Fan Favorite

Golden Grizzlies superfan Alex VanHolder is family in the Oakland University Athletics Department

10-year-old Alex VanHolder poses with the Oakland University men's soccer team in the O rena

Team IMPACT children like Alex VanHolder (center) are drafted onto college athletic teams in their neighborhoods local to where they become a member of the team from Draft Day through to Graduation. Photo by Jose Juarez.

Team Champion

icon of a calendarFebruary 6, 2018

icon of a pencilBy Brandon Wright

Share this story

After 10-year-old Alex VanHolder was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma tumor, his chemotherapy treatments prevented him from playing the sports he loved. Down, but not out, Alex channeled his passion for sports into cheering on the OU men’s soccer team. Now — among student-athletes, coaches and fellow Golden Grizzlies fans — he’s adoringly called “family.”

“He always brings a smile to our faces,” says men’s soccer player Wilfred Williams, who has formed a close bond with Alex. “He’s extra motivation. I see what he goes through. It makes me want to fight even more for him. I’m not just playing for myself. I’m playing for him as well.”

Through an effort organized by Team IMPACT, a national nonprofit that connects kids suffering from serious and chronic disease to local college athletic teams, Alex was connected to OU’s men’s soccer team.

Alex VanHolder in the Oakland University Athletics Department's press room signing a letter of intent with the men's soccer team
10-year-old Alex VanHolder officially signs with the Oakland University men's soccer team.

After attending all the Grizzlies home games, team meetings and a few practices, Alex and his family have also traveled with the team to away games. Alex officially joined OU’s soccer team last fall.

“Having Alex as a part of our team is just such a blessing for many reasons,” says Eric Pogue, head coach of OU’s men’s soccer team. “It is important that our young men graduate from OU knowing that life is so much bigger than wins, losses and championships. Seeing Alex go through this day in and day out, watching him fight with every ounce of his being to beat this terrible disease has been such a huge inspiration and blessing for our team.”

Alex’s participation with Oakland’s men’s soccer team is no passing fancy. It is a lifelong commitment, says Pogue.

“He will forever be a member of our family and will bleed black and gold,” he adds. “We will support him, and he will support us in all aspects of life. This is not just about joining a sports team for a season or two. Alex is joining a family and a brotherhood for life.”

Share this story