Howell Student Recognized for Creating Soccer Marathon in Memory of Friend

By Christine Valdez
Web Production Assistant

Howell Student Jayne McDevitt at the Madison Beggs Kicks 4 Kids Soccer Marathon. Photo Courtesy of Jayne McDevitt.

Students nationwide volunteer for various causes, but for one New Jersey student, tragedy has led to her service and trying to unite a community.

In Howell, 13-year-old Jayne McDevitt started an annual soccer marathon fundraiser called Madison Beggs Kicks 4 Kids, in honor of a close friend, Madison Beggs, who battled cancer. Despite the young age, Jayne wanted to create awareness about cancer and a way to gather her local community. Through her efforts to raise awareness about cancer, Jayne has been selected as one of two of New Jersey’s top youth volunteers of 2014 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards recognizes U.S. youth for volunteer service. Every year one middle school and one high school student from each state are recognized as their state’s top volunteers.

Watching a close friend’s battle cancer began Jayne’s path to volunteering. Both Jayne and Madison went to school together and were members of the gifted and talented program, forming a bond. In the summer of 2011, Madison had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and Jayne witnessed her struggle.

“I was very good friends with her,” said Jayne. “I would visit her and I saw the progression of her cancer and how she lost the ability to walk, talk and play soccer, which was one of her favorite things to do.”

In June 2012, Madison passed away and she helped inspire not only Jayne but also Jayne’s soccer coach and the team to create a soccer marathon in her memory. Madison was a fan of soccer and loved to play, according to Jayne. The goal was to bring together the community of Howell through the soccer marathon and raise money for pediatric cancer.

Jayne McDevitt, left, at the 2013 Madison Beggs Kicks 4 Kids event. Photo Courtesy of Jayne McDevitt.

A month had passed after Madison’s death when plans for the initial Kicks 4 Kids came together. In order to get the Madison Beggs Kicks 4 Kids started, Jayne sought support from her community and contacted food vendors and a disc jockey and sold T-shirts. She also managed to arrange a gift auction for the soccer marathon.

Jayne’s school guidance counselor nominated her for the youth volunteer award for her work creating the soccer marathon.

“I was very honored to represent my school and my community and through Madison Beggs Kicks 4 Kids and I was very excited that I had found out that I was a state honoree,” said Jayne.

Since its creation, there have been two Madison Beggs Kicks 4 Kids fundraisers, both held in September every year since 2012.

The first soccer marathon raised about $26,000, which was donated to the charities of Alex’s Lemonade Stand and the Frances Foundation for Kids Fighting Cancer. The 2013 event raised about $24,000, which was donated to the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Frances Foundation.

Although Jayne’s first time running a fundraiser happened through the soccer marathon, she had experience with an earlier fundraising effort on her local soccer team. The team had a small goal fund. Every time a member scored a goal, all team members would donate $1. The efforts by the team later progressed onto the Madison Beggs Kicks 4 Kids fundraiser.   

The annual soccer marathon’s motto is inspired by a motto Madison had going through treatment — “Take things one day at a time.” That led to “one kick at a time.”

For mom Debra McDevitt, watching Jayne start with a small project around the age of 11 and seeing the outcome of the first annual Kicks 4 Kids filled her with pride. She says she is proud of what her daughter has been able to achieve.

Participants at a past Madison Beggs Kicks 4 Kids fundraiser. Photo Courtesy of Jayne McDevitt.

“She was 11 years old when she had started planning for it and it’s such an amazing day where hundreds and hundreds of people come out,” said Debra.

As one of New Jersey’s top two youth volunteers, Jayne, along with fellow honoree Ashley Craig, will be heading to Washington D.C. to be recognized among other youth volunteers nationwide. During the trip, Jayne will have the opportunity to meet with other volunteers. She plans to share her message with them.

“I’m excited to find out about all the different projects that other kids just like me are completing in their states and even more I am to share my project about the awareness of cancer to other kids who can also make a difference,” said Jayne.

Mom Debra says that it’s a little overwhelming to be named one of the top youth volunteers in the country, but that Jayne is excited about the trip. As the trip approaches and with the success of the Kicks 4 Kids program, Debra says she continues to learn from her daughter.

“Actually she teaches me a lot, so I’m learning from her,” said Debra.

According to Jayne, preparations for the third annual Kicks 4 Kids are already in the works.

“I’m hoping that I can expand it, our project, even further,” said Jayne. “Since I have won this award that will help raise awareness throughout my community and have more people participate in my event.”

Related: Wantage Resident Named Top NJ HS Youth Volunteer for Anti-Bullying Program