GUEST ARTICLE — Eureka soccer players celebrate mentors with act of kindness

Submitted photos – Eureka senior Keylei Carroll, right, and Melissa Morison

By Kären Hammer — The players of the boys and girls Eureka High soccer teams showed their love of the game through an act of kindness to celebrate and honor rival Arcata High girls coach, Patrick Stranahan, and his wife Melissa Morrison, who is battling ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Setting aside some time during their final practices on Friday evening of last week, the players split into coed teams of underclassman and upperclassman to perform in a lip sync battle, before their last games of the season on Saturday against Arcata.

The goal was to raise donations towards Melissa’s medical expenses not covered by insurance. They raised an astounding $2,000.00 in a single evening.

Many of the Senior players emphasized in their senior speeches after the game on Saturday how much they value the spirit of community support that Eureka High School and especially Melissa and Patrick embody. It is this sense of community that drove the players to want to give back what Melissa and Patrick have given all these years.

Over the past two decades, hundreds of players throughout the community have been positively impacted by Coach Stranahan’s contagious passion for the game, or benefitted through Melissa’s 14 years as program director for Inside Sports, where many, if not all of the players participated as players or referees. Besides being involved with soccer, Melissa has been actively involved as a Girl Scout Troop Leader for over 25 years.

Both EHS Coaches, Tommy Learmouth (girls) and Eddie Garcia (boys) were coached by Stranahan when they played for Eureka High.

“Patrick had an impact on every player and connected with them individually,” Garcia said.

“What Patrick taught us, we’ve been able to pass along to these players. He was instrumental in our high school careers but also in becoming coaches ourselves. But also, in some way, every athlete on the field has had a relationship with either Patrick or Melissa through her job with Inside Sports. They’ve done so much for us over the years, we wanted to do something for them. This was something fun for them to do after such a crappy year,”  Learmouth said, adding, “The players were 100 percent on board and couldn’t wait to practice their choreography. For the past three weeks they’ve spent some practice time working on their routines.”

This act of kindness was a well-kept secret until after the end of the Arcata vs. Eureka girls game when representatives of the boys and girls teams presented Coach Stranahan with an envelope containing a joint letter from the players and coaches.

After seeing the videos of the lip syncs, Melissa, deeply touched by the sentiments, commented, “Looks like they had a lot of fun, which is so important right now with the impact COVID had on them.”

Submitted photo – Arcata head coach Patrick Stranahan with the family of Eureka senior Liza Crassweller during the senior speeches on Saturday.

One parent offered, “These two [Patrick and Melissa] are loved so much. It’s amazing when you talk to people from many different areas of life and everyone knows them, or is connected to some good act they have done for others…and the kids took this whole thing on themselves. Most of us parents had no idea what was going on until it happened! They are a good bunch and have definitely become closer through all of this. I hope it sets a tone of giving for their entire lives.”

Giving has been the philosophy demonstrated by Patrick and Melissa, and from the expression by the EHS soccer teams and their coaches, the EHS soccer players have learned it well and from two of the best.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help raise funds for related medical expenses not covered by insurance. Donations can be made to GOFUNDMELISSA 

Submitted photos – Arcata coach Patrick Stranahan and his wife Melissa Morrison.

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