Oct. 29, 2009
HOUSTON -- As if a game against the crosstown rival Houston Cougars wasn't already important enough, some significant charity work by the Rice Owls soccer team has raised the stakes for attending Friday night's home match even higher.
Rice soccer has teamed with the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center to host a registration drive at its upcoming match vs. U.H. for potential bone marrow donors in order to benefit the young leukemia patients undergoing treatments at Texas Children's Hospital - a world-renown facility located just a block away from the Owls' home soccer field adjacent to the Texas Medical Center.
Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center representatives will set up a registration drive at the Rice-Houston soccer game, an annual clash of crosstown rivals slated for a 7 pm start on Friday (Oct. 30). The Blood Center personnel will collect names of fans who want to volunteer as a potential bone marrow donor and answer questions about a relatively simple procedure that could save lives. The registration drive is only the first step in the donor identification process, with the procedure itself occurring much later. Identifying a proper match for bone marrow donors and their beneficiaries is a key part of the treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, often called A.L.L. or children's leukemia.
Members of the Owls' soccer team have had first-hand experience of associating with the young patients at Texas Children's. Since 2007 Rice soccer players have made regular visits to T.C.H., interacting with the patients and their families in an attempt to spread good cheer and lift spirits. Friday's registration drive, at what is annually the team's biggest game of the year - the crosstown showdown and season finale with the rival Cougars - is in honor of a good friend of the team, Natalia Lopez. Rice will help create awareness for all the young friends at Texas Children's by wearing special "Natalia's Crew" tee-shirts in Friday's pregame warm-ups.
"I am proud of our girls and what they're doing," said Rice head soccer coach Chris Huston, now in her tenth season at the helm of the program. "This is something that they've come up with on their own, all in a very short amount of time. They told us (the coaches) what they wanted to do and we thought it was great, but hard to do with the game on Friday. It was their existing relationship with the hospital and the different families that helped them put all this together.
"We brought (the Owl players) to Rice because they were great students and great soccer players," coach Huston added. "Now everyone can see that they are great people as well."