Students in the Putnam City school district are lacing up their soccer cleats for a good cause.
Thousands of dollars have been raised for cancer research in the annual Putnam City United Against Cancer. More than $30,000 have been raised during tournaments over the past five years, according to school officials.
Freshman soccer player Natalie Gutierrez knows the emotional pain caused by cancer. On average, more than 7,500 Oklahomans die each year from various forms of cancer. In November, Natalie's dad, Jose Juan Gutierrez, became part of that statistic.
"He had cancer for four years … almost five," said Natalie. "It affects the family … as well as my mom, a lot."
Natalie said Jose was a well-known business man in the metro, especially in the Hispanic community. The pain of his death is only a few months fresh, but Natalie still has the strength to play for her dad and all the others.
Dozens of students participate in the Putnam City United Against Cancer each year. Sponsors, ticket sales and the love of soccer fuel the success!
"All three [high] schools in the district come together for this event, and it's not done this way anywhere across the country," Putnam City men's head soccer coach Eddie Wright said.
The tournament is for both boys and girls. Putnam City students compete against Yukon, Deer Creek and Bishop McGuinness. Currently, one girl on the Putnam City team is a cancer survivor, and two faculty members are in the middle of their own battles.
"It gets me super hyper and happy because I'm playing for [my dad]," said Natalie. "I know that he's watching."
The girl's tournament will be held Thursday, February 20. The boy's will take place Friday, February 21. Both tournaments will take place at the Putnam City High School football stadium in Warr Acres starting at 5 p.m. both days.
See the attached photo for more information.