Dylan Mapston is more than a high school student. He’s a leader in his community.
A 16-year-old California native, Dylan attends The Odyssey Institute for Advanced and International Studies in Buckeye and is the creator of Keepers Care for Kids, a foundation that helps youth struggling with painful and sometimes life-threatening situations.
Dylan began his foundation when he was 13 years old. Two of his aunts — one on his paternal and maternal side — were diagnosed with breast cancer. Dylan showed his support by wearing a pink jersey to his soccer games.
Shortly thereafter, his then-2-year-old cousin, Cheyenne, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her spine. After seeing a video of her looking through a toy bin at the hospital, Dylan collected as many donations and toys as he could.
Cheyenne is doing well and has beat her cancer, Dylan said. She’s in phase four of her recovery and is still going through rehab. She hasn’t lost her strength or her sense of humor.
Keepers Care for Kids donated to the Diamond Children’s Medical Center in Tucson, the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
In its third year, Keepers Care for Kids has expanded beyond patients diagnosed with cancer. Dylan said he wants to help children going through any tough situation.
“Now, we do kids who struggle with abuse and other stuff that’s not really limited to hospitals,” Dylan said. “(We’re) making sure we get a large range of kids who are going through stuff that normal kids don’t.”
Dylan also described what caused him to want to reach out to foster kids and children who have dealt with abuse.
“It was more of a personal experience,” Dylan said. “A few friends of mine have gone through abuse and other stuff, and it’s really tough to see them through that. We started gathering toys and stuffed animals for kids, and it was so great to see them happy and it gave me more knowledge of what they go through.”
Not only has Dylan gathered donations through his Keepers Care for Kids foundation, but he has also started his Clean Sheets for Cancer campaign that raises money toward cancer research. According to Dylan, the campaign raised about $2,000 in 2019 and an additional $1,500 last year.
A “clean sheet” is when a goalie does not allow any goals to be scored throughout an entire match. The participants donate $1 for every save and $5 for every clean sheet.
A few years ago, Dylan met with Phoenix Rising goalkeeper Zac Lubin to discuss his charitable work and how he could get involved.
“Zac came by and I told him about what I was doing and then he said, ‘You know what? Let me help,’ and then we always had that relationship,” Dylan said. “Over the two years I’ve known him, he’s helped more; and some of his teammates came out and donated toys, and we always had fun donating money for cancer.”
Dylan continues to receive support from local soccer players like Lubin and wants to set an example for other young athletes so they can make an impact on their community.
“I want to help a lot more of the younger goalkeepers to understand why it is so important for the community of soccer,” Dylan said. “It’s not a single sport; it is a group of kids for one cause. I’m making sure that every kid can play and making sure that no matter what the score is, you still have fun.
“I’m just trying to make the community a better place.”