The "Rocket" will rise again.
Peter Kwon, 12, who recently received a heart transplant, gets a game ball signed by the D.C. United team from coach Kenny Shugars after the Patriots United final game of the season at Patriots Park on Saturday.
Photo by Donnie Fetter
One of Columbia County's sharpest young soccer talents, 12-year-old Peter Kwon, returned to a Patriots Park soccer field Saturday after more than a yearlong absence.
Although he didn't play, he was honored in a special ceremony prior to his team, Patriots United U12 boys, taking to the field for their final game in the spring season.
His presence was more than just a testament to his love of soccer. It also demonstrated his will to survive and return to the game he loves.
In November of 2002, doctors diagnosed Peter with having Ewing's sarcoma, a bone and tissue cancer. Ewing's sarcoma is one of the most common childhood cancers, often affecting people between the ages of 10 and 20.
Peter, the son of Doug Kwon and Young Troy of Martinez, underwent intensive chemotherapy treatments to kill the malignant cancer cells, but the process also destroyed his heart.
A mechanical heart pumped blood through Peter's weakened body for weeks before he received a heart transplant at the Shands Medical Center in Gainsville, Fla. on March 15.
Now, Peter's thoughts have turned from survival to once again playing soccer.
"The doctors said I can play next year if I'm well enough," Peter said. "I've been doing some exercising to get ready."
The prognosis was welcome news for Patriots United coach Kenny Shugars.
"I recruited Peter to play soccer from the (recreation) leagues because he has a skill and talent that defy his age," Shugars said. "Before he got sick, he was our leading scorer and team captain. It's been difficult to find a way to win without him on the team."
To commemorate his return to the Patriots United's sidelines, even if it was in an injured reserve capacity, Peter's teammates donned white headbands with his nickname, Rocket, printed in bright, red letters.
"I remember on the first game he played with us, he blew past six defenders with the ball and got a goal," Shugars said. "Someone said, 'That kid is a rocket.' That nickname has stuck ever since."
Coaches and teammates lavished Peter with several soccer-related gifts at a ceremony in his honor, including a signed jersey from DC United professional soccer star and most valuable player Dema Kovalenko and a game ball signed by the Washington D.C.-based team.
While he was appreciative, Peter said simply sitting with his teammates and watching the match meant even more to him.
"I love playing soccer," he said, "but I'm glad to get to see them play."
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