WEST JORDAN — Ethan VanLeuven touched the hearts of people here in Utah — and across the country. Now his legacy is helping families through a memorial soccer tournament.
The West Jordan native passed away in 2014 after fighting a long battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was just 4 years old.
His memory continues to help other children in Utah with a memorial soccer tournament fundraiser.
“He liked soccer,” said Ethan’s dad, Merril VanLeuven. “He got to play one season. He really struggled, but he had fun.”
This will be the fourth year of the Ethan VanLeuven Memorial Soccer Tournament.
It began as Ethan’s half-brother, Brayden Palmer’s, Eagle Scout project.
“It’s been sad to see all these families who have to go through it as well, but it’s been good to be able to help them,” he said.
“The community supported us so much through Ethan’s his whole treatment, especially at the end,” said Ethan’s mom, Jennifer. “They celebrated all the holidays with us his last week of his life. I feel like the community supported us so much that I feel like it’s such a great thing to turnaround and hopefully give it back to someone else and give them that feeling of support and love and just to help them to feel what we felt in Ethan’s last days especially.”
This year’s tournament is benefiting 8-month-old Carter Griffiths.
“The first thing we noticed with him is that he had a tiny little bump on his temple, and we had a few different doctors tell us it’s probably just a cyst, just something not to worry about,” said his mother, Mallorie Griffiths. “But I think my mama instincts kind of kicked in after a while and said you know this isn’t going away. Let’s get it tested.”
Sure enough, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
Carter has undergone two rounds of chemotherapy so far. Thankfully, he has been responding well to them. For each round, he and his family has to stay at the hospital for a month. He has three more treatments.
The Griffiths family is benefiting from this year's Ethan VanLeuven Memorial Soccer Tournament.
“It’s been difficult for sure,” said Carter’s father, Brady Griffiths. “It’s expensive. We call it the summer home, I mean we might as well be … it’s our most expensive home for sure. It’s a hardship.”
“I mean we’ve talked about it and it’s like whatever it takes, we’ll do whatever we need to do to get him better,” Mallorie said. “If we have to sell the house, just whatever.”
The Griffiths family is thankful for the community support and this weekend’s soccer tournament.
“It means a lot,” Brady said. “I mean when I heard about it, it definitely touched my heart for sure. I had a hard time not crying to be honest. It’s interesting because soccer has always been a big part of my life and now it’s something that can actually help my son, and that’s been real special to me.”
“I think one of the cool things, too, like I know we are going to benefit financially, it’s going to help us with medical bills and all these things,” Mallorie said. “More so what I think we’re getting out of this is how many people care. It’s pretty awesome.”
Registration to play in the tournament ended Wednesday, but you can donate to the Griffiths family at eventbrite.com/e/ethan-van-leuven-memorial-soccer-tournament-2018-tickets-49520394834.