GLASTONBURY — Every point Glastonbury kicker Ryan Smith scores this season will have more impact than on the scoreboard.
When the ball goes through the uprights off the foot of Smith, money will be donated toward pediatric cancer research.
“We strive to our players to become servant/leaders,” first-year Glastonbury head coach Eric Hennessy said. “That’s a perfect example of one of our young men becoming a servant/leader and finding a cause that he is a passionate about.”
Over the summer, at the Kohl’s kicking showcase where Smith was working on his game, he was introduced to a story that hit home for him.
All-State kicker Matt Collela, from Ohio, was diagnosed at age 12 with Sarcoma, a broad group of cancers that begin in the bones and in the soft tissue. Because of the treatment, Collela switched from playing soccer to football and became a kicker. He started the Kick-It Champion Program to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
The story was personal for Smith. Two years ago, his dad, Ron Smith, was diagnosed with Sarcoma.
“It was scary because we didn’t know how bad it was going to be,” Smith said. “We didn’t know how long we weren’t going to see him for, how long he was going to be in the hospital for.
“He ended being ok, so thank god for that.”
Still, Smith believed he needed to get involved after talking to both his parents, Ron and Melinda Smith.
Smith said his father told him, “I’ll help you through the process and let’s do it together.”
After doing some research, with a big help from his mother, Smith announced his plans on Wednesday night to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
He set up his fundraiser, “Kick Cancer with Ryan Smith,” on Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a crowdsourcing website dedicated to raising money for pediatric cancer. It was inspired by and named for its founder, Alexandra Scott, who grew up in nearby Manchester and raised money through a lemonade stand. She died in 2004.
“It could help others so I decided to do it,” Smith said. “I went on the website and saw other kids doing it and I thought that could be me, why am I not doing this?”
Smith reached out to Hennessy and asked if he could use the program and his kicking to raise money.
“This didn’t surprise me,” Hennessy said. “Ryan is a great kid, really a selfless kid, willing to help any teammates. He’s a hard worker, his parents did a great job raising him. He’s a great kid.”
No one on the Tomahawks roster is surprised, either. Smith hadn’t told his teammates yet, waiting for after practice on Thursday to do so.
“He is a very good student-athlete and he is a very good person, which is more important,” senior linebacker Brandon Myers said. “That doesn’t really surprise me at all.”
Dave Peniston, one of Smith’s close friends on the team, expected him to do something like this.
“Honestly, it’s not a shock to me,” he said. “I have seen that in his character since I have known him.”
Hearing that Smith is raising money for a great cause this season is something that moved senior Brandon Valdes.
“It’s unbelievable,” Valeds said. “It’s a beautiful thing to know that one of my teammates — that I am going to battle with — is doing a cause like that. It’s great.”
Smith will also see time as a wide receiver this season. Any receiving touchdown he scores will count as six points, to go along with three points for kicking a field goal and one point for a point-after.
“We’re going to kick more field goals,” Hennessy said with a laugh. “He’s our field goal kicker and he is also going to be figuring in at receiver. We worked out a way that he is going to get points for his touchdowns, too.”
Last season, Smith scored 32 points and this season he is hoping to score 40 from kicking and another 25 from receiving, totaling 65 points.
“When we’re in range to kick a field goal, I am going to think all the money that will be generated,” Hennessy said. “We will be kicking a lot of field goals. No two-point conversions.”
Since launching his page Wednesday night, Smith has raised $125 in donations.
Those interested can either donate a straight sum of money or pledge a certain amount of money toward the points he scores.
For example, if someone pledges $1 per point scored and Smith finishes with 65 points the donation at the end of the season would equal $65.
“Mainly just family and family friends that my parents know (have donated so far),” he said. “We’re trying to get (local) companies (involved).”