MINNEAPOLIS – In the heat of the most intense competition, we sometimes forget the simplest of things.
It’s just a game.
“It’s about being level headed and taking everything in stride,” Minnesota United Goalkeeper Matt Lampson said following a morning training session.
Lampson, who was acquired by the team earlier this year from Chicago Fire admits he has faced adversity this season. He lost his starting spot to fellow keeper Bobby Shuttleworth and is currently recovering from an injury.
Like most athletes Lampson leaves all that adversity on the pitch. The 2016 MLS Humanitarian of the Year spends his spare time giving back.
For Matt that started while he was going to school and playing soccer at Ohio State. He worked to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).
“Out of college, with Columbus Crew, I decided I wanted to use my platform as a professional athlete to make a difference in the world,” Lampson said.
At first Lampson sold wristbands with the proceeds going back to LLS. Today, Lampson’s philanthropic effort has evolved into his own 501(c)(3) organization, The LampStrong Foundation. Its footprint stretches across North America and around the world.
As his foundation evolved, so did a new tradition. In his second year with Columbus Crew, Lampson was asked by an inspired fan for a to meet up with a child who had cancer.
“And I just thought about it, and I was like I’d love to host them at a game,” Lampson said.
Initially, it happened at a few home games. Then Lampson made it happen at away games too. The meetups continued when he joined Chicago Fire, and the tradition lives on here as a member of Minnesota United.
“Lampson’s Heroes” are pediatric cancer patients who get the full MLS match experience. After the final whistle they are invited on the field to shake hands with players and meet with Matt. He asks them about their lives, gives them an encouraging message, and snaps a few pictures before he heads back to the locker room with his fellow teammates.
Pude conocer a Ybel y su familia la semana pasada. Estaba feliz de hablar con él, su madre y sus amigos en el poco español que conozco. él tiene un espíritu puro y pasión por la vida, el fútbol y sus amigos. Me siento bendecido de poder llegar a tanta gente, independientemente de su idioma, raza, sexo o origen económico. El cancer no discrimina. I was able to meet Ybel and his family this past weekend. I was happy to speak with him, his mother and his friends in the little Spanish that I know. He has a pure spirit and passion for life, soccer and his friends. I feel very blessed to be able to reach so many people regardless of the language they speak, race, gender, or economical background. Cancer does not discriminate. #suckitcancer #surviveandthrive #lampstrong #bilingual #futbol #mls #mlsworks #losloons #cancersurvivor
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“It’s not just me,” Lampson said, praising his partnership with MNUFC. “It is the vision that I had and I’m very grateful for those who help spread my message.”
His message comes from the heart, as well as prior experience. As a senior in high school, Lampson tried to donate at a local blood drive, but was turned away because his hemoglobin was too low. At the same time, Lampson had an enlarged lymph node on the side of his neck. His parents, both medical professionals, knew he needed to be checked out immediately. After failed attempts at treatment, Matt’s father knew he needed a biopsy. That ultimately resulted in a Stage 4B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis at age 17.
“I had about eight weeks of chemotherapy and about six months of radiation treatment,” Lampson recalls.
The cancer fight forced Lampson to delay his college career by one year.
“It was a horrendous experience, but I always say that cancer is one of the greatest things that ever happened to me because it’s made me a much better person,” Lampson said.
Its why Lampson is motivated to give back, and gives kids he invites to games a chance to get away from the hospital rooms and treatments they are forced to be around.
“I would have loved to have something like that when I was going through treatment,” Lampson said. “I didn’t really have anything to hold onto as to what I could be when I was done with treatment.”
Now thanks to Lampson children with cancer have that role model, and the inspiring journey of how he got to where he is today.
For more on The LampStrong Foundation, you can click here.