Mike Stone Invitational Fights Cancer Through Soccer

  Mike Stone Invitational fights cancer through soccer This year's tournament, renamed the Mike Stone Invitational, begins on Tuesday. DAILY COMMERCIAL FILE  By Frank Jolley  Thursday Posted Dec 22, 2016 at 2:01 AM Updated Dec 22, 2016 at 7:00 AM  Mike Stone worked tirelessly to turn the Hickory Point Invitational into the largest boys high school soccer tournament sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletic Association. When Stone passed away in July after a battle with cancer, the future of the annual holiday event was in doubt. But Stone’s widow, Kathy, along with Glen Juszcyk and former Leesburg High School boys soccer coach Jason Gray, teamed up to keep the tournament going. As a result, the 21st annual Mike Stone Invitational is set to begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 27 with 16 teams — 15 from Florida and one from California — competing in the three-day event. All games will be played at the Mike Stone Soccer Complex, formerly known as the Lake County Soccer Club, at the Hickory Point Recreational Facility in Tavares. “A few of us volunteered to help during the tournament, but Mike almost single-handedly organized the event,” said Kathy Stone. “He did everything from getting the teams and sponsors to preparing the fields and refereeing some of the matches. He even emptied the trash and cleaned the bathrooms during the tournament. Mike really did it all.” Local teams in this year’s field include Leesburg and The Villages. Programs from Orlando in the field are Olympia, Evans, Bishop Moore, Dr. Phillips. Apopka Wekiva and Kissimmee Osceola also are in the field, along with entries from Port Orange Spruce Creek, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, Jacksonville Stanton Prep, Palmetto and Tallahassee Lincoln. Bellarmine College Prep from San Jose, California is the only team in the field from outside Florida. The tournament is run completely by volunteers and uses sponsorships to offset expenses. Proceeds from ticket sales and concessions go to the For Kid’s Sake Foundation, a non-profit foundation that works to raise awareness for children with neuroblastoma. For Kid’s Sake was founded by Jusczyk and his wife Megan after their daughter, Malia, was diagnosed with stage IV (high risk) neuroblastoma in 2011. Malia, then just 2 1/2 years of age, was diagnosed with the disease shortly after her family had moved to Groveland from Boston. Neuroblastoma is a pediatric cancer that often affects children under five years of age and often has a low survival rate. “A CT scan revealed the ‘tummy aches’ Malia had been having were caused by a large tumor lodged in her adomen,” Glen Jusczyk said. “The solid mass has wrapped around major blood vessels and pushed against her kidney and aorta. Doctors also determined Malia’s cancer had metastasized into her bones and bone marrow.” After the diagnosis, Jusczyk’s returned to Boston to be closer to family while Malia endured rounds of chemotherapy, numerous surgeries, stem cell transplant, kidney removal, radiation, blood transfustions and immunotherapy. In 2012, following aggressive treatment at the Children’s Hospital/Dana-Farber Jimmy Fund Clinic in Boston, Malia was declared disease-free. Stone said Malia is now an energetic, happy eight-year-old who has helped present trophies to the tournament’s winning teams. “Meg and Glen eventually decided that even though they had been through so much with Malia, they wanted to help families in Central Florida and in Boston with the high costs associated with fighting neuroblastoma,” Kathy Stone said. “They also wanted to raised funds to assist with much-needed research to fight this horrible disease. For survivors, the relapse rate is 50 percent.” Kathy Stone said since it was founded, For Kid’s Sake has presented checks families receiving treatment for the disease at Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando and at hospitals in Boston. A three-day pass for the tournament can be purchased at the entrance to the complex for $20, which covers all occupants in the vehicle. Single-day tickets will be sold for $5 per day. The tournament schedule can be found at www.mikestoneinvitational.com or on the Mike Stone  Invitational Facebook page. For more information, call Kathy Stone at 352-874-4376.