Calkins: An infuriating case of give and take
Matt Calkins: Commentary
Saturday, April 28, 2012
We’ll start with the good.
His name is Keith Kirkendall, a former youth pastor who has dedicated the past 18 years to helping kids grow.
He does it by coaching two Vancouver Timbers club soccer teams — teaching players to score goals on the field, reach goals off, and, as he says, “hopefully give them the tools to deal with anything in life.”
And while we’re using tools in a metaphorical sense, you could say that Kirkendall is much more a screwdriver than a power saw. Whereas most youth coaches test the limits of the human larynx while screaming on the sideline, Keith, who has a U-18 boys team and a U-14 girls, rarely elevates his voice or chides a mistake.
It was this calming approach that attracted Conor Bolke to the squad two years ago, as the goalkeeper noted how the 54-year-old “just let the game take shape.” It is also what has helped keep the core of the boys team intact for 10 years — which is no small feat for a club on any level.
But while Kirkendall himself is not particularly blaring, his teams consistently make noise on the pitch. In fact, they’re part of a Vancouver United club that is one of three in the metro area affiliated with the Portland Timbers via the Adidas Timbers Alliance partnership, and the boys U-18 team reached the semifinals of the Challenge Cup in February.
However, Keith hasn’t been thinking about tournament wins or sudden-death victories lately — and you can’t blame him one iota.
Well … here’s the bad.
His wife has breast cancer.
When 50-year-old Pam Kirkendall was diagnosed with the disease in January, Keith and the couple’s four children had to give their priority lists extreme makeovers. Describing her as the “saint” who sacrificed countless nights and weekends to facilitate his coaching, Keith was now spending the majority of his free time caring for Pam.
But the weight of the news extended beyond just the Kirkendalls. When Keith’s players caught wind of the diagnosis, they responded as though one of their own family members had been stricken.
Chris Hogan, a defender for the boys team, said that once the shock had worn off, his first thought was “let’s help out.” And like you’d expect with any formidable sports club, his teammates were on the same wavelength.
In an effort led by team manager Michelle Bolke, more than 40 families instantly volunteered to cook dinner for the Kirkendalls for the first 30 days following Pam’s surgery. The result was an assortment of international delicacies ranging from Indian to Vietnamese to Italian food that kept the family’s palates happy and bodies relaxed.
And when Pam started chemotherapy in March, the volunteers resurrected their generosity and resumed cooking on the weekends of her treatments — all the while maintaining the front-yard garden that Pam’s immune system prevented her from tending to.
“It’s been an absolute blessing,” said Keith, who chose not to discuss Pam’s chances of survival. “You spend hours and hours investing, but you’re not ever sure if it’s ever going to come back or what it means to people. This has been a wonderful experience in terms of how big of an impact all those hours meant to people. The love and support there is monumental.”
Which brings us to the ugly.
When the high school soccer season ends in the next month or so, the club season will begin. And because of their age, this will be the final go-round for most of the U18 players.
Unfortunately, their preparation may not be anywhere close to as thorough as usual, because when Keith stepped off the MAX train Monday and into the Parkrose Transit Center — he discovered that every piece of soccer equipment he had acquired over the past 18 years had been stolen from his van.
Among the pilfered items were two team bags, two backpacks, four goals, 15 brand new balls, six dozen training bibs, three rain coats, a Fold-a-bench, hats, socks, sunglasses and all the player cards — or as Keith wrote in an e-mail “Everything. Heavy sigh. They tore the lock out of the passenger door.”
All in all — $2,200 worth of gear.
“The kids were just defeated,” said Kevin Hogan, Chris’ father. “They have absolutely nothing to practice with.”
Keith said that every ball has “Timbers” scrawled on it in permanent marker, and that all the stolen clothing is either marked “Timbers” or “Vancouver United.” He is encouraging folks to keep an open eye on eBay or any other website that might be auctioning off his possessions.
What Keith doesn't seem to be doing, however, is stewing with anger — saying that while he would like everything returned, he just hopes it ends up with kids somehow.
Do you have a message for the burglars? Keith was asked.
“Yeah,” he replied, “that I forgive them.”
Unfortunately, Clark County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Fred Neiman said that victims in these cases rarely get their belongings back, adding that people can best assist by keeping their eyes open online or where soccer is being played.
Ideally, the equipment would be recovered, and if not — you’d hope that folks in the community would step up and help.
Keith’s Timbers won’t have a chance to get a win until next month.
It would be nice to see good get one sooner.
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org