Valley teen uses platform as soccer player to help kids battling cancer
PHOENIX — While 16-year-old Dylan Mapston makes a difference each time he’s between the sticks as a goalkeeper for his Valley club soccer team, it’s what he does while off the pitch that makes a profound impact on thousands of kids dealing with a life-threatening disease.
Mapston, a sophomore at Odyssey Institute in Buckeye, is one of many people who have witnessed family members battle cancer.
What started as wearing a pink jersey to honor aunts on both sides of his family who battled and survived breast cancer grew into something much more when he learned in 2016 that his two-year-old cousin was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her spine.
Mapston saw the joy in his cousin when she visited the toy bin at the hospital and wanted other kids battling cancer to experience that similar feeling.
“I want to bring that to other kids and make sure that they have a good time in the hospital,” Mapston said.
“A lot of times the parents are spending a lot of money on making sure that kids are being safe and making sure that they go through it, but they don’t have enough money for the toys or any of the fun stuff that they had before.”
That’s when Mapston started Keepers Care for Kids, bringing together his love of goalkeeping and the desire to raise the spirits of kids battling cancer.
Mapston has collected thousands of stuffed animals at his soccer events that have been donated not only to local hospitals but to hospitals around the country.
“Once you give them something that they really can relish, it makes them so happy and it makes you feel happy,” he said.
Mapston mentioned previously visiting one of the hospitals where he gave a chemistry set to a teen his age battling cancer.
He was able to experience first-hand the joy a person battling cancer felt when receiving a gift, but it wasn’t just receiving the gift that made the moment special.
“It was a very nice conversation because … the only conversations he probably had were from his mom and his dad and that was about it,” Mapston said. “So it’s kind of nice of seeing that if another kid gets into the hospital, that you can have the conversations of a kid on kid.”
He furthered the cause last winter by getting his school involved and encouraging peers to donate toys and stuffed animals to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Even more stuffed animals will be donated later this year as the Phoenix Rush Cup, a youth soccer tournament, agreed to collect toys and stuffed animals on Mapston’s behalf when the games take place in November.
His efforts to aid in the battle against childhood cancer go beyond collecting stuffed animals, toys and gift cards.
For the second year in a row he set up a fundraiser, Clean Sheets Against Cancer, to raise awareness and money for the Children’s Research Fund.
Professional soccer players including Phoenix Rising’s Zac Lubin contributed to the fundraising efforts.
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Over $2,200 was raised for cancer research last year from Mapston’s efforts and nearly $500 has been raised this year.
Mapston’s dedication to making a difference does not stop with kids battling cancer.
The teen collected and donated keeper jerseys and gloves to a high school in California after many lost their homes in the fires, along with also donating goalkeeper gloves to Valley organizations like the Buckeye recreational soccer program.
He’s also done drives for Arizonans for Children, a group that helps kids in foster care.