It has been a wild ride in the five years since he donned the University of Rhode Island colors as the Atlantic 10’s Midfielder of the Year. Yet, the Attleboro, Mass., native manages to keep his success in perspective.
When not on the pitch, Cameron spends much of his free time visiting cancer-stricken children in Houston-area hospitals. In 2011, his “20 For 20” campaign partnered with The Fisher House and the Ronald McDonald House to raise funds for families with loved ones hospitalized due to illness or injury. The name of his foundation, 20 for 20, is derived from Cameron’s goal of raising $20,000 and his jersey number, 20.
“The goal is to increase accessibility to the hospitals for these families,” Cameron said. “When I am visiting with these children, I find myself thinking, ‘Man, this is crazy. Why are these kids dealt these cards? They have their whole lives in front of them.’”
In the last calendar year, Geoff Cameron has represented his country as part of the U.S. Men’s National Team, led the Houston Dynamo to the Major League Soccer finals, and been nominated as a 2012 Man of the Year by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.”
For Cameron, spending time with the children is his way to give back. For the kids who are Houston Dynamo fans, there is a thrill that comes from seeing Cameron and his teammates walk through the door. Many of the children do not know him as one of the best soccer players in the country, which makes their excitement even more special to Cameron.
“Some of the kids don’t know anything about the team,” Cameron said. “All they know is that someone besides a doctor or nurse is coming to see them. When you see how excited they get just to have a random dude walk in to spend time with them, you realize they just want that human interaction. It helps remind you of what is important. When you see a smile on a child’s face in that situation, it makes you want to do everything you can to make things better for them.”
While the children have impacted Cameron’s outlook on life, cancer hit even closer to home for him when a childhood friend, Tim DaPonte, was diagnosed with stage-two Hodgkins Lymphoma. Cameron and DaPonte had grown up playing soccer together in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and were teammates on the club team Bayside United. They also played in Olympic Development Programs together, and until his diagnosis, DaPonte also was still an active player.
This year, Cameron is raising money in honor of his friend. “We talk almost daily,” Cameron said. “Tim is a kid my age. He was fit, and he still played soccer. He runs a business with father. And then, he found out he had cancer. It just really hit home and made me realize this can impact anyone.”
The Houston Dynamo have put support behind the two-time MLS All-Star, pledging to match the funds he raises, making the total goal for Cameron $40,000. The Dynamo set up a donation page on their site.
“Everyone has been affected by cancer in some form in their life,” Cameron said. “It’s a disease that is terrible. If people want to donate even $5, that’s great. It just helps us get that much closer to a cure. If I could give $1 million, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I can’t, but I still want to make a difference.”
Success on the pitch has afforded Cameron the platform to raise funding for cancer research. What makes his work on the 20 For 20 campaign even more impressive is that Cameron doesn’t exactly have a wealth of free time. Since Jurgen Klinsmann became the U.S. Men’s National Team coach in July 2011, Cameron has been firmly in the mix to represent the country.
In the last year, Cameron has registered three caps for the USMNT, starting in friendly matches against Venezuela and Panama. Though he did not appear in the game, he was with the team when it beat Italy for the first time ever. In his first-ever appearance for the United States, Cameron fired a shot on net that went inches above the crossbar, nearly netting a goal on his first touch.
“Between the MLS season and being with the national team, I did not have much of an offseason,” Cameron said. “But I’ll take it any day of the week. It doesn’t leave much time for my girlfriend or my family, other than when I play East Coast games. For now, I am living my life and trying to make my dreams come true.”
From a personal standpoint, Cameron has his sights set on a roster spot for the 2014 World Cup, which will be played in Brazil. Two years ago he was in the running for a roster spot on the 2010 National Team, but an injury sidelined him.
“I remember watching the 1994 World Cup and dreaming about wearing the USA jersey,” Cameron said. “Having the chance to wear the USA jersey, it’s amazing. You realize you are representing your country, playing with the best of the best. It’ll be even better if I get to the World Cup while the world is watching.”
Along the way, Cameron will stay motivated by his friend, Tim DaPonte, and all the children he visits in the hospitals. “I want to take full advantage of what has been given to me,” Cameron said. “God has been good to me and allowed me to play a sport for a living. But I also have the opportunity to try to do some good for others.”
By Shane Donaldson ’99