Coach Chastin Pommier has a deep love for soccer.
When she speaks of the kids on her team — ages 13-15 — she exudes an excitement that you can’t help but feel yourself, just from listening to her talk.
Pommier began coaching soccer about a decade ago, through Milpitas’ Police Activities League (PAL) Soccer. She has since branched off on a more competitive route, coaching her own team, yet she still partners up with PAL quite often. Meanwhile, many of her kids are lifers, having been with her since they were only 5. Pommier’s been with them from the beginning, witnessing their evolution, helping to shape and support them as they grow.
The team consists of 14 kids. They’re called “Jackson United,” in honor of a mentor, Noel Jackson, whom they lost to cancer just last year.
Jackson was instrumental in inspiring Pommier, who also coaches girls’ soccer at Russell Middle School and Milpitas High School, to launch an annual event wherein soccer games are played to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
That event is Let’s Kick Cancer. And it’s happening in Milpitas this Saturday, July 21.
Instead of featuring just one soccer game, as they did last year, they will now have 3, along with food, entertainment, and children’s carnival games. Over 90 kids are scheduled to play. The event has quickly blossomed into something that Pommier would’ve never imagined a year ago, when she first pitched it to Jackson.
“Last Spring, I was talking to Noel Jackson and his wife; and we were sitting at a get-together for the Relay for Life, which used to be the American Cancer Society event,” said Pommier. “And I turned to them and said I had an idea; but I just don’t know how to make it work…I said, ‘What if we just did a soccer game and raised money? Could we do that?’ And they said, ‘Of course we can.’ Last year was our first year. We had one soccer game and made $1,200 in one night at Milpitas High.”
Whereas others had simply nodded politely when Pommier brought up her idea, Jackson and his wife were so enthusiastic about it that they encouraged and supported her in making it a reality.
In the meantime, PAL Commissioner Ken Macaulay has also been instrumental to the event’s existence. He has lived in Milpitas since 1982, and has served as Commissioner for over a decade. He also runs PAL’s Board of Directors, which is tasked with supporting and managing the league. Last year, around 650 kids participated in playing soccer, a number they expect to match this year.
“Last year, at the Let’s Kick Cancer event, we really wanted to honor Noel,” said Macaulay. “So we came up with the idea of a Noel Jackson Award. And we awarded that to the player who is what Noel represented; it’s about teamwork and a positive attitude. So we want to duplicate that this year. It’s called the Let’s Kick Cancer game, but to me, it’s also the Noel Jackson game.”
Events like this give the kids on Pommier’s team an opportunity to stretch and grow. They not only play there, they also help to plan and organize the event, and run it on the day of. In fact, Pommier’s daughter, who just turned 13, has been playing soccer on the team since she was 5; this year, though, she opted not to play, as she wanted to focus on helping out at Let’s Kick Cancer.
“We want the kids to get involved, so hopefully they’ll continue things in the future. Because they are our future,” said Pommier. “And so we push them outside of their comfort zone. So, for example, maybe kids who are more shy, we have them reach out to companies and members of our local government to support our cause, make a donation, and come out to our events. It’s about them learning to carry this forward.”
As stated, all monies earned at the event will be donated to the American Cancer Society. Pommier pointed out how everyone in our community and beyond has been impacted by cancer in some way. Not only did she lose a dear friend and mentor with the passing of Noel Jackson, she has lost many others to cancer over the years, among them her grandfather, a very close co-worker, and family friends. Her own mother is a cancer survivor, too.
“Last year I thought it would be good to talk to the kids and find out why they were here. And I found out some kids currently had parents who were fighting cancer,” said Pommier. “Other kids talked about family members they lost. So this event, it really brings a lot of kids together.”
Let’s Kick Cancer happens on Saturday, July 21, at the Milpitas Sports Center. The opening ceremony starts at 10am, and a $5 donation is suggested. More details are on the flyer below.
And to learn more about Milpitas PAL Soccer, go to: milpitaspalsoccer.com