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Kicks for a cause

HLSU soccer tournament raises money and awareness

The 8th annual Jamie C. Heard soccer tournament, held by the Hispanic Latino Student Union, gives students friendly competition and recreation while raising money for juvenile diabetes relief.

It’s finally spring, and the first sunny day in a week is going to good use. The trees are blooming, the grass is getting thicker and greener and the wet ground is bouncy under cleats.

Two dozen or so students are mingling on Erickson Field. They’ve set up four portable soccer goals and a small crew stands by a folding table while the two teams run back and forth across the field. As one player dribbles the ball towards the goal, he launches it in the net’s direction. Applause echoes off of Erickson Hall’s brick walls as the ball meets the goal.

This is not just a soccer game that popped up on the field on a nice day. It’s a four-hour tournament planned by the Hispanic Latino Student Union in honor of one of their own members.

The 8th annual Jamie C. Heard soccer tournament, which was held on Saturday, April 11, is this year’s installment of what has become one of HLSU’s standing traditions. Jamie C. Heard was a soccer-loving UMBC student and HLSU member who passed away from juvenile diabetes.

“The soccer tournament is held in his name as a way to raise funds for Juvenile Diabetes Research and to celebrate Jamie’s life,” said Amalia Rivera-Oven, HLSU’s president and a junior biology major. As a commemorative event, it not only celebrates Heard’s life, but attempts to make a difference in the lives of those with juvenile diabetes.

Teams who participate are charged a 40 dollar fee to enter the tournament. All the money that the event raises is donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund.

Logistically, HLSU has put quite a lot of work into hosting this event. “HLSU plans the whole event from advertising it, creating its own HLSU team, reserving the field and equipment, and then ensuring all the money gets donated,” said Rivera-Oven. “We especially reach out to the UMBC community for people to create their own teams and people who may be interested in refereeing or just watching.”

Turnout is usually quite good. “This year we are expecting at least four teams to compete,” said Alejandro Ramirez Polania, HLSU’s public relations coordinator and a sophomore computer science major. “Usually, we have from 4 to 8 teams compete in the tournament.”

Rivera-Oven acknowledged a farther-reaching impact of the tournament. “Aside from celebrating Jamie’s life and the impact he had on the UMBC community, I think this event is a great representation of the diversity found at UMBC,” she said. “Our participants come from various orgs and groups on campus and they take a day to play soccer, get to know each other and have some friendly competition.”

HLSU takes pride in their tradition. “It’s special because we have been able to keep up this tradition for almost a decade now, and we know that each time we do it, we provide UMBC students an activity that allows them to showcase talent, get involved with the community and contribute to an important cause,” said Rivera-Oven.

As the warm breeze carries laughter across Erickson field, it seems they have achieved their goal.