By Peter Schwartz
» More Columns
Last year, Alecko Eskandarian expressed an interest in volunteering to do some charity work for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. At that point in his life, cancer had not affected him personally, but he still accepted a nomination from a friend of his for the society’s Man of the Year Award campaign.
Little did the New York Cosmos’ assistant coach know that his efforts were about to become personal. Within weeks, good friend and former D.C United teammate Shawn Kuykendall — as well as his cousin — were diagnosed with thymic cancer and leukemia.
“Suddenly, I was fighting for my own personal ties as well,” said Eskandarian, whose father, Andranik, was a defender for the original Cosmos back in the 1970s and 80s.
Eskandarian’s friend passed away in March, and that motivated him to step up his efforts to raise money for cancer research. In one of their final conversations, the two friends spoke about Eskandarian’s participation in the Man of the Year competition, and Kuykendall encouraged Eskandarian to go forward with it.
“Shawn’s passing hit me hard,” said Eskandarian. “It all happened so quickly, and I was in denial that his cancer would be life-threatening. His message and his strength throughout his fight is something that will stay with me forever. Then, seeing all the people at his funeral (that) he impacted further motivated me to do what I can to help others.”
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man & Woman of the Year (MWOY) campaign is a 10-week fundraising competition in communities across the United States. The society has set up a webpage for Eskandarian.
The campaign ends on June 5.
As part of fundraising efforts, Eskandarian has created a “Give Cancer The Red Card!” T-shirt with all proceeds going towards the cause. You can order the shirt here.
Given his background, Eskandarian designed the shirt to tap into the soccer community.
“I wanted to create a shirt that would get the message across about the soccer world uniting to fight this terrible disease,” said the 2002 Hermann Trophy winner, awarded to the best player in college soccer. “I think it gets people’s attention right away and the shirts look amazing.”
In addition to the sale of T-shirts, Eskandarian’s team (@TeamRedCard on Twitter) has several events coming up, including a poker tournament on May 7 and a date auction on May 29 that will include some of the Cosmos players.
Eskandarian is happy that he’s been able to get help from his Soccer Bowl-champion friends.
“Everyone has been extremely supportive,” said Eskandarian. “It’s amazing how many people have been affected by cancer and how passionate they are about helping to find a cure. I’m very fortunate to be part of an organization filled with so many compassionate people.”
Eskandarian has accomplished a lot in soccer. He was a star forward at the University of Virginia before becoming a Major League Soccer All-Star. He was the MLS Cup MVP in 2004 when he scored a pair of goals four minutes apart. And last season, he helped lead the Cosmos to the NASL title as an assistant coach.
But his effort in the fight against cancer makes him a true winner. Please join him and his team in their efforts to “Give Cancer The Red Card.”
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories