YORKTOWN, N.Y.-- To complete her gold award for Girl Scouts, Francesca Vasta had criteria to meet, one which was to create something that would leave a lasting effect. The high school senior decided her event would not only create a lasting effect, but be in memory of someone who created a lasting effect on people she touched.
On Saturday, the first Michelle O’Brien Memorial Soccer Tournament took place at Lakeland High School, where nearly 100 soccer players, current and alumni, took the field to commemorate the love of soccer that O'Brien, a 2007 Lakeland High graduate, had.
“I knew of Michelle because my brother and sister played soccer with her, and even though she was 6 years older than me, I wanted to do something in her memory, and since she loved soccer this seemed like the thing to do,” Vasta said.
Donna O’Brien, Michelle’s mother, was there for the event created in honor of her daughter, who friend’s nicknamed “Moby.”
“She loved soccer; she was involved in it all,” she said. “She played for Lakeland on the school team, she played on the club team in Yorktown. She did everything she could related to soccer.”
Vasta said others helped her to put on the event, which also takes place Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Vasta said that at the start, she knew little about Michelle, but learned more and more from friends of Michelle’s who shared stories of her courage, strength and love for soccer. O’Brien died from brain cancer in May of last year.
The day was split in two, where current soccer players on teams from different schools in the area would play each other, and later in the afternoon alumni of the schools would play, friends who played alongside O’Brien for years. One such friend was Christina Scala.
“She was my best friend from when we were very little, and soccer was always her favorite sport,” Scala said. “When she became sick and she couldn’t play, she still did what she could. She helped coach for Lakeland and played when she could.”
Scala said the one thing she wants people to remember about her friend is her strength.
“I think about how strong she was through everything. She never wanted her disease to stop her, she didn’t even want people to know she had it. She didn’t even really complain about it, she just wanted to battle it,” she said.
Scala said a soccer tournament was a perfect way to commemorate O’Brien.
“It’s amazing to see so many people here to play in her memory,” she said. “This would mean so much to her, because I know she would do absolutely anything to be out on this field playing again.”