By Kyle LoJacono
Central Pasco United Soccer Association (CPUSA) normally focuses on developing talented young players, but for a few weeks the club put some of its efforts toward a greater goal.
CPUSA’s U14 team organized two fundraising events for Jordan Harris, the older brother of one of its players, Dyllon Harris. Jordan, 16, was diagnosed with primitive neuroectodermal tumors, a rare brain cancer.
“We really wanted to help this family with medical expenses, especially during the holiday season,” said Jennifer Nelson, manager of CPUSA’s U14 squad.
The first event was Dec. 9 at the Beef O’ Brady’s near Sunlake High, which brought in $4,000.
The club followed up by putting together a technical and agility camp on Jan. 8 with the help of Eddie Oyakhilome and his EJJE Soccer Academy. The event included 70 campers and raised another $3,000 to help the New Tampa family.
The $7,000 gift was a big surprise for Jordan, especially because he has never played for the Land O’ Lakes-based club.
“It was so nice of everyone and it really helped me and my family a lot,” Jordan said.
Dyllon, 14, added, “It made me smile how so many people came out to support Jordan and our family.”
Dyllon himself had only been with the club for a few weeks when CPUSA organizers started talking about having the fundraisers.
“They have been more than amazing with all the work and effort they have put into these events,” said Jordan’s mother Kim. “I thought the Beef O’ Brady’s was incredible, but then to hear that Eddie Oyakhilome was going to hold a 3-hour clinic and donate all of the proceeds to Jordan was unbelievable. CPUSA is a great place to be with so many caring people.”
The pair of events brought the family some cheer after having their lives turned upside down since discovering Jordan’s ailment last April. Jordan, a junior, had to give up playing soccer for Freedom High’s team. He also had to withdraw from school and is enrolled with Hillsborough County’s hospital/homebound program.
“It has been hard for him not going to school and he really misses his friends and being able to just be a normal, healthy 16-year-old,” Kim said.
The diagnosis has had a profound impact on family life.
“My husband and I both work full time and it has been extremely challenging to continue to work while going through treatment,” Kim said. “I work for USF College of Medicine and they have been very supportive through this. I have used 600 hours of sick leave to date. It has been very tough trying to juggle work and caring for my other son while trying to keep Jordan as happy as possible through all of this. I spend every day and night with him while he is hospitalized, which is four days a month for chemo.”
Things have been looking up for Jordan in recent weeks and he just completed his last scheduled round of chemotherapy last Friday, Jan. 13.
“He had such a hard time with dehydration and malnutrition during the beginning of his treatment that he had to get a feeding tube surgically placed in his stomach in June,” Kim said. “He had it removed two months ago and has been doing very well recently. He is definitely ready to get done with treatment and back to being a normal 16-year-old.”