Soccer balls will fly later this month as area youths gather to promote child safety, raise money and remember an 8-year-old boy killed in a garage door accident.
This year's Simon Decker Memorial Soccer Tournament will be bigger than ever and should raise about $30,000 to support programs in Howard County that protect children and promote child safety, according to Steve Levin, who is directing the tournament with the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County.
The first two years, the tournament netted about $16,000 for Howard County General Hospital's Pediatric Emergency Services. This year, the money will go to a recently established endowment in Simon's name, which will help to fund various charities and causes for years to come.
The three-day event begins April 24. In addition to hundreds of games, it will feature safety demonstrations by organizations such as St. Agnes HealthCare -- one of the tournament's four corporate sponsors -- and the Howard County Fire Department.
Simon died in 1995 after the garage door at his family's Columbia home closed on him. Family and friends have used his memory to promote child-safety awareness.
"It's very important that we get more information out on children's safety and in particular garage door safety," said Simon's mother, Deborah Decker.
Levin, Simon's former coach, coaches his 11-year-old son Scott, Simon's former teammate. Levin said dealing with the death has been sobering for the children. In a game in last year's tournament, Scott's team played a man short. Although they lost, the team played inspired soccer, with members saying Simon was with them as the missing teammate.
The tournament features the motto "play hard, play well, play safe, remember," and will include approximately 150 teams of boys and girls, ages 6 to 14. The players will be guaranteed three games in a tournament setup which is unique to most of the players, who are not on travel teams and usually do not get to play in tournaments, Levin said.
"Simon loved all team sports. The tournament is wonderful, the kids really love it," Deborah Decker said. "It's very touching that they do this for my son."
Pub Date: 4/12/98