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Manteca FC helps raise $10K for Riley

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Manteca FC helps raise $10K for Riley

Riley Simmons, seated, chats with her father Rick in the Ripon High press box during a JRITC flag football game conduced in her honor.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED January 22, 2013 11:23 p.m.

Manuel Pires won’t soon forget the image of daughter and father standing at midfield, bracing for a kickoff they weren’t sure would come.

Or the countless volunteers who helped pull together the inaugural Riley Simmons soccer tournament, a benefit that helped raise more than $10,000 for its namesake.

“It says a lot about our community and our area,” said Pires, director of the Manteca Futbol Club and head coach of Riley’s club team, the under-9 Benfica ’03 girls. “We’re very blessed to live in this community.

“You never know when situations like this come up, and when they do, the support that builds up is amazing.”

It’s been nearly two weeks since the Riley Simmons 6v6 Shootout at Woodward Park and the buzz hasn’t faded.

The brave 9-year-old’s battle with brain cancer has united cities and towns across Northern California, and made fast friends out of complete strangers.

Support has poured in from all corners of the valley for this Colony Oak fourth grader, the one with the engaging smile and beautiful bald head.

A fund-raising campaign at has generated $13,920 as of Tuesday afternoon, and there have been a variety of benefits, raffles, car washes and drives in the last two months.

The Shootout is the latest act of kindness and generosity: all proceeds will go toward Riley’s mounting medical costs, and the trophies – 6 in all, each engraved with her name – were donated by a company out of Sacramento.

“It was really cool for the club to do this for us,” said Rick Simmons, Riley’s father. “It’s indescribable the emotions we have. Riley lit up like a Christmas tree. It’s been the high point in her record, because soccer is such a big part of her life. It’s her first love.”

The Shootout attracted 30 youth teams and raised $5,600. Pires presented Rick with that check on Saturday at Woodward Park.

Pires estimates that Manteca FC raised an additional $2,200 through donations and a raffle at the tournament’s snack bar.

Proceeds from last Thursday’s Manteca FC/Manteca Rangers drive-thru dinner fund-raiser will also go toward Riley’s recovery. Manteca FC registrar Angie Parnham believes the two clubs raised $2,000.

“To see somebody so active and vibrant, for that to be taken away by cancer, which has affected my family, I just felt like this was a good cause,” Parnham said.

“I know what a burden it is going back and forth to San Francisco. I know what a burden it is for a family to have to do that. I’ve had a sick child, too, and I know how upsetting it is for everyone.”

Make no mistake: There are no frowns in the Simmons camp. Riley continues to dazzle even those closest to her.

Rick has often credited a fragile and weak Riley with holding the family together with her optimism and charm.

And on a frozen Saturday morning at Woodward Park, Riley, dressed in uniform, warmed the hearts of many by taking the field for the first time in months.

With Rick by her side and the blessing of both coaches, Riley strode to midfield for the start of her team’s second game. With a gentle touch, she began play and sprinted off the field.

“What a cool moment,” Rick said. “She was smiling, ear to ear.”

Riley is undergoing weekly chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center.

She had emergency surgery to remove a large tumor that had formed between her cerebellum and brain stem on Dec. 4.

In the days leading up the Shootout, Rick wasn’t sure she’d even be cleared by her medical team to attend the tournament.

“That Thursday we were hoping and praying she’d be strong enough to go,” Rick said. “She really wanted to be there. She hadn’t seen her team since this whole thing started.”

In the end, she did more than watch. She played.

“I think it surprised a lot of people,” Pires said. “To see her be able to walk in and do the kickoff, I think parents and the girls were happy to see that. It was a special, special moment.”

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