HAMPTON — Evan Austin served as honorary captain last season for the Winnacunnet High School men’s and women’s soccer teams as he battled a rare brain cancer called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.
“Super Evan” passed away in June at the age of 8, and both teams will honor him once again during Friday’s games against rivals Exeter.
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“It’s a great way to honor the life of Evan Austin and recognize the family and the hardships they went through,” said Winnacunnet women’s soccer coach Nick O’Brien. “But also to raise awareness of pediatric brain cancer and unite the two communities for a great cause.”
The girls’ game is scheduled to start at 3:30 pm, followed by the boys’ game. A tribute to Austin, the boy who touched the hearts of the entire Hampton community, will be held between games.
“We will try to remember him and support the family going forward,” said men’s football coach Nick Rowe. “Supporting the community is part of the culture of our show. For these players, this is bigger than what they’re doing as athletes, and there are bigger things in life than football.”
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In games, there will be items available for purchase such as Super Evan t-shirts, stickers and magnets. There will also be a 50/50 draw with all proceeds going towards pediatric cancer research.
“Even though Evan passed away, (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 raise awareness in the community, raise funds, and at the same time honor Evan.”
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The coaches of both teams will wear custom T-shirts in Evan’s honor, and those in attendance are encouraged to do the same, or wear something gold in his memory.
“The coaching staff (from Exeter) on the boys and girls were 100% in,” Rowe said. “So I think it’s definitely something we want to try to continue as we go into the future.”
Winnacunnet football teams hosted a Super Evan night last night. He served as honorary captain in the girls’ game against Keene, and for the boys when they played Londonderry.
“It was a lot of fun, he had a really good night,” said Jess Austin. “He had to get on the field, kick the first goal and be there with the players. It was a good night. The community really came for it. Everyone had their ‘Super Evan’ shirts on, and we raised thousands of dollars for the The Cure Starts Now, so it was a really good night. I think this year will be a good way for the wider community to remember him and do things in his honor, while also raising awareness of all childhood cancers.”
O’Brien mentioned how lucky the team was to be able to meet Evan last season.
“Having him score a ceremonial goal and everything else was great,” O’Brien said. “(It was nice) to see him enjoy being a kid. We are deeply saddened that (Evan) is gone but we really want to keep his memory alive and raise awareness of pediatric cancer so eventually there is a cure found and support the Austin family in any way we can.”