When longtime friend and NFL veteran Billy Cundiff asked Tampa Bay Storm kicker Juan Bongarra to participate in Kicking for the Dream, Bongarra didn’t hesitate on accepting the invitation.
“I didn’t think twice,” said Bongarra. “This disease needs to be recognized. I can reach out to people that other people may not be able to reach out to, given my situation of playing arena football.”
Kicking for the Dream was created by Cundiff as a way to support the Colleen’s Dream Foundation. The foundation, which he started in 2012 after his mother-in-law was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer, supports research for early detection and improved treatment for ovarian cancer.
While Bongarra and Cundiff now have a well-established friendship, they were first acquainted when Bongarra was fresh out of high school and kicking at Scottsdale Community College in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“He practiced on the field we played on during the offseason,” he said. “One day at practice he was out there and I didn’t know who he was and he introduced himself.”
Their friendship started from there as Cundiff helped Bongarra learn not just the proper kicking techniques to improve his game, but even advice on life. Bongarra attributes a great deal of his accomplishments to his relationship with Cundiff.
“Billy offered to help me out very humbly and I took his advice and it’s a major part of my success,” said Bongarra. “He supported me for so many years without really having a reason. He supported me because he’s a great guy, a humble guy and the reason I’m doing this is to give back for all he gave to me.”
Not only was his good friend Billy’s family affected by the disease, but his own family had also fallen victim to ovarian cancer. These instances opened the Buenos Aires, Argentina native’s eyes to the disease and made the cause and foundation the perfect fit for him to support.
“My sister-in-law’s mother passed away from ovarian cancer,” he said. “So it’s something that really touches me. When I started to ask more questions and learn more about the disease, my sister-in-law opened up to me and let me know her mother passed away from it.”
With more than 20 NFL and AFL veteran kickers involved, each kicking specialist has been asked to raise $100 by creating their own fundraising profile page on Kicking for the Dream’s website. In total the group would like to ultimately reach $25,000.
The charity, a first for Bongarra, served as a wake-up call too.
“After I was sought to do this, I asked myself, ‘what have I been doing with my time?’” he said. “I feel like I can reach so many people because I can speak so many different languages and I feel like I’ve just been stuck in my own time. This is going to not only make me feel good, but you’re actually helping the person next to you, which is what I was taught since growing up.”
The awakening Bongarra felt from making a difference in people’s lives is a connection he hopes others will draw from and can use to continue to spread the word on a cause dear to them.
“I’m trying to show people that we should start caring more about the person next to us,” said Bongarra. “If we do that, this will be a better world.
“It seems a lot of people don’t care what’s going on outside of their lives, so I’m trying to send the message to people my age to be more involved with the world, to be more involved with foundations, be more involved with their neighbors.”
While we wait to see the results from Bongarra’s call to action (he’s already raised $75 of his $100 goal with more than 100 days remaining), he can again thank his mentor Billy, who got him caring more about helping others, by securing his participation in this year’s fundraiser.
GET INVOLVED: To visit Tampa Bay Storm’s Juan Bongarra’s Kicking For The Dream fundraising page, click here.