All four of Juneau’s soccer teams will be playing on the same side this Saturday when they take the pitch at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Sporting lavender-colored uniforms, the Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain clubs will play in six Cancer Awareness Games in support of a peer, who was diagnosed with cancer last winter.
JDHS senior goalkeeper Mitchell McDonald was diagnosed in November with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that affects skeletal muscle cells that is most often found in children under the age of 10. In mid-December, McDonald moved into the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle and has spent the past four months receiving treatment in the area. McDonald’s dad, Mitch, said his son has undergone over 40 weeks of chemotherapy and over 20 days of radiation. He is expected to return home by this November.
“I can’t say enough great things about the nurses and doctors in the hematology/oncology department at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, the radiation oncology team at the UW Medical Center and the staff and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House,” Mitch McDonald wrote in a text message, “and most especially all the kind people of our community that have given us so much.”
McDonald appeared in just under half of the games last season and backstopped JDHS to five wins. JDHS senior Ronan Davies said the goalkeeper had a large presence on the team, especially during practice.
“Mitchell was always known for always being very commanding and loud on the field with the goalies,” Davies said. “That’s what you want from your goalie. We’re missing that a lot this year.”
Davies said he checks in periodically with McDonald via text message so that “he knows people are thinking about him.”
“I’ve been through it before with members of my family, but they’re all adults,” Davies said. “Seeing it happen to someone in high school was a whole different ball game. It’s way younger than seeing most people with cancer. It almost seems too young for someone to have to go through something like that.”
JDHS senior Jackson Norberg visited his friend in person in December, and recalled McDonald being in good spirits. Norberg said he’s become much more aware of the plight of cancer patients through the experience.
“It doesn’t really hit home with you until it’s someone you actually knew for almost all your life,” Norberg said.
The Cancer Awareness Games begin with the Thunder Mountain girls varsity at 9 a.m. at Adair-Kennedy. The following five games will each feature the following teams: Thunder Mountain boys varsity at 10:45 a.m.; JDHS girls JV at 1 p.m.; JDHS boys JV at 2:45 p.m.; JDHS girls varsity at 4:30 p.m.; JDHS boys varsity at 6:15 p.m.
The Thunder Mountain squads play against Homer while all four JDHS factions play against conference foe Ketchikan.
There will also be soccer games played tonight and Friday night. Find the full schedule at juneausoccer.org/highschools.
A bake sale to raise funds for the McDonald family will occur throughout the day at the field. To learn more or make a donation to the cause, contact Erik Norberg at 957-2808.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.