ST. GEORGE – It was a night to remember for the seniors taking the field at the final home game of the season at Desert Hills, but as players and coaches planned, the spotlight was on one of the team’s youngest players and his family.
Fourteen-year-old Stockton Beckstrom appeared to be trying to calm his nerves as he prepared for his first game on the varsity squad. Between warm-ups, he glanced around the Thunder stands in hopes of catching the attention of a proud mother who might not see him play again at varsity.
Rachael Beckstrom has end-stage cervical cancer. Upon learning of their prognosis, the Desert Hills coaches invited the players to make an extra effort to recognize their young teammate and show love to his family.
“We really came together as a team to support Stockton,” senior Easton Chinn said. “I think it’s really important to remember that there’s more to life than just football. We are all brothers and we are all a team.”
On April 21, the entire football program—freshmen, junior varsity, varsity, and the coaching staff—surprised the Beckstrom family at their home with an autographed ball and a special invitation to Tuesday’s game against Hurricane.
The Beckstroms were guests of honor at the game. Every Thunder player wore teal armbands (the color of cervical cancer awareness), and the team announced just before kick-off that they would dedicate the rest of their season to Rachael Beckstrom.
Sitting in front of the press box alongside her husband, sister and son, the Beckstrom mother smiled and cheered as she watched her eldest child run onto the pitch. Playing on the varsity team was one of her son’s dreams and she got to see him achieve it sooner than ever.
Just getting up and traveling to see her son play took a tremendous effort, but she said cheering him on was worth it.
“It was tough with the chemo, and there was a time when we didn’t know if I was going to see any of his high school games,” she said. “And then it was really nice that the team was kind enough to let him play on the varsity team.”
Stockton Beckstrom had the first touch at kick-off, playing from his usual attacking midfield position. In a game that Desert Hills would win 4-2, he played 35 minutes while assisting his older teammates with passing, defense and a few shots on target.
Before the game, he told St. George News what it all meant to him.
“I think it’s really cool that they gave me this opportunity,” he said. “They were really nice to me in helping me get better and they were also nice to the situation I was in. And it makes me happy that she (mom) comes out to watch me play.”
His greatest contribution was an expertly placed free-kick, scored by a header from teammate Jaxson Resendez, earning Beckstrom an assist and the acclaim of coaches and players.
“He was great,” said assistant coach Cody Nelson. “(It) was the most confidence I’ve seen in him all season.”
Along with the coaches, Steven Beckstrom, Stockton’s father and Rachael’s husband, noted the character and strength he saw in his son and wife.
“He is the rock of all our children and probably our whole family,” said the father. “He holds us all together… and she’s the greatest fighter I know in my life. She’s been through treatments, surgeries, tubes – various things that come with cancer. She just persevered through it all and put a smile on her face as often as possible.”
Head coach Benji Nelson said Stockton Beckstrom’s contributions went beyond his Tuesday night game or his previous junior varsity games. The newcomer has always been a positive role model for his colleagues and an inspiration for the coaching staff, he said.
The Nelson brothers are no strangers to the toll cancer takes on families. Her father died of cancer two years ago and Cody Nelson’s wife has been a breast cancer survivor in recent years. Another assistant coach also lost both parents to cancer.
It all hit rock bottom as they watched their young player and his family struggle with a parent’s terminal illness.
“How can you replace a mother?” said Benji Nelson. “This is the person who brings us into this world and gives us the love and support we all need throughout our lives. (So) tonight is about Stockton and his family and trying to support them. That is our focus.”
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