The date was Sunday, April 1, 2018, and Maurly Gomez was playing soccer in the yard.
The Pacific Northwest spring air was a little cooler than usual that evening, but he didn’t mind. With a soccer ball at his feet and his family around him, the eight-year-old boy chased the ball around with an endearing smile.
It seemed like a fitting scene for the small family, whose house is nestled into the south neighborhoods of Tacoma. Family. Soccer. An evening together in the yard on Easter Sunday…until the screams pierced down East 64th Street.
It all happened in a blur. Within a matter of seconds, Maurly’s joyful grin was wiped off his face. He lay in the middle of the street, motionless. The car that struck him continued out of sight. Neighbors sprang to the boy’s aid.
The street in Tacoma where Maurly Gomez was struck by a speeding car in front of his house | via Twitter (Natalie Swaby, King 5)
On that same evening, nearly 40 miles north, Alex Roldan, a professional soccer player for the Seattle Sounders, was hanging out at his place in Seattle. The previous night, the 21-year-old rookie made his home debut at CenturyLink Field in front of nearly 40,000 fans.
By all accounts, his pro career was just beginning. Unbeknownst to him, there was likely a tragic ending for a young boy who was hit by a speeding car while chasing a soccer ball.
The sirens roared down the 1200 block of the neighborhood. Maurly couldn’t move.
Within a matter of weeks, Maurly made an incredible recovery. Despite severe external and internal injuries, including a broken leg and a collapsed lung, he’s back to smiling as if nothing happened.
He’s also made a few friends along the way, like the entire response crew who picked him up from the middle of the street. And, of course, the Seattle Sounder who visited him in the hospital when he heard about Maurly’s injuries.
“His emotions and joy was pretty out of this world compared to someone who might be in that position,” Roldan said.
For those who know Maurly, they wouldn’t expect anything different.
Sounders midfielder Alex Roldan signs Maurly Gomez's cast in the hospital.
As a firefighter for over 30 years and an employee at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital for a dozen years, Christopher Perry will be the first to tell you he’s seen pretty much everything in his career.
“I have seen a lot,” said Perry, who is a captain for the Tacoma Fire Department. “Maurly is probably the most injured surviving child I have ever had in my career.”
When Perry and his crew transported Maurly to the hospital, they sought distractions to prevent him from thinking about his injuries and maintain his consciousness.
Maurly just kept talking about soccer, Cristiano Ronaldo and playing his favorite sport.
By the time the unit reached Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, Maurly had left his mark. The crew that transported Maurly couldn’t stop thinking about the smiley boy who loves soccer.
“We maintained contact with Maurly, and that is not a real common thing for us to do,” Perry said. “Generally, we see the patient in the field when they are in their worst, then we never see them again. Patients like Maurly we see for a short period of time. Our contact with them ceases. We don’t know happened to them, the progress they’ve made.”
Over the coming days, Perry kept chatting with his crewmates about Maurly. The agonizing scenes of a hit-and-run in a front of a family, the triumphant escape from death, the ray of happiness who couldn’t stop talking about soccer.
Eric Law, Perry’s crewmate who was also on Maurly’s transportation unit to the hospital, suggested getting the Sounders involved. Perry jumped on the idea and sent an email request to the club’s Community Outreach Department.
Exactly one week later, Roldan was at the hospital getting ready for the epic surprise.
“When they asked me what type of charity events I would like to do, I told them I would like to visit kids in hospitals because I had never had that experience of something that would be life-changing for me,” Roldan said. “Being able to have the opportunity to do that and to impact someone’s life is pretty extraordinary.”
Maurly smiles alongside family, Roldan and Chris Perry. Perry reached out to the Sounders after befriending Maurly and learning of his love for soccer.
Upon Roldan’s entrance to the room, Maurly yelled with excitement, “I’ve seen you on TV!”
For the next hour, Roldan signed autographs, took photos and, most importantly, talked all about soccer.
Perry was there for the visit, too. He was very impressed with the way Roldan bonded with his young friend.
“The visit from Alex was amazing — he did an amazing job,” Perry said. “Maurly was smiling and happy. Alex made a huge impact.”
An unexpected highlight of the visit was Maurly calling his cousin to show off his special visitor. Among the giggles and smiles, the three of them chatted about soccer, life and Maurly’s miraculous recovery.
“Maurly is a very happy and intelligent boy,” said his mother, Candy. “He loves soccer, and Chris knew this was going to help him feel better and that he would like to meet the players.”
In the same way that Perry, Law and the rest of the crew developed a genuine interest in Maurly, Roldan hopes to maintain a relationship with him.
“I would love to have him come out to a game and have his family in that environment where we could share that joy with him,” Roldan said.
Maurly and Roldan talk to Maurly's cousin on the phone during Roldan's visit.
As Maurly continues to recover — his mother said that he is now able to dress without any help and his movements have improved — his eventual visit to CenturyLink Field gives him something to look forward to.
“He keeps saying, ‘When are we going? I want to play like them!’” Candy said with a smile.
Each step of the way, Maurly will have a strong support system that continues to grow with his infectious personality. From his family to the firefighting crew to a professional soccer player, Maurly’s journey towards recovery will not be a lonely one.
“He is a fighter, a survivor, a really happy kid,” Perry said. “It was a team effort to get him into the hospital and keep him alive, and it will be a team effort for him to recover.”