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Austin LaRose, 6, give coach Zackary Leos a flying high five Friday at a soccer clinic on Kadena Air Base. More than 100 kids attended the weeklong soccer clinic that was held in honor of a little 7-month-old infant named Zoe who lost her life to meningitis last month.

Austin LaRose, 6, give coach Zackary Leos a flying high five Friday at a soccer clinic on Kadena Air Base. More than 100 kids attended the weeklong soccer clinic that was held in honor of a little 7-month-old infant named Zoe who lost her life to meningitis last month. (Mark Rankin / S&S)

Austin LaRose, 6, give coach Zackary Leos a flying high five Friday at a soccer clinic on Kadena Air Base. More than 100 kids attended the weeklong soccer clinic that was held in honor of a little 7-month-old infant named Zoe who lost her life to meningitis last month.

Austin LaRose, 6, give coach Zackary Leos a flying high five Friday at a soccer clinic on Kadena Air Base. More than 100 kids attended the weeklong soccer clinic that was held in honor of a little 7-month-old infant named Zoe who lost her life to meningitis last month. (Mark Rankin / S&S)

Left to right, Jae Kelly, 6, steals the ball from Jarek Bartel, 5, Friday at a soccer clinic on Kadena Air Base.

Left to right, Jae Kelly, 6, steals the ball from Jarek Bartel, 5, Friday at a soccer clinic on Kadena Air Base. (Mark Rankin / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — About 100 children learned the fundamentals of soccer here last week during a clinic honoring a 7-month-old child who died of meningitis in July.

The clinic fees will go to charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to spread awareness of the condition that took the life of Kevin and Jacque Francis’ daughter Zoe.

The soccer camp was the idea of a family friend, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Thomas Stiles.

“We did this clinic in honor of Zoe, and we wanted to show Kevin and Jacque that we cared,” Stiles said.

A week of cloudy skies and intermittent rain failed to dampen the spirits of the children and 36 volunteer coaches from six Kadena units who took part in the clinic that wrapped up Friday.

“I think our timing was just right,” he said. “We know Kevin loves soccer, and this was a great way to raise money and help [kids playing soccer].”

The weeklong camp cost $15 per child.

Kevin Francis said he and his wife were honored to have the soccer clinic in memory of their daughter. He said their life’s mission at the moment is to spread awareness about meningitis.

“It can happen to anyone,” said Francis, who is from Jamaica and grew up playing soccer. He’s now an avid fan and coach.

“I love coaching and helping kids sharpen their soccer skills,” he said. “Words can’t describe how we feel to have all these people honor our daughter.”

The clinic was also a big hit with the children and their parents.

“This is an awesome camp,” said Nicole DeMars, 29, who enrolled her two sons, Dempsy, 7, and Dakota, 6. “It’s really helping the boys improve their soccer fundamentals and skills. They’ll be ready for the soccer league that starts next week.”

The coaches loved it, too.

“It is so rewarding to help coach these little guys and see them grow,” said Amanda Moody, a coach for a team of 5- and 6-year-olds. “This camp helps them learn team skills, sportsmanship and they can have fun, too.”

“I’m having fun!” said Larry Cooley, 5, just after he scored a goal during a scrimmage Friday afternoon. “I’m really having fun.”

So was Jarek Bartel, 5. “I’m learning a lot about soccer that I didn’t know,” he said. “Now I’ll be really good.”


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