Athletics & Recreation

Men’s soccer team adopts young team member

Members of the men's soccer team pose with new recruit Ben Brewer. Photo courtesy of DU Athletics

Members of the men’s soccer team pose with new recruit Ben Brewer. Photo courtesy of DU Athletics

While winning on the field may be a priority for the defending Summit League champions, the University of Denver men’s soccer team also has taken on a different kind of opponent this season: cancer. Last summer, head coach Bobby Muuss and the rest of the team adopted 13-year-old Ben Brewer through a program called Team Impact.

When Ben was only 2 years old, he was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, an insidious cancer that develops from immature cells. Stage IV meant a high possibility for relapse, and it put Ben in a high-risk area where statistically he had only a 20–30 percent chance of survival.

“When Ben was diagnosed in 2004, he endured extremely high doses of chemotherapy, too many surgeries to count, a bone marrow transplant, 12 rounds of radiation therapy and an experimental therapy that was extremely painful — six rounds of that,” says Sarah Brewer, Ben’s mother.

For 15 months, Ben dealt with intensive and painful procedures to help fight the disease. Before his fourth birthday, he was declared cancer free. But when Ben was 8 years old, a scan found a mass growing behind his heart. The cancer had returned, and Ben spent the rest of the year fighting through new rounds of treatment.

After the relapse, Ben began seeking treatment in New York City, where he traveled once a month for two years to take antibody therapy that occurred five days at a time until the cancer was gone. In 2013, Ben went to Kansas City to be part of a study aimed at keeping the disease from coming back. It was there that he relapsed for the second time. Ben underwent more chemotherapy and surgery, this time at home in Denver. Ben’s most recent relapse came in July 2014. He was treated with intensive rounds of radiation that required him to remain in isolation for a week after each procedure.

Fast-forward to today, and Ben’s outlook is incredibly optimistic. In summer 2014, he met up with the University of Denver men’s soccer team, signed his letter of intent and officially became a part of the team. The connection was made through Team Impact, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children facing life-threatening illness through matching them with local college athletic teams. It didn’t take long for the team members to accept Ben as one of their own.

“Whenever we get to see him, the rise that the guys get out of him is pretty special. Ben, for people who get to know him, is a man of few words,” Muuss says. “Seeing Ben open up more to the team is special to me. That’s been more impactful to me than any win or loss this year. I hope by seeing him and knowing what he’s going through daily, the guys realize how fortunate they are.”

Ben joins the team on the sidelines for home games whenever he can. The team also has taken to visiting Ben during his treatments. According to Muuss, Ben becomes quite animated on the sidelines, cheering on his teammates and becoming frustrated at bad calls.

“[Ben]’s been isolated for so long that it’s been difficult to teach him about ‘regular stuff,’” Sarah Brewer says. “This opportunity has given all of us a tremendous push out of the constant cycle of hospital, treatment and other scary stuff. It has given us a comfortable and safe environment to enjoy more of the little things that life usually offers.”

Ben is currently winning his fourth bout with cancer, having to miss games while going through radiation therapy. He is not showing any evidence of the disease, although he is not yet considered to be in remission.

“I think very highly of my guys as individuals, as people, as men, as athletes and competitors, but that kid is the strongest one of them all,” Muuss says. “He sits there and says ‘bring it on.’”

Brewer draws support from his younger sister, Madeline, his father, Matt, and his mother, Sarah, who keeps friends and supporters updated daily on her son’s condition through a Facebook group called I Love the Bean and a personal blog called

While the soccer team may be 8-5-1 this season, Ben is a perfect 4-0 in his fight. With each day, he moves one step closer to undefeated.

“I feel that before our connection with Team Impact, we were just living day-to-day, getting through whatever we were faced with,” Sarah Brewer says. “But now, Ben is thinking about his future. He wants to go to college. He wants to grow up. I know this pairing has had a profound effect on him and on me.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *