Mother’s Day weekend will be more special than most this year for two Fort Mill moms.
Shana Shivel will be busy once again organizing the Carolinas’ Kickin’ It Challenge, in honor of her mother, a breast cancer victim. Paige Thompson, the event’s honorary chair, will be celebrating the end of a long year of a scary diagnosis, chemotherapy, and multiple surgeries to remove her breast cancer.
The Kickin’ It Challenge, centered around a major soccer tournament, is a nonprofit event that has raised more than $140,000 its first two years. The third year promises to be even bigger, thanks to generous sponsors and members of the community who are passionate about fighting breast cancer, and keeping the money raised to help them in York County.
For Shivel, that’s the crucial component of the three-day event: that the proceeds help local patients, because so many need as much help, and comfort, as they can get.
“I saw throughout my mom’s process, she had a lot of support because she had her family, but so many patients were very lonely and looked like they had no one to care for them, it was very heart breaking,” she said.
The weekend kicks off with a party and silent auction May 6 at the Dairy Barn in Fort Mill. The event is for all the “non-soccer people,” Shivel said. Saturday and Sunday are dedicated to youth soccer. In 2015 more than 65 teams registered and more than 1,000 people attended the event at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill. This year Shivel anticipates 70 teams will register.
It all began because Shivel wanted to find a way to honor her mother. Debbie Whitener died from breast cancer in 2008 after being diagnosed a few years earlier, at age 51.
“Her cancer was very aggressive,” she said.
“It spread very quickly. Really before we even had a chance to grasp what we were dealing with it had already spread quickly to stage 4,” said Shivel, who was pregnant with her first child at the time.
Shivel was a patient of Sarah Morris, a Fort Mill OB/GYN, at the time.
“My mom actually called her without me knowing and told her that she was sick before I even knew,” Shivel said.
“Sarah knew this was about to happen and I feel like she took an extra step in taking care of me at the end of my pregnancy.”
In 2012, Shivel and Morris decided to try and find a way to honor Shivel’s mother.
“I knew I wanted to include breast cancer, but I wanted to do something just a little more than a donation to a big organization,” Shivel said.
And after some research, the women discovered the Kickin’ It Challenge, based in California. They decided it was perfect for them, since their sons played soccer together, and brought it to the East Coast. They partnered with the Discoveries Soccer Club to help get the event off the ground.
All proceeds from the event benefit the Levine Cancer Institute in Rock Hill and Susan G. Komen Charlotte which provides grants to fund services for patients in York County.
It’s a world Paige Thompson never thought she’d be a part of.
“I’m just your everyday mom, wife, person in the community that this happened to and I want to use this as a platform to give people hope and inspiration to stay on top of things, stay on top of those exams,” she said.
The mother of three was diagnosed during a routine annual exam with her OB/GYN in early 2015. The Texas native had lived in Fort Mill for three years and was 38 years old at the time.
“I had never had a mammogram and wouldn’t have been due for one until I was 40,” she said.
Thompson started 16 rounds of chemotherapy in April and afterward had a bilateral mastectomy.
“That was by choice to do the most radical thing,” she said, “Since I have three young kids I wanted the best chance to be around.”
Thompson will have her last surgery to complete breast reconstruction this month and will be on medication to starve the hormones that fed her cancer for the next decade.
“I am coming to the end of all of the major (events) and can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
As honorary chair of the event, Thompson plans to share her story at the Dairy Barn party. Her message to others is simple:
“Don’t be led by fear,” she said, “The earlier that you find it the better chances that you have.”
That’s a message she plans to pass along to her 5-year-old daughter, when the time comes for her to learn about her mother’s medical history.
“I will, as the time is appropriate, remind her what I’ve been through and that early detection is key and that’s why Mommy is still here,” Thompson said.
Shivel and Thompson were introduced through mutual friends who knew they shared a passion for spreading the message of breast cancer awareness and early detection. Shivel said the partnership felt natural.
“She respects the fact that we are working hard to make sure these funds are staying local and reaching the patients, that now she wants to be even more involved and tell her story to more people,” Shivel said.
And as for Debbie Whitener, the woman whose memory is honored by this event, Shivel said she thinks she’d be proud.
“I think she would be overwhelmed that her memory has turned into something so good, so positive,” she said, “I think that she would be very proud that I took a very painful situation and turned it into something good.”
Katie Rutland: email@example.com
Want to know more?
The Carolinas’ Kickin’ It Challenge has a goal to raise $80,000 during this year’s three-day event. It will take place May 6-8. More information, including event tickets and tournament registration, can be found at kickinitchallengecarolinas.com.