SAN RAMON -- News spread quickly through the soccer community that a 10-year-old player named Brianne "Breezy" Bochenek had lost her leg to cancer.
Neil McGuire, head coach of the UC Berkeley women's soccer team, said he wasn't sure how he had first heard about Breezy, whether it was word-of-mouth, over the Internet or through a KTVU news segment about her, but he knew he wanted to do something to help. McGuire spoke to San Ramon Soccer Club coach Brian Rinna about putting on an exhibition game, and the ball started rolling.
On April 21, the Stanford and UC Berkeley women's soccer teams will hold the exhibition game at Dougherty High School to benefit Breezy, whose left leg was amputated in January.
"The soccer community is a very closely connected one," McGuire said. "Word travels fast in a situation like this when you have a young girl who wants to be many things, and a soccer player specifically. We collectively came up with the idea for an exhibition game to help her.
"Obviously, Breezy's experience is traumatic and difficult, and whatever we as a group can do to soften that by giving something back can only be a positive experience for our players, and for Stanford."
Family friends Carolyn Bried, Sandi Grove and other community members got involved in organizing the event, and it has grown to include food, a parade and carnival-type activities on the field.
Breezy said she is excited to watch the game in her hometown and meet the players. "I've played soccer my whole life," she said. "I am a soccer fan."
In October, Breezy, who played in the Tri-Valley Soccer Club, thought the pain in her left leg was from a soccer injury, but it turned out to be osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. Shortly after the diagnosis, she stopped going to class at Coyote Creek Elementary, and her mother, Debbie Bochenek, who worked as a reading specialist for dyslexic children at the same school, quit her job there to care for her full time.
Breezy has faced a tough battle, enduring chemotherapy that weakened her and caused her hair to fall out. Then, she was given the difficult choice of whether to salvage her leg with titanium rods and a new knee, which would limit her mobility; or have the leg amputated, which was the safest option, it was hoped, to remove all the cancer and allow her to participate in sports with the use of a prosthetic.
"She came right out of the chute and said (amputation) is the choice," her father, Stan Bochenek, said. "She was pretty clear."
Breezy is expected to be fitted with a prosthetic leg in the next few weeks, and said she definitely wants to play soccer again but mainly just wants to be active and run outdoors again.
Stan Bochenek said the support from the local community, including two fundraisers for the family, has been amazing. He said that although many expenses are not covered by his health insurance, he believes his family can weather them.
Bochenek said his family has met others in their situation, and wants to use some of the money raised for Breezy to help them.
Proceeds from the exhibition game will also benefit Ashton Carter, 7, from Livermore, and David Jacobsohn, 10, from Fremont, who both were diagnosed with osteosarcoma and each had a leg removed; and Kaitlin Gallagher, 16, from Pleasanton, who has leukemia.
Contact Jason Sweeney at email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: UC Berkeley vs. Stanford women's soccer
When: April 21
Where: Dougherty High School, 10550 Albion Road, San Ramon
2-3:30 p.m.: Doors open, carnival-type activities hosted by local soccer clubs. Speed shot, beat the keeper, juggling.
3:30"“4 p.m.: Olympic-style parade. All participating soccer club children will parade around the track led by Breezy Bochenek.
4:30 p.m.: Opening ceremonies led by Mayor Bill Clarkson; Boy Scout Troop 888 to lead flag ceremony; national anthem performed by Coyote Creek Elementary and Gale Rand Middle School chorus groups; Cal and Stanford player introduction
5-7 p.m.: Official NCAA Spring League game
7 p.m.: Postgame autographs and pictures with the Cal and Stanford players
Organizers are asking for $10 donations to benefit cancer survivors Brianne Bochenek, from San Ramon; Ashton Carter, 7, from Livermore; David Jacobsohn, 10, from Fremont, and Kaitlin Gallagher, 16, from Pleasanton.
To learn more about Breezy, go to www.teambreezy.org.