Reign FC Legend: June Leahy
The Legends Campaign, a partnership between Seattle Reign FC and Avanade, honors women for their extraordinary contributions in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Prior to our August 25 match against the North Carolina Courage, Seattle Reign FC will recognize June Leahy as a Seattle Reign FC Legend.
June Leahy is the CEO and Executive Director of the Austen Everett Foundation. The Austen Everett Foundation is a non-profit organization that allows children with cancer to serve as honorary team captains for their favorite sports teams. The foundation is named for Leahy’s daughter, Austen Everett, a former collegiate goalkeeper who passed away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Leahy works very closely with the Seattle area’s professional and collegiate teams. In addition to having an honorary captain at every Reign FC home match, the Austen Everett Foundation works with the Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders, Storm, University of Washington, and more local teams. The foundation has expanded beyond its Seattle roots as well, reaching everywhere from Los Angeles to Minnesota to Miami.
Q: Can you explain what the Austen Everett Foundation does?
A: The Austen Everett Foundation empowers the fight of kids battling cancer through the strength and support of professional and collegiate athletic teams by providing the opportunity to be the honorary team captain.
Q: What is the backstory behind the foundation and how it started?
A: The foundation was started by Austen. She grew up in Seattle, and it was started when she was a goalkeeper for the University of Miami fighting her own battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Beverly Yanez was actually one of her teammates at Miami. At that time, she recognized how powerful it was to have the team behind her. She wanted every kid battling cancer to be able to have that experience and benefit from that empowerment. She took a non-profit class at Miami, wrote the business plan, and filed for the 501 c 3. Everything she put in place is what we go by today. Her vision was that one day this program would be with every professional team and every Division-I university throughout the nation. That’s what we’re striving to achieve.
Austen saw the first honorary captain about two weeks before she passed. That was a kid we honored with Orlando City, the MLS team. Since then, in a little over five years, we’ve empowered the fight of over 700 kids. We’re with every pro team here, and we do a lot with all the teams at University of Washington. In the Bay Area, we’re partnered with the Golden State Warriors, 49ers, Sharks, Earthquakes, we have six captains this season for Stanford football. We’re also partnered with the LA Galaxy and LAFC, we’ve expanded to the LA area. We have a huge presence in Miami with all the pro teams there, and University of Miami has a captain for every major sport.
For the full list of partners, click here.
Q: If someone was looking to get more involved with the Austen Everett Foundation, how would you suggest they do that?
A: There are so many ways. We depend a lot on our volunteers. We have a volunteer base of over 90 people throughout the nation. It can be as simple as spreading awareness of the foundation through social media. We do a lot of posting of these amazing kids to tell the stories of the fights they’re battling. It’s really great for people to have a better understanding of childhood cancer and how incredible these warriors are. They fight in a very unique way. What we’ve found with most of these kids, it’s such an optimistic fight. They tend to walk through this whole experience with such tenacity and determination to beat it. It’s beautiful to be a part of it.
We are always looking for producers in different geographic areas. They help facilitate the events and make sure everything is amazing for these kids and their families. We are always looking for people that want to come in and work with the foundation to help further the mission. That can be as simple as donating four hours of your week to work in different departments they might have expertise in. Fundraising is a critical element of taking the mission further. Reign FC players have been amazing at doing fundraising events in the community.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your work with the Austen Everett Foundation?
A: It’s really difficult to identify one thing. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to do this for these kids. As the mother of a kid who battled cancer for four and a half years, I know I would have given anything if someone would have done this for Austen. The other most rewarding aspect is now, as we have expanded to other cities and helping hundreds of kids a year, I’m now able to see Austen’s vision very clearly. This will one day be with every professional team and every Division-I team in the nation. I am able to see the people that are going to take it forward, and how it’s going to move forward, and how it will be a benefit to these kids fighting this fight, forever.