We want to be the club of Orange County. We want to be there, we want to be for them.”
Soccer fans may be familiar with the story of goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who in 2012 while a member of FC Dallas, donated bone marrow to save a stranger after joining a registry. When asked if they would be willing to put their careers temporarily on hold if they had the chance to save a life, both Duke and Pineda noted they would cross the bridge if they get to it, but were determined to help out if they could.
“I really haven’t thought about it, but if I’m a match — and hopefully I am — I can save someone’s life. And sometimes it’s part of not being a player but being a person, trying to help someone out,” Pineda said.
“If I have the ability to save a life, I want to have that option and be able to give, to help somebody else in need,” said Duke.
“Soccer’s a game. We’re talking about lives here,” he added.
Fans are asked to come prior to the 7pm kickoff for the game on April 28th to get registered to be a donor and get their cheeks swabbed. The team will unite forces with the Colorado Springs Switchbacks and the players will all get swabbed prior to the game. The team has dedicated the game to Bruno’s cause and a portion of ticket sales will go back to help support #teambruno. Tickets to the game can be purchased here.
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