Local pair put together soccer tourney for good cause

Published 11:41 am Thursday, May 17, 2012

It’s one thing to help out your neighbor, but when it’s someone you’ve never met, that takes a special person.

Vicksburg natives Rebecca Sigh and Crystal Davidson had never met Sam Okeke, a Jackson-area teenager whose soccer career was cut short by a debilitating cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer of the connective tissue.

But they wanted to help him.

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Both wanted to play in a 24-hour indoor tournament in Jackson in February to benefit Okeke, but were unable to make it. Their solution: why not put on a soccer tournament in Vicksburg to benefit Okeke’s fight against cancer?

Davidson and Sigh went to the VSO with their proposal and it was eagerly accepted.

Game on.

The VSO will host the tournament at the Bovina soccer complex on June 9 and 10 to benefit the 14-year-old. The cost is $12 per player and the tournament is open to teams registered in Mississippi in divisions under-10 up to U18. Registration ends on May 24.

Interested referees who’d like to volunteer their time are needed also.

The pair have designed a wristband and a T-shirt to sell to benefit Okeke as well.

“We just wanted to help,” said Sigh, a former St. Aloysius and Meridian Community College soccer player and student at Louisiana Tech. “I felt like it was the right thing to do. I thought it was a great idea.”

Okeke’s situation hit home for Sigh, whose own father fought a battle with cancer.

“I know what it’s like,” Sigh said. “I just wanted to help his family.”

Robinson and Sigh were planning to meet Okeke later this week, hoping to lift his spirits with a visit.

The hardest part for Okeke is yet to come. But hopefully, the tournament’s proceeds can help him and his family with the financial costs of his treatment.

The best part of the story is the entire state’s soccer community has rallied around Okeke, who played for the Mississippi Fire junior soccer club, one of several select teams based in the Jackson area. On a Facebook page in his honor called “Prayers for Sam,” an entire photo gallery of soccer players, coaches and fans throughout the state are proudly wearing and displaying his beloved No. 8 in his honor.

Let’s just hope this tournament is a small step in his journey to wearing his number once again.