Hernandez named MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Month

San Jose's Hernandez, New York's Ballouchy, Chivas USA's Lahoud, Chicago's Pause all honored as

Jason Hernandez at St. Jude's

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of St. Jude's Children's Hospital

In June, New York's Mehdi Ballouchy, San Jose's Jason Hernandez,
Chivas USA's Michael Lahoud and Chicago's Logan Pause visited St. Jude
Children’s Research Hospital – one of the premier pediatric cancer
research centers in the world – as MLS Ambassadors to the Goals for St.
Jude program, part of the league’s “Soccer Kicks Cancer” initiative.

The visit to see some of the sickest kids in the world stands in
stark contrast to the experience of men who regularly soak in the
adoration of cheering fans. But giving the patients at St. Jude's a
reason to smile proved to be much more rewarding.

“To actually be [at St. Jude] in person really opened my eyes and
made me realize how fortunate we are as athletes and people to take
everyday things for granted,” Lahoud told cdchivasusa.com.
“The ability to walk, the ability to see, we take those things for
granted every day when we wake up. To be in an environment where a lot
of young kids don’t have those abilities is really humbling.”

Their visit, and their support in the fight against cancer, has
earned Ballouchy, Hernandez, Lahoud and Pause the MLS W.O.R.K.S.
Humanitarian of the Month Award for September. The month is Childhood
Cancer Awareness Month.

For Hernandez, the motivation to support cancer research hits closer
to home. A friend of his lost a child early due to pediatric brain
cancer. Hernandez now sits on the committee of a charity based out of
New York, and the chance to visit St. Jude's provided him with a chance
to involve MLS in his work against cancer.

“To be able to interact and connect with these youths who are going
through a terrible illness and really fighting for their lives, it was
tremendous,” Hernandez says. “Anything that I can bring to them, the
little joy that I got to bring to them, they gave me ten times over.”

Pause agrees. “It’s one of those things where I feel like we as
players got way more out of it than the families [of the patients] did,"
he says. "Anything that we can do to help is fantastic.”

St. Jude's covers the cost of care beyond what insurance pays for
patients that have it, and cover the full cost for those families that
don’t. Players commented on their admiration for the fight that the kids
showed in their battle against cancer, and were happy to be able to
join in.

“Children from around the world, if they have cancer, they fly them
in,” Ballouchy told MLSsoccer.com in June. “They go to school there,
prom there.”

“Families don’t pay a dime,” Pause adds. “These families and children
have gone through so much as it is. To relieve that financial strain is
also special to see.”

Lahoud, Pause and Hernandez reminisced fondly about their time on the
ball with some of the patients. Lahoud joked that the kids quickly took
a kick-around game from “friendly” to “intense.”

“For 10, 15 minutes, we were all just soccer players,” Hernandez
recalls. “Not just professional athletes coming to visit someone who’s
going through a tough time – we were all just on a team, trying to play
and win a game.”

Click here for more information about MLS' "Soccer Kicks Cancer" initiative.