ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – When senior placekicker Michael Konrad splits the uprights on Friday nights, he may well be helping the Pirates to another victory on the field. But Konrad’s kicks are most certainly creating wins off the field.
That’s because Konrad participates in the Kick-It Champions program, an initiative to raise funds to benefit childhood cancer research through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Continuing with Rocky River’s 2017 season opener on Friday night (he also participated in 2016, raising over $4,000), Konrad will begin accepting donations and pledges. Contributions can be made in person at Friday’s game against Fairview (at a donation table near the main entrance of Rocky River Stadium) or online at his donation page at Kick-It.org.
“Of course, it’s great to win and be successful,” said the sure-footed, 5-foot-11, 170-pounder, “but bigger picture ideas such as Kick-It are the most important things to me. Knowing that I’m playing for a greater cause than just winning helps motivate me every time I step onto the field.”
And when he does step onto the field (or onto the pitch, for that matter), Konrad is a weapon for the Pirates. As a single-season, dual-sport athlete, Konrad is a key contributor to Rocky River’s varsity entries in both football and soccer. In his kicking duties on Friday nights, he tallied six field goals – including a season-long 44-yarder – in his 2016 junior season. He also booted home 21 extra points in 22 attempts and, for River foes, was a frustrating source of a slew of touchbacks on kickoffs. On the other game nights during the week, Konrad was plying his trade for the Soccer Pirates. In soccer, he scored three goals and had a pair of assists while playing 17 games.
Konrad and his teammates (picture a field goal attempt with no blockers, no long snapper and no holder) are part of a growing number of high school and college kickers nationwide chipping in with the Champions program. But the program has local roots.
The Kick-It Champions program was started by all-Ohio high school kicker and Northeast Ohio resident Matt Colella, who battled cancer as a middle school student in 2009. Through his commitment to helping others, he inspired communities and athletes around the country to become Kick-It Champions for those suffering from pediatric cancer.
“The local roots of this effort make it special for the participating communities in Northeast Ohio,” said Kick-It Champions Program Director Cathy Welcsh. “When student-athletes like Michael and his teammates take part, it’s a service opportunity for them. And their service creates meaningful pediatric cancer research projects here in Ohio and across the nation.”
According to Welcsh, the Kick-It Champions program has, to date, raised more than $500,000.
Adding to that total this season — three points, one point and one donation at a time – will be Konrad and the kicking-team unit for the Rocky River Pirates.
“I’m so grateful that I’m able to help the kids and families in need in such a fun way,” said Konrad. “It’s great to see the Rocky River teams and community rally around this organization to help fight childhood cancer.”
In an effort to defeat childhood cancer, the senior standout is putting his best foot forward. And he’s asking us to do the same.
Kick-It is a national volunteer-driven effort focused solely on raising money for childhood cancer research. The organization was founded in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, by 10-year-old Quinn Clarke during his second battle with cancer. He asked his parents if he could have a kickball game to raise money for research and was shocked when more than 500 people came to support him. That afternoon has inspired people from across the country and as far away as Hawaii and Australia to help save the lives of children with cancer.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation emerged from the front-yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004). In 2000, 4-year-old Alex announced that she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is a nonprofit that has raised more than $140 million toward finding a cure, funding over 690 pediatric cancer research projects nationally.
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