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Soccer competition will assist Noah Valdez
The fourth annual Kicking for a Cure soccer match between Manteca and Lathrop will benefit Noah Valdez (center) and his family. Valdez is recovering from a bone cancer in his leg. - photo by Photo Contributed


• WHAT: ‘Kicking for a Cure’ girls soccer match, raffle and silent auction. All proceeds benefit Noah Valdez and family.

• WHEN: Tuesday, April 15. Kick off at 6:30 p.m.

• WHERE: Gus Schmeidt Stadium, Manteca High

• TO DONATE: Contact 209.608.0652, or send donation to: MHS Athletic Boosters – Kicking for a Cure; c/o Manteca High School; 450 E. Yosemite Ave.; Manteca, CA 95336.

Noah Valdez might have the spirit and moves of a basketball player, but he’s got a legion of soccer players cheering him on.

The pictures prove it.

The 13-year-old seventh grader recently clutched a soccer ball, beaming the way a teenager would when surrounded by 18 girls, each dolled up for a team photo shoot.

“He was completely comfortable out there,” Manteca High coach Justin Coenenberg said. “I thought he would become shy and timid surrounded by so many teen-aged girls, but he was in his element.”

Valdez isn’t just the man of the hour. He’s the man of the match. 

Valdez will be the honored guest of the Manteca High girls soccer team for the program’s fourth annual “Kicking for a Cure” match on Tuesday, April 16.

The game will kick off at 6:30 p.m. 

The Buffaloes will welcome Lathrop to Gus Schmiedt Stadium, where the play on the field will take a backseat to the fund-raising drive taking shape off of it.

The evening will feature a raffle and silent auction. All monetary donations will be accepted, and those interested can join one of three circles of honors: green, $500; silver, $250; and white, $100. Each donor will be honored on the program’s “Kicking for a Cure” banner that will be prominently displayed at the team’s remaining home games and the athletic department’s annual rib dinner. 

All proceeds from the game will benefit Valdez, a basketball enthusiast battling Ewing’s sarcoma.

Last spring, the Manteca High girls soccer program donated $7,054 to the family of Riley Simmons, a Ripon native and Manteca Futbol Club player battling brain cancer.

In three years, “Kicking for a Cure” has raised just under $15,000. The proceeds the first two years were donated to the American Cancer Society.

“The ‘Kicking for a Cure’ game is a chance to bring local awareness and hope to the fight against cancer,” Coenenberg wrote in a fundraising letter. “Our coaches, players, faculty, families and friends have all been affected by cancer in some way, and are proud to sponsor this event to raise money for such a worthy cause.”

Valdez was diagnosed with the bone cancer – localized in his lower right leg – in July. Since then, he’s undergone two surgeries at the Kaiser hospital in San Francisco – one to remove the tumor and 5½ inches of his fibula, and another to insert a Broviac catheter in his chest. The port allows Valdez to receive chemotherapy treatment without putting an IV in each time. 

His treatment plan is a rigorous one.  

Every two weeks, Valdez visits Kaiser in Oakland to receive five days of chemotherapy. Once he returns home, he’ll endure two more days of chemo in addition to clinic visits. 

Through it all, Valdez has remained positive; a source of optimism and hope during a time of uncertainty and discomfort. 

“He’s done really well,” mother Shonda Valdez said. “He’s an amazing kid. When he’s not in the hospital, you really wouldn’t know he was sick at all. He’s still trying to run around and play basketball.”

A regular on the court at the Boys & Girls Club, Valdez is no stranger to The Beautiful Game. He played one year with the Manteca Rangers, before turning his focus to basketball.

“Kicking for a Cure” will mark his return to the soccer field. 

Coenenberg and a committee of five volunteers selected Valdez after meeting with him and his family. He said Valdez took to the program right away, donning a T-shirt and knocking the ball around with the players.

“We thought it was a perfect fit. What a nice kid ... a good boy,” Coenenberg said. “He seemed like a happy go-lucky kind of kid. He’s obviously a brave kid for what he’s going through.”

The Valdez family appreciates the support – all of it. From the drive-through dinner hosted by Raley’s, Shonda’s employer, shortly after Noah was diagnosed to this latest gesture from a group of teen-aged soccer players and their bearded coach.

“When Justin emailed and said he chose Noah, it was overwhelming that anyone would want to help,” Shonda said. 

“It’s going to be exciting to see how many people show up. A lot of people have helped us and done some pretty amazing things,” she added. “It’s been amazing.”

For more information, contact 209.608.0652, or send a donation to: MHS Athletic Boosters – Kicking for a Cure; c/o Manteca High School; 450 E. Yosemite Ave.; Manteca, Ca. 95336.