By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
Bloomsburg University men's soccer coach Paul Payne remembers very well how he got his start in soccer.
It all started with his longtime close friend, Joe Bochicchio, who was the Scranton women's coach for a number of years. Unfortunately, in 2009, Bochicchio passed away from melanoma. That's when Payne knew that he had to do something to honor his friend and the one who helped him kickoff his career.
"He was an incredible coach, but (also an) incredible person. He had a huge impact on the women's game nationally, but never forgot the youth game in the Scranton area when soccer was unheard of," Payne said. "He reached so many that I felt like we had to give something back in his memory."
That's when Payne came up with a great idea: a non-profit charity through soccer to raise money for cancer research. His organization, Red Card Cancer, then got its start in the fall of 2009 shortly after Bochicchio's passing.
In that first year alone 17 programs -- 16 of which were colleges -- reached out to be involved with Payne's organization. The Huskies' coach feels that it was the connection with his longtime friend that helped get the ball rolling.
"I think when people heard it was for Joe, that there was a connection to soccer, teams jumped on board," Payne said.
Payne was the President and Senior Academy Staff Coach for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, and through the NSCAA, Payne helped spread the message of Red Card Cancer.
For instance in late August $6,000 was raised for the organization at a Clemson/Wofford University soccer game in South Carolina. The two head coaches are both friends of Payne who joined the cause.
Red Card Cancer has numerous partners who have teammed up with Red Card Cancer, including the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and also D.C. United of Major League Soccer. D.C. United joined up with Red Card Cancer in late 2010, shortly after John Hopkins did.
The MLS franchise became even more involved with Payne's organization the following year. D.C. United unveiled a red third uniform that season and decided to donate $5 of every new red jersey sale to Red Card Cancer.
Recently, four AC Milan legends --Alessandro Billy Costacurta, Fabio Cannavaro, Massimo Oddo and Massimo Ambrosini -- partnered with Red Card United to share the message internationally.
"I'm an impatient person so I wish it would grow even quicker. I think once people get involved, it's a charity that one stays involved with," Payne said. "The more teams, leagues and clubs we can get involved I know it will continue to grow and carry a message that we all can help 'send off cancer' from our lives."
Anyone interested in joining the cause with Red Card Cancer to help raise funds for cancer research is encouraged to visit the organization's website at www.redcardcancer.org or email Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I'm so proud of where we are with an idea that started so small in Central Pa.," Payne said. "I do know the world's largest game, if mobilized, can help end the world's largest disease. If that occurs, then we made a difference in people's lives."
Seeing as Red Card Cancer started on the campus of Bloomsburg University and is now spreading the world internationally, it's safe to say Red Card Cancer is certainly on the way to making a difference.