Nine games and 27 points later, Loudoun Valley High School varsity football kicker Nick Van Zandt has raised more than $2,000 to benefit childhood cancer research.
Nick, 17, is dedicating his 2018 football season to the cause by soliciting donations and pledges from individuals and businesses for each point he puts on the board. His campaign is part of the Kick-It Champions program which is run by Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation that helps hundreds of high school football kickers, punters and long-snappers raise money for childhood cancer research. Nick said that he was already committed to playing football, so he thought why not do something more with it. “I’m going to be playing and kicking anyway,” he said.
Although the Vikings won only one game this season, Nick’s kicking accounted for 29 percent of the team’s 93-point total, which raised $2,075.
Nick’s desire to turn his junior year football season on the school’s varsity team into something more than just a collection of Friday night games came from a few life events beginning almost a year ago.
The first of those occurrences happened New Year’s Day, when Nick’s neighbor, also the mother of a few of his friends, lost her battle with cancer. After talking with her family, Nick decided that he wanted to impact the lives of those affected by cancer. “That kind of made me want to do it,” he said.
It wasn’t until the end of summer, though, when Nick fully realized how he could help, once the staff at Kohl’s Kicking Camp told campers about the Kick It Champion program. Founded by Matt Colella in 2013, when cancer kept him from playing soccer and led him to football kicking at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH, the program nationwide has now raised more than $1 million.
Nick started his campaign as soon as he got home from camp, going door-to-door to solicit donations from neighbors and businesses.
Once the Vikings’ football season kicked off, donations came flooding in. Nick was even able to raise $700 in one night through lump-sum donations and $1-2 pledges for every point he kicked. “I would have never expected [people I didn’t know] to think about helping me with it,” he said.
Nick isn’t done raising money for cancer research now that the 2018 season is done, either. Just last week, he attended a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society event to get acquainted with his “LoCo on Cancer” team—a group of five Loudoun Valley and Woodgrove High School students that will work from January to March to raise $15,000 for the society through its Students of the Year Campaign. Last year, 32 teams raised $2.25 million.
“It’s nice to see him care about other people,” said Nick’s mom, Lynn. “It does make me super proud.”