When Shawn Kuykendall—a professional soccer player—died of cancer in March, he didn’t leave behind a will. But the 32-year-old had a request: He wanted his friend Mike Foss to start an organization to help the families of children stricken by the disease.
After his passing, Foss received some 1,000 emails from people asking how they could help; David Miller, an advisor who grew up with Kuykendall, was one of them. “I had no idea how to go about any of the process of setting this up, and one email I got was from David,” Foss said.
That was the origin of the Kuykenstrong Foundation, an organization (still awaiting 501(c)3 status) that supports families of children struggling with cancer being treated at the Lombardi Cancer Center in the University of Georgetown. The foundation has raised $50,000 so far.
As treasurer, Miller’s day-to-day role has been to create the business plan for the charity, working with the attorneys and accountants and shaping the operating budget, which is kept lean; nearly 99 percent of money raised goes to the families.
Foss credits Miller with shaping relationships with key sponsors, including Major League Soccer, which donated $10,000. The first fundraising event was the Kuykenstrong D.C. College Cup, which took place Aug. 29 and 31. Men’s soccer teams from American University, George Mason, George Washington and Howard participated. All proceeds went to the foundation. Next year, D.C. United—Kuykendall’s former team—will sponsor a youth soccer tournament; Miller expects that event to raise $100,000 to $150,000.
The foundation has garnered national attention thanks to Kuykendall’s fame and connections to the soccer world. During MLS’s all-star game earlier this year, players Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi, Thierry Henry and Clarence Goodson were wearing the foundation’s T-shirts.
“I think that’s our biggest accomplishment to this point is that we have something that will continue his legacy, will continue to help children with cancer, help spread his message of, ‘Don’t give up,’” Miller says.