RBHS soccer players, including organizer Sophie Swicionis (7th from left) and Lucy Drenth (third from left), whose father coached visiting Rolling Meadows and whose mother succumbed to cancer when she was a toddler, line up on the field before their Kick Out Cancer game/fundraiser on April 22. | Ian McLeod

About a year ago Riverside-Brookfield High School soccer player Sophie Swicionis found out that a high school soccer team in Michigan that a friend played on was dedicating a game to support those whose lives have been touched by cancer and to raise money for the fight against cancer. 

That made an impression on Swicionis, because in 2021 Tracy Stanard, the mother of a close friend, died just six weeks after being diagnosed of a rare form of saliva gland cancer. 

Swicionis thought dedicating a game to raise awareness about cancer was a great idea and so she went about organizing RBHS’ Kick Out Cancer game against Rolling Meadows on April 22. 

“It hit very close to home because of my friend’s mom who passed away,” Swicionis said. “I thought it was a really cool idea to take something that I do and bring something bigger out of it.”

RBHS varsity soccer player Lucy Drenth (left) poses with her father, Rolling Meadows head girls soccer coach Mike Drenth, after a pregame ceremony at the Kick Out Cancer match between the two schools on April 22 in Brookfield. | Ian McLeod

When Swicionis, a senior defender, looked at the Bulldogs’ schedule this year, the Rolling Meadows game jumped out to her as perfect for the event. Rolling Meadows head coach Mike Drenth is a Riverside resident whose daughter, Lucy Drenth, is a sophomore starting defender for the Bulldogs. 

In 2008, Mike’s wife and Lucy’s mother, Diana Drenth, died of leukemia at the age of 32 just before Lucy turned 2. Swicionis’ parents went to high school at Morton West with Drenth and the families are still close. 

Players on both teams on April 22 dedicated the game to people whose lives were affected by cancer. All the RBHS players wore special purple uniforms, the color associated with the fight against cancer, with jerseys bearing the name of the person they were playing for on the back. 

Bulldogs’ goalie Piper Blair dedicated her performance in the Kick Out Cancer game to RBHS English teacher Larry Forberg, who is recovering from surgery to treat prostate cancer. | Ian McLeod

Lucy Drenth was, of course, playing for her mother.

“It was really, really special and it was really emotional,” she said after the game, which ended in a scoreless draw. Drenth blocked a Rolling Meadows shot with eight seconds left to preserve the tie in a game that RBHS (9-4-1) mostly dominated.

Mike Drenth struggled to find words to describe what the game meant to him.

“You don’t think it’s going to be what it is until you’re in that situation,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to put into words. My daughter and I, it was just us for a while. She’s like one of my favorite people in the world. It was just going to be a game and then they kind of added that aspect. It’s neat enough to be able to play against my daughter and kind of see her mature, but that aspect made it really special.”

Since Lucy was so young when her mother died, her only memories come from what her dad and other family members have told her.

Sophie Swicionis has many memories of Stanard. They met when Sophie was in preschool and met Tracy’s daughter Tess. The two girls became close friends and so did their mothers. 

Lisa Swicionis, Sophie’s mother, said she and Tracy Stanard worked together for six years and that Stanard was like a second mom to Sophie.

Like Drenth, Swicionis found the player introductions – during which the announcer also named the person the game was dedicated to — emotional and that thoughts and feelings continued to swirl during the first few minutes of the game when announcer read a little more about who each player was playing for.

“It was a lot more emotional than I was expecting,” Swicionis said. “It’s crazy how much it affects each person and how personal it was.”

Every player was playing for someone, a relative or family friend. Cancer seemed to have touched everyone.

Senior goalie Piper Blair was playing for RBHS English teacher Larry Forberg. Blair, and a few of her teammates are in Forberg’s AP Literature and Composition class this year. 

Forberg was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago and in March underwent successful surgery, which was successful. Forberg is recovering at home, but he is expected to miss the rest of the school year.  

“We all miss him so much,” Blair said. “He was my favorite teacher this year. He’s just the best. He’s so funny and it’s like so engaging and I’m not even big on English and he’s such a great teacher and I miss him a lot.”

Forberg told the Landmark that his recovery is progressing nicely.

The Kick Out Cancer fundraiser collected $2,500, which will be donated to the American Cancer Society. Players were each asked to sell 10 purple bracelets. Cookie and concession sales revenue was donated and a donation link to the American Cancer Society was included in the special program for the game. 

The two JV teams also participated in the event and wore special jerseys as well.

Lisa Swicionis helped her daughter organize the event.

“She wanted to do it right from the beginning, and I just helped her execute it,” Lisa Swicionis said. “We thought it was a great idea.”