Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona volunteer Alyssa Frey, center, with Zayd and Lyric, part of a Ronald McDonald House family. Frey helps with the 5K.


When Stephen Placencia was undergoing chemotherapy for a rare form of liver cancer, his parents played card games with him for hours on end.

After Placencia succumbed to the disease in 2008, his family decided to honor the 17-year-old Cienega High School soccer player's legacy by giving sick teens a more high-tech option for passing the time.

Last year, the Kick Cancer for Stephen Foundation donated more than $8,500 in Wii's, Xboxes, TVs and other electronics and gaming systems to the University of Arizona Oncology Clinic.

"This gives them a chance to be kids and not think about being sick, being in the hospital, missing school or anything other than playing the game and enjoying it. To me, it is like a little piece of home they can carry over and play at the hospital. That slice of home can make a big difference to a child," said Francie Placencia, Stephen's mother and foundation president.

The foundation is in the process of raising funds to provide gaming systems for each room in the Diamond Children's Medical Center. It already has donated eight systems, complete with the latest games and multiple controllers so that family and friends can enjoy the video games with the patients during treatments.

The foundation also supports childhood cancer research and provides snacks and gift cards for the "Treasure Chest" in five rooms at the Oncology Clinic, where children receive blood work and outpatient treatments.

"Some children are there every day for weeks, and buying food and snacks gets expensive," Placencia said.

Community support for the cause has been both gratifying and healing, she said. The foundation wraps up its second 3v3 Soccer Tournament at Cienega High School today and is looking forward to the upcoming second annual Fourth of July Freedom Run.

"The running community is a lot like the soccer community. They are very kind and outgoing and always there to help," Placencia said.

Freedom Run Race Director Steve Taggart met the Placencia family years ago when Stephen played soccer with Taggart's son, Matt.

Taggart developed the Freedom Run to honor the "exceptionally good kid" in a constructive and positive way.

"My wife used to work at Steele Children's Research Center and see kids when they came in for treatment ... if these devices - Wii's and Xboxes and games - help pass the time while kids are receiving treatment for something that will hopefully cure them from cancer, it is a small way to help them make it through the day," Taggart said.

If You Go

What: Fourth of July Freedom Run 2010

When: Sunday, July 4. Registration begins at 5:30 a.m.; the Family Fun Run begins at 6 a.m.; and the Freedom Run 5K begins at 6:30 a.m.

Where: Golf Links Sports Complex, Ramada Three, 2400 S. Craycroft Road

Cost: $15 per person for the Family Run; $25 per person for the 5K

Etc.: Festivities include a free T-shirt while supplies last, refreshments and awards to the top three finishers in each division. Proceeds benefit the Kick Cancer for Stephen Foundation.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at