Big Rapids girls soccer program teams with former Navy SEAL, raises money for pediatric cancer program


Former Navy SEAL and One Summit volunteer Chris Merendino (center) poses with members of the Big Rapids girls soccer team while holding a check for $500 raised by the Cardinals program. (Courtesy photo)

Big Rapids — The Big Rapids girls soccer program is looking forward to the 2019 season but has some exciting things planned in the meantime.
The Cardinals have partnered with former Navy SEAL Christopher Merendino and One Summit, an organization that aims to build resilience in kids battling cancer through experiential learning with Navy SEALs, storytelling, and community engagement.
“The kids go from being totally nervous and scared to being full of energy and life,” Merendino said. “It’s hard to put into words the energy that gives you watching them put so much effort into these activities.”
Merendino has volunteered with One Summit the past few years. This past April, Merendino represented One Summit in the Boston Marathon. Big Rapids girls soccer coach Curt Ray reached out to Merendino during the summer about getting involved with the organization.
“It’s cool because we have some military kids on our team,” Ray said. “It’s important for the girls to give back. This is a great program to be involved with.”
The soccer team has raised $500 for One Summit and plans on doing another fundraiser this winter.
“The team has been beyond generous,” Merendino said. “It’s such a great group of ladies and they have a great mentor in Curt. It’s encouraging to see how involved and interested they are. For them to take this upon themselves is beyond words.
“Our young people are amazing people.”
Merendino was inspired to join the military following the events of 9/11. He went on to spend eight years as a Navy SEAL, making deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa.
“I grew up in Long Island,” he said. “I was in college when 9/11 happened. It made me want to join the military. It was a life-changing experience. I was challenged every single day by the people around me, which caused me to challenge myself.”
Having witnessed firsthand how much One Summit has changed the lives of pediatric cancer patients and their families, Merendino appreciates the support the program has received from both the Big Rapids soccer program and the Big Rapids community.
“At those One Summit events, everyone comes out feeling like a winner,” Merendino said. “They thank us and we thank them. It’s pure giving and a synergy event and everyone comes out. Everyone’s there for a pure cause. Everyone’s fighting a battle that they don’t have a choice to fight.
“The kids aren’t fighting for ego or politics; they’re fighting for themselves. They don’t realize how strong they are.”

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