UVic soccer teams rally behind former men’s captain

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Vikes Kick Cancer fundraiser has already raised over $50 000

vikes kick cancer mackenzie rigg
Photo via UVic.

Mackenzie Rigg was planning to attend law school at the University of Calgary this fall. Instead, he’s been travelling between Kelowna and Vancouver to receive chemotherapy for a brain tumour. The 25-year-old former captain of the UVic men’s soccer team has been trying to remain positive, but he says he faced a lot of uncertainty. He was diagnosed this August with an aggressive type of tumour called Astrocytoma Grade IV.

“From the initial diagnosis, there was just kind of this total limbo period,” he told the Martlet. “Where you’re just starting to grapple with what you were told, and how this was gonna affect me, and how my life was gonna change.”

Rigg’s girlfriend Trinity Kettyls, who plays soccer for UVic, and several of Rigg’s university friends have set up a fundraiser for research into Astrocytoma Grade IV. The fundraiser, called Vikes Kick Cancer, will see members of the men’s and women’s soccer teams at UVic participate in a 270-kilometre relay from Nov. 20-22. So far, the fundraiser has raised over $50 000, far surpassing its initial goal of $27 000. 

Recent statistics from the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada estimate that 27 Canadians are diagnosed with brain cancer every day, and that over 55 000 Canadians are currently living with a brain tumour. Astrocytoma Grade IV is the most common and the deadliest of brain tumours found in adults. Only four per cent of those with that type of tumour live more than five years past their diagnosis. 

Organizers of the fundraiser are raising money to support research, develop new treatments, and improve the quality of life of those impacted by brain cancer.

The initial idea for a fundraiser was formed by Kettyls, Rigg’s roommate Griffin Fougner-Rukus, and UVic men’s soccer players Will Adams and Logan Fisher. Adams, Fisher, and Kettyls reached out to the players and coaching staff of UVic’s soccer teams about organizing a run to raise money for cancer research following Rigg’s diagnosis. Adams and Fisher say that the support so far has been outstanding. 

“It’s been pretty cool to watch,” said Adams. 

“There’s days where I’m working hard at school, and I’ll just go and check the [fundraiser] and I’ll be like ‘how did it get like this?’” Fisher explained.

Bruce Wilson, head coach of the men’s team, praised the efforts of the organizers and said that the entire team is behind them.

“They have really, really done the job on it themselves with not a lot of help from me, that’s for sure,” he said. “We really feel for [Mackenzie], and we would certainly like to do whatever we can for him.”

Wilson has known Rigg since he was in high school. Wilson recruited Rigg to the Vikes himself after awarding him the MVP trophy at a tournament in Burnaby. Wilson says that he keeps in regular contact with Rigg and that he hopes for a speedy and full recovery.

“I have been in touch with him and he sounded very positive to me on the phone, and he was ready to battle,” said Wilson.

Adams and Fisher say that they have not only received widespread support from the school and broader UVic community, but also from local businesses, organizations, and competitors. They say they were especially excited when they were contacted by professional soccer teams Vancouver Whitecaps and Pacific FC.

Adams and Fisher hope that the fundraiser shows Rigg that the entire community is behind him.

“The support has been absolutely overwhelming, greater than our wildest expectations, honestly, and means the world to Mac as he’s going through treatment,” said Fisher. “And that’s all we can really hope for, keep his spirits up as he battles something that’s just a tough thing to overcome.”

Adams and Fisher hope to turn the fundraiser into a yearly Vikes initiative and say that all the support so far has been encouraging.

Rigg says that he feels supported and that he has been overwhelmed by the messages he has received from family members, old friends, and colleagues since his diagnosis. Rigg reserved special mention for his girlfriend, who he says has remained positive throughout the whole experience thus far. 

“Trinity is probably one of — if not the most — positive person I think I’ve ever met,” he said. “And so I think that’s really helped her get through this.”

Having just completed a six-week round of chemotherapy, Rigg is now in the midst of a rest period during which he is taking the time to visit with family and old friends. Although he says that he would love to be able to get out and play soccer, due to his condition and COVID-19 restrictions he has been forced to content himself with going for long walks. 

It will be 2021 the next time Rigg undergoes treatment. First though, he will wait to have an MRI that will tell him where he stands.

“Because of the levels of radiation in my brain [doctors] can’t actually get an accurate MRI,” he said. “So I will be waiting until 2021 to get an accurate MRI, and then going from there.”

Although he has a long road ahead of him, Rigg says that the support he has received has made the experience less difficult.

“In so many ways, you think a cancer diagnosis would have such a negative impact on you, but in so many ways, it’s just been so many positives,” said Rigg.