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By Gary Brown
Coach Paul Payne
Bloomsburg men’s soccer coach Paul Payne is giving cancer a red card.
Payne, in his 12th year as coach, is no stranger to challenge. It’s why his record as Bloomsburg’s all-time leader in soccer victories has strengthened his resolve to lead a new challenge: supporting cancer research.
When friend and former Scranton women’s soccer coach Joe Bochicchio died of melanoma, Payne began a campaign to raise awareness about cancer in the soccer community and raise funds for research.
“People always say in the aftermath of a challenge, ‘I wonder why somebody didn’t do something?’ ” Payne said. “I thought to myself, ‘You know what, I am somebody.’ So I wanted to do something.”
The Red Card Cancer program, now in its second year, raised more than $5,000 in one weekend last year through universities in Pennsylvania, and the program is starting to grow.
“Cancer is a leading killer in the world, and soccer is the leading sport in the world. If we can harness our resources in soccer to support cancer research, we could make a significant impact,” Payne said.
As the incoming president of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, Payne said he is ready to bring Red Card Cancer to a national platform.
Coach Paul Payne and his players
The program got a boost when the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins signed on as a Red Card Cancer partner.
“They have been a leader in cancer research for many years,” Payne said, “and to partner with Johns Hopkins will help this program grow and hopefully bring an end to a disease that touches of the lives of nearly everyone.”
“Our goal at the Kimmel Cancer Center is to find better ways to treat and diagnose the disease,” said William Nelson, director of Hopkins’ Kimmel Cancer Center and former soccer player at Yale. “The Red Card Cancer program ensures that our research on all types of cancer will continue until we find a cure.”
October is Red Card Cancer Month, and Payne is helping the program expand to include Major League Soccer’s DC United and the United States Youth Soccer Association. Among last year’s collegiate participants were Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, East Stroudsburg, Mansfield, Millersville, West Chester, Susquehanna and Scranton.
“We hope to bring the Red Card Cancer fundraising program to more soccer teams this year,” Payne said, noting that the Red Card Cancer website was designed by former Bloomsburg soccer player Jared Ferreira. “We’re spreading the word through individual players and the Internet with high hopes that we can rise to the challenge and help beat cancer.”