UK Women's Soccer kicks cancer at annual DanceBlue game

09/19/2016 05:17 PM

Sunday UK Women’s Soccer took on the Alabama Crimson Tide in their annual “Kick Cancer” game, benefiting UK DanceBlue.

“Allison was always a Kentucky fan. Even, not just soccer but you know, soccer was the sport that she loved so that was where she had her connection but I remember when she was very young watching basketball games and coming to soccer games,” said Steve Berger, Allison’s father.

UK tied the game 1-1 with Alabama in double overtime.

“You never want to win a game more than to do this for Allison and for her family. But at the same time, tying and not winning- somehow you get over it a little faster because, guess what? It’s a game. You know? And boy do we give everything we have for it, but it’s a game,” Head Coach Jon Lipsitz said. “It’s not everything that these kids are going through that DanceBlue is working for and so in a way, it’s harder, but in a way you get over it a lot easier because there are a lot more important things in this world.”

Senior midfielder Kaitlin Miller echoed his statement.

“Obviously this game is deeper than just a soccer game. We get to play for all the kids that are battling cancer, all the families that are affected by this and it’s just awesome to be able to have this experience and just go out there and play for them.”

Allison Berger never played a minute of soccer for the University of Kentucky, but her legacy is an ever-present part of the team. To understand her impact, you have to go back to 2009 when Allison had soreness in her neck after soccer camp.

“A rather large tumor was in her spinal column in her neck and we came immediately to UK Children’s Hospital, they did the full workup on it and got her ready and essentially did surgery on her to remove as much of the tumor as they could… and found out that it was an extremely aggressive form of brain and spinal cord cancer,” Stever Berger said.

Lipsitz received a call from the UK Children’s Oncology department, asking if he could come visit a big soccer fan.

“The coaches and a few of the players went over and took a signed hat and shirt and went and met Allison who had just had back surgery the day before because of tumors on her spine- and she was smiling. It was incredible and you know, you think ‘ok, that moment’s done’ and you move on and I think they called us there to impact her life. and it was exactly the opposite.”

The 2 year survival rate for Allison’s diagnosis wasn’t good, but her parents made sure she made the most of it.

“She had an amazingly good 20 months. She did- we did a lot of traveling. She was very active. She even, that fall she loved soccer so much and she was so put out that she had missed a season of soccer she actually played spring soccer after the surgery and radiation and it was amazing,” Berger told KSTV.

She reconnected with the UK soccer team once she was out of the hospital.

“Contacted John again. Jon Lipsitz and just asked if we could swing by one day before one of the games and so the players that reached out to her while she was in the hospital could see how she was doing because she was mobile and very active. Never lost her sense of humor, she was just amazing,” Berger said. “And Jon said ‘no, i’ll do you one better, come have lunch with them and be the ball girl.’ From there, she was the ball girl, you know, brought the ball to the center to start the game several times and really we- this program kind of became family to us.”

Allison passed away March 26, 2011, but to this day she is a vital part of the UK women’s soccer team.

“We obviously started this fundraising game we do every year for her. It is absolutely to benefit DanceBlue and the pediatric oncology unit here, but it’s all of her. I mean, this is why we do this for Allison.” ˙
UK wore yellow jerseys in the game, the color for pediatric cancer. They will auction the jerseys for DanceBlue. All of the proceeds benefit UK DanceBlue Clinic.

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