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Siblings organize soccer tourney for childhood cancer research

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San Diego Sockers goalie Boris Pardo talks to members of The Blues soccer team during the “Goals for Lives” soccer tournament at Sycamore Ridge Elementary in Carmel Valley on June 8. The event raised money to help find a cure for a rare cancer that targets children.
(Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune
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A fundraising soccer tournament organized by two young siblings packed the playing fields of a Carmel Valley school with 65 teams Saturday, June 8, to help find a cure for a rare cancer that targets children.

“They’re good kids and they want to figure out how to make the world better,” Shelley Robinson said about her son Zachary, 13, and daughter Ellery, 11. “And they’re really into sports.”

The two spread the word at their schools and in the neighborhood about the tournament to raise money for neuroblastoma research, and they helped bring in donations from businesses for a silent auction.

Among the big-ticket items auctioned at Sycamore Ridge Elementary School on Saturday was a chance to be the general manager of the San Diego Padres for a day. The opportunity was valued at $1,500, and by mid-morning had attracted a bid of $1,050. (As of Tuesday, June 11, more than $18,500 has been raised from the event so far. Additional amounts are expected from vendors.)

Saturday’s event was the second one organized by the brother and sister team. Zachary put together a basketball fundraiser last year and raised almost $12,000 for Beat Nb, a nonprofit focused on beating neuroblastoma and other childhood cancers. Locally, Rady Children’s Hospital is one of more than 30 sites included in trial activities funded by Beat Nb.

“It went really well last year,” Zachary said about the three-on-three basketball tournament he named “Hoops for Lives.” “We didn’t think we’d have 40 teams. We expected two.”

Zachary, who wants to be a commercial airline pilot when he grows up, said he likes organizing tournaments and thought he should do so for a good cause.

His mother said she teared up when he told her about his plan, which was especially meaningful to her. Their friend Micah Bernstein, 8, was battling cancer at the time, and they learned about Beat Nb from his family.

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Ellery Robinson and San Diego Sockers’ Boris Pardo
(Christine Stevens)

Ellery took the reigns this year to organize Saturday’s “Goals for Lives.”

“My brother is really into basketball, and I’m obsessed with soccer,” she said.

Robinson said they were inspired by friend Sheri Leiter, who put together the “Brain Bash” fundraiser to benefit Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure in memory of her mother and a friend who died of the disease about 10 years ago. The next event is July 1.

“To see kids get outside of themselves and help other kids they’ve never met is a great life lesson,” Leiter said about the Saturday event. “It’s about role models. We’re instilling these values in kids.”

Players as young as 5 years old were on teams of three that faced off on 10 small soccer fields during the tournament. Medals were awarded in nine brackets, including best uniform.

San Diego Sockers goalee Boris Pardo made an appearance to show off some skills and pose for photos with children. “I’ve meet Ellery a bunch of times, and she’s a sweetheart,” he said. “I’m a fan of hers.”

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Justin Carter’s “Scorpion Futsal” participated in the event, bringing six teams to help support the cause. The Scorpions train at the new Facility in San Elijio called Eden Park.
(Christine Stevens)

As the father of two boys, Pardo said seeing an event organized by children to help other children was touching and inspirational.

“It makes you think twice, and to pay more attention to the little things and not get caught up in the day-to-day,” he said. “It definitely opens my eyes to see that two kids started this, and one was a beautiful soul like Ellery.”

Ava Stevens, 12, was thrilled to meet a San Diego Socker player. “I want to be a professional soccer player when I grow up, and seeing them you can kind of look into the future and see what you can become,” she said.

Along with the silent auction, food booths and other activities, some families pitched in by creating their own fundraising games. For $1 a ticket, players could get six shots at a Nerf gun range, try their hand at hitting a bulls eye with a tennis ball, guess which tiny suitcase had a prize inside or try to shoot a plastic golf ball off a tee with a water pistol.

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Ava Stevens
(Christine Stevens)

“I think it’s so important that they have this opportunity to give back,” said Colleen DeLory, whose son Zach was working at the water pistol booth with his friend Nadia.

“We’re in a pretty nice neighborhood, and kids here don’t have the same type of challenges as kids in other areas, and I don’t think they realize that at times,” she said. “You want to give them a bigger world view.”

— Garth Warth is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune

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The Robinson family standing next to the Nb banner.
(Christine Stevens)