Life was hard and getting harder for Destiny Herrera and her family.
The 12-year-old, who was diagnosed three years ago with osteosarcoma, is not only locked into the fight of her life but was also racking up massive hospital bills for the treatment and medications she needed to keep herself alive.
And that’s where the Manteca High School girls’ soccer team stepped in.
As part of their annual “Kicking for a Cure” event – a fundraiser game where proceeds and donations go to a local child suffering from cancer – the team chose Herrera to be the recipient of the $14,407.08 that they collected through the effort.
What did that money do for the family?
According to Herrera’s mother Sabrina, it paid four months worth of hospital bills, covered standard and alternative medications and gave the young girl who has missed a good chunk of her youth the chance to go see some of her favorite musicians perform in the San Francisco Bay Area – people like Meghan Trainor, Jesse J and even Taylor Swift.
“No words can express my gratitude for what they’ve done,” said Sabrina Herrera – choking back tears. “This has shown me that there are so many beautiful people with beautiful hearts that often go unrecognized in the caring things that they do for people.
“Watching your child fight for her life is one of the hardest things that a parent can do and the support for all of these people has such a tremendous blessing.”
According to Manteca High School girls soccer coach Justin Coenenberg, the fundraiser – which began in 2011 as a way to raise money for cancer research organizations and has since developed into supporting childhood cancer patients in the community – was a way for the team to come together in service and support of the community that they represent.
The response to the individual cases from the team, he said, has been wonderful.
“The whole idea behind this was to talk about giving back and charity work which I’m a big proponent of but when you coach a team it takes up so much of your time,” Coenenberg said. “This was a way to bring the two of those together and the girls have really come together to make this something special.”
To date Kicking for a Cure has raised more than $40,000 and drastically increased the amount of money each year from the previous total. Coenenberg said that there has been a tremendous outpouring of support from the community and a dedicated group of parents that have assisted in organizing even after their respective child has graduated.
And while the money helps, Sabrina Herrera said that it’s the act of somebody taking an interest in knowing what’s going on in her life and dedicating time to assisting where they can that really shines through.
“Destiny is really happy to come out to practices and meet with the girls because it’s an atmosphere where she can feel like she’s a normal kid again – it’s a great atmosphere,” she said. “A lot of times kids who have cancer feel like they’re not like everybody else because of what they’re going through and this shows her that’s she’s normal just like anybody else. They’ve done a really great job in that respect.”
But don’t expect Destiny to not pay the kindness forward.
A portion of the money she received has been set aside to help fund her own special project – dubbed #makeupkickscancer – which is predicated on distributing “glam bags” full of makeup products who are undergoing chemotherapy or intensive radiation treatment.
She harbors ambitions of going back to the International Makeup Show IMATS next year after a positive experience last year where a company – RCMA cosmetics – named a product after her and donated the money raised through its sale to a childhood cancer charity of her choice.
There are also plans in the works for her to start her own Northern California non-profit to assist other children with cancer who feel they have nowhere else to turn.