Surrounded by more than 140 boys and girls from the local soccer community, members of the Celtics youth soccer team dribbled balls under Holuba Hall’s bright lights, remembering the energetic spirit of their star goalie and friend, Mack Brady.
The massive sports facility was transformed into a youth soccer clinic on Sunday night in an effort to raise money for a scholarship being established in Mack’s honor. The clinic was run by many of the young players’ idols — players and coaches from the men’s and women’s Penn State soccer teams.
The son of Schreyer Honors College Dean Christian Brady died suddenly from a bacterial infection on New Year’s Eve, just shy of his ninth birthday. Mack was a passionate goalkeeper, and his dream was to play for the U.S. national team. To commemorate their son’s life, Christian and his wife Elizabeth asked for memorial gifts to be directed to a scholarship that will benefit a player on the men’s soccer team.
The Bradys’ goal is to raise $50,000, and as of Saturday morning they had already received $30,000 in donations to go toward the scholarship.
Brady said most of the donations have been small, so that means a large number of people have contributed.
“It’s very surprising and incredibly encouraging,” Brady said.
But for men’s head soccer coach Bob Warming, the amount of support is not unexpected.
“This is a very generous community and Chris Brady and his family are loved. He’s just such a great man,” Warming said. “It’s a blessing, but it’s not surprising.”
Wearing a black and green State College Celtics shirt, Eve Cobes sat among other mothers watching their sons and daughters play soccer with their friends at the clinic.
Her son John, 8, was one of Mack’s best friends as well as his teammate. Cobes said John “loved Mack” and misses him, but his spirits were lifted when he found out about the clinic.
“John was so excited that they were going to do this,” Cobes said. “He thought Mack would think this is so cool.”
The clinic also provided a bit of normality for the friends and family of Mack who had dealt with a heartbreaking week.
“It’s so good to see the kids playing again, back all together in their uniforms,” Cobes said.
Brady said the idea for the clinic came together after it was suggested to him by
New York Red Bulls’ goalkeeper coach, Todd Hoffard.
Hoffard and professional soccer player Andrew Wenger had a private session with Mack’s youth soccer team an hour before the clinic began, along with the entire men’s soccer team, Brady said.
For Mack’s coach, Andrzej “Dre” Przybyla Sunday’s event was bittersweet.
“My feelings are mixed,” said Przybyla, who has a son on the team. “The occasion is just so sad.”
Przybyla said he spent at least two days a week with Mack for two years and that he and his team all had a special bond.
“I feel like they are all brothers to my son,” he said. “I wish this will happen every year for Mack.”
At the end of the clinic the boys and girls were each given a soccer poster and told they could get it autographed by a Penn State player. The children gasped and crowded around the men’s and women’s teams in glee.
Coach Warming said it was an honor to get the children back out on a field “remembering how much they love soccer.”
“This is a great reminder of one of the reasons you value sports — these kids now have a lifelong memory and also a lot of fun. There has been a lot of laughter and a lot of smiles tonight,” Warming said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”