In 2009, Stuart Holden lost his father to a rare tumor. His desire to keep his father’s memory alive is evident by his perpetual wearing of his father’s Livestrong band on his wrist. As a teenager watching his father battle cancer, Stuart was affected by seeing some of his dad’s fellow patients were kids his age or younger than him. When he became a professional soccer player, he saw how these kid’s lives were brightened by what he was able to bring to them as a professional athlete. Stuart Holden created Holden Heroes to accomplish three main goals – enhance care of patients, educate the public on the disease and life saving treatments available, and increase research funding to battle tumors and cancers with lower survival rates. Holden’s Heroes refers to the children who Stuart sees as his heroes.
The mission of Holden’s Heroes is to motivate, inspire and uplift child patients battling cancer at Texas Children’s Hospital and provide encouragement to their parents while raising money for cancer research.
The goals of Holden’s Heroes are:
(1) Provide age-appropriate opportunities and equipment for child to add some fun and encouragement for both patients and families during their treatment. For example, this may be proving a trip to do rock climbing for teenagers, host preteens at a Dynamo game and arrange for them to process onto the field with the players, purchase Xbox and dress up clothes for the younger children who can have fun while undergoing chemotherapy or blood transfusions.
(2) Grow the Legacy of Love project. This project is dedicated to providing a long lasting legacy for children diagnosed with terminal cancer. For example, it may be taking terminal children to Build a Bear workshop to create a stuffed bear with a recorded message from the child. Parents can enjoy hearing their children say “I love you Mom and Dad”, or “Everything is okay now, Mom and Dad” by squeezing the bear and activating the recording. Children could also plant tree or gardens and start scholarships that their parents can watch grow.
(3) Raise money for research for rare tumors and endow program to pay trainees who specialize in the treatment of rare tumors. Funding often goes for the most prominent forms of cancer at the expense of rarer forms of cancer. Parents of children with rare tumors feel that system neglects their children’s battles. By raising awareness, funding and training for rare tumors, parents can come to Texas Children knowing that their fight will not be alone and that a team of specialists will be there to help them battle the disease affecting their child.
In December 2009, Stuart rang the opening NASDAQ bell with “All Stars Helping Kids,” a charity started by NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. The mission of All Stars Helping Kids is to promote a safe, healthy and rigorous learning environment for disadvantaged children in low-income communities.
Stuart has twice been named United States Soccer Federation’s Humanitarian of the Year for his work in the community. In November 2009, Stuart was named as one of 10 professional athletes to the “Dream Team for Public Service” alongside basketball player Dirk Nowitzki & Dwight Howard as well as tennis star Venus Williams.