HAMPTON — Evan Austin served as an honorary captain last season for both the Winnacunnet High School boys and girls soccer teams as he was battling a rare brain cancer called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.
“Super Evan” passed away in June at the age of 8, and both soccer teams will pay tribute to him one more time during Friday’s games against rival Exeter.
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“It’s a great way to honor Evan Austin’s life and to recognize the family and the unfortunate hardships that they’ve gone through,” Winnacunnet girls soccer head coach Nick O’Brien said. “But also to raise awareness on pediatric brain cancer, and kind of unite both communities for a great cause.”
The girls game is scheduled to begin at 3:30 pm, with the boys game to follow. A tribute to Austin, the boy who touched the hearts of the entire Hampton community, will be held between games.
“We’re going to try to remember him and support the family going forward,” boys soccer coach Nick Rowe said. “Supporting the community is part of our program’s culture. For these players, this is bigger than what they’re doing as athletes, and there are bigger things in life than soccer.”
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At the games, there will be items available for purchase such as Super Evan T-shirts, stickers and magnets. There will also be a 50/50 raffle with all proceeds going to pediatric cancer research.
“Even though Evan has passed, (Winnacunnet) still wanted to honor him and make it a good night,” said Jess Austin, Evan’s mother. “September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so we’re really trying to use this opportunity to spread awareness in the community, do some fundraising, while also honoring Evan at the same time.”
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Coaches from both teams will wear custom-made T-shirts in honor of Evan, and those in attendance are encouraged to do the same, or wear anything gold in his memory.
“(Exeter’s) coaching staff on the boys and the girls were both 100% in,” Rowe said. “So, I think it’s definitely something we want to try to continue as we go on in the future.”
The Winnacunnet soccer teams hosted a Super Evan night last night. He served as an honorary captain for the girls game against Keene, and for the boys when they played Londonderry.
“It was really fun, he had a really nice night,” Jess Austin said. “He got to go out on the field, kick the first goal and be out there with the players. It was a good night. The community really came out for it. Everybody had their ‘Super Evan’ shirts on, and we raised thousands of dollars for The Cure Starts Now, so it was a really good night. I think this year will be a good way for the larger community to remember him and do things in his honor, while raising awareness for all childhood cancers.”
O’Brien mentioned how the team was fortunate to be able to meet Evan last season.
“To have him do a ceremonial goal and everything else was great,” O’Brien said. “(It was nice) to see him enjoy being a kid. We’re deeply sad that (Evan) is gone, but we really want to keep his memory alive, and raise awareness about pediatric cancer, so eventually there is a cure found and support the Austin family in any way that we can.”