Austen Everett’s goal was to become a professional soccer player, but her vision became something much bigger.
After being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Everett created the Austen Everett Foundation as a way to help kids battling cancer meet college and professional athletes. Since her passing in 2012, Everett's mother, June Leahy, has carried on the foundation, which has empowered over 650 youth and 60 professional and collegiate athletic programs.
For her efforts, Leahy has been recognized as Sounders FC’s Community MVP for 2018. Vote each day for Leahy, who is competing against other MLS club representatives for a $25,000 donation to their charity.
See below for the full story of this incredible foundation.
A Seattle native and soccer-crazed goalkeeper, Everett grew up idolizing Kasey Keller — she even trained with his dad on a few occasions. Everett went on to play soccer at the University of California, Santa Barbara for two seasons before transferring to the University of Miami.
In 2008, one year before MLS would come to Seattle, she was diagnosed with cancer (Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma).
“[Austen] came back to Seattle for her six lethal rounds of chemo and a week later was back in goal, bald, at the University of Miami,” her mother, June Leahy, said. “It was at that time she discovered how powerful it was to have her team behind her fight. And she wanted to have every kid to have that opportunity.”
Four years later, Everett died at the age of 25. Before her death, though, she reflected on the power of unity through sports. The teammates who encouraged her, the fans who cheered for her. She wanted each child who battled cancer to have the same support.
At the University of Miami, she took a non-profit class, wrote a business plan and filed a 501(c)(3). The Austen Everett Foundation was born. Its mission: To empower kids in their fight against cancer through the strength and support of athletic teams.
“Austen’s vision was that one day this program would be with every professional team and every Division I program in the nation, benefitting kids through this fight,” Leahy said. “That’s what we’re striving to achieve.”
Two weeks before she passed away, she saw an Honorary Team Captain be recognized through her foundation. Six years later, the foundation has teamed up with over 60 professional teams and universities to give experiences to over 650 youth.
Considering her love for soccer and it being her hometown, the Sounders have been at the core of helping the foundation flourish.
“The Sounders have done, I would have to say, more than any other professional partnership,” Leahy said. “It’s been powerful and such a welcome reprieve from cancer for these families. It has provided hope, a lot of hope, for these kids.”
As the foundation grows in popularity, it has expanded in infrastructure, too. A few years ago, it was just Leahy and her camera, reaching out to teams one-by-one. Now, with three full-time staffers and over 90 volunteers throughout the nation, the Austen Everett Foundation is approached by various teams on a consistent basis.
“For me, it is particularly exciting,” Leahy said, smiling. “I see how Austen’s vision is going to play out, how it is going to become a reality. One day, [we will work with] every pro team and Division I university."